Ask any one of our team members and Colony Construction Corporation what our motto is for health and safety is and they will tell you it’s that we all “Go Home Healthy” at the end of every single workday. Behind this well-known slogan at Colony is a very real and ongoing effort by every one of us to look out for one another and care for each other’s wellbeing as we would our own friends and family. The real question is; how did we find ourselves enjoying the benefits of our culture and our commitment to workplace health and safety that spans every role and every worksite within our organization? The answer may be simpler than you think, but not so easy to achieve and even tougher to sustain.

It starts with leadership; the type of leadership that recognizes every single employee as a unique individual with unique qualities and motivations. Leading by example is key, of course, but finding ways to bring a wide range of personalities together, across multiple disciplines and worksites, is the key to building a strong culture and most importantly sustaining that culture for years and decades.

The cornerstone of bringing people together and keeping them together is regular and open communication. Most importantly, it is meaningful communication that incorporates two-way discussions, recognition of the human factors and best intentions at play, acceptance, and evaluation of mistakes or missteps without judgment, and always recognizing how leadership action, or inaction, can contribute to any event. At the end of any conversation, the focus should be on how leadership can support what is needed to improve and how we can all contribute to sustaining these improvements every day.

True openness of communication and the teamwork it drives comes from sharing vulnerabilities, both from employees and leadership, without judgment. By looking at a problem for only long enough to see that it is there and to quantify the extent. Then we must immediately turn our collective attention to solutions. Recognizing that, across every level of the organization, we are all human beings and we will all make mistakes, that we can share those mistakes with one another and truly know that everyone we share our mistakes with will pull together to help solve the problem and learn from it without judgment.

A strong team is a team that requires real investment and involvement. Providing training, resources, supports, and then drawing on those investments through involving each employee as much as practicable in change preparation, implementation, and monitoring. This approach will always magnify and return those investments back to an organization and its people. An organization is a culmination of individuals all working to achieve common goals. Goals are undoubtedly set by leadership, but how we achieve these goals requires real insight and buy-in from every individual within the organization. This allows each person to understand what the common goals truly mean to them and how each person can contribute to achieving these goals in their own unique ways and capacities.

Keeping momentum and remaining consistent with quality leadership, open communication, strong teamwork, while investing in teammates, and maintaining the real opportunity for individual involvement across the organization is not easy, but it is always incredibly worthwhile.

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How can you create an environment of continuous improvement within your construction company? The answer is relatively simple however the process is quite complex.

“Learn Today, Succeed Tomorrow” is a core value here at Colony. How do we achieve this? We schedule painstakingly thorough Lessons Learned meetings at the completion of each and every project. We bring everyone together: the Lead Estimator, the Project Manager, the Contracts Administrator as well as the entire management team and President. In fact, we invite all employees to attend so they can witness firsthand the day-to-day challenges we faced on executing the project and we encourage everyone’s input on finding solutions to mitigate any hurdles encountered to improve all aspects of future projects down the road.

For example, during our Lessons Learned meetings, we undertake a detailed review of the project budget. What was over budget, what was under budget, and most importantly, why? This review gives our Estimating team scope of work clarifications, scope gap information, current pricing feedback, and real-time delivery information that we face on the operations side. This in turn allows them to provide more competitive and accurate future budgets and allows them to create more realistic schedules for future proposals.

We also review the performance of our key vendors on the project during our Lessons Learned meeting. Vendors are recorded on Safety, Quality, Schedule, Commercial and Communications categories. We score each category so we can assist our key vendors to help them improve their performance for future jobs and, in doing so, strengthens our relationships with each of them.

Colony uses a set of Procedures for every project from the proposal stage to final completion and these documents are constantly being upgraded based on feedback from our Lessons Learned meetings. We have created a series of checklists that are required for completion and sign-off before a project can be advanced to subsequent phases.

Safety is at the forefront at Colony and every Lessons Learned meeting includes a thorough review of the project’s safety logs with the goal to consistently learn from past experiences and better ourselves at everything we undertake and, most importantly as one of our core values states, to “Go Home Healthy”.

The main takeaway from this process is that one simply cannot be satisfied with the status quo. Garry Kasparov, world-renowned chess champion once said, “Question the status quo at all times, especially when things are going well”. There is always room to improve and at Colony, our Lessons Learned procedures are one way we “Learn Today, Succeed Tomorrow”.

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With permitting times in some Canadian municipalities ranging upward of one to two years, it’s important for owners and developers to consider how this will impact their project timelines. The overall project schedule is hugely important for development as it will determine your investor’s annual return on investment (ROI) and likely influence whether they will invest in another development project with you down the road. Or if you are the owner of your project, then you want to make sure that you keeping your own annual ROI calculation at the forefront. This is often overlooked and is the reason that owners don’t crack the whip on their designers, contractors, and the city planning department and end up having their construction projects take 1-2 years longer than expected. Not only does a longer schedule make the market conditions much more unpredictable at the time of completion, but it also causes another loss in the form of lost production expansion (for your buyers, tenants, or yourself). That aside, the carrying costs on the land alone (mortgage payments, property tax, insurance, etc.) can be enough to turn a profitable development into a long, drawn-out, and profitless money pit.

Every city/municipality is different, however, a typical permitting process would roughly follow the below timeline:

For those who passed sixth-grade math, you can see how all of these steps can quickly add up to a significant amount of time before you ever get construction started. As a successful design-builder of many commercial and industrial developments, Colony has a lot of experience with this process and we have a few tricks up our sleeve to expedite the permitting process and get shovels in the ground sooner. One of these tricks is to overlap the DP application with the BP design and application. You don’t need to wait until you receive the DP to hire the consultants and start working with your design team. Beware though… if done too soon prior to receiving feedback and if the wrong preliminary design assumptions are made (likely because you haven’t worked with the local jurisdiction before and don’t have experience as to what they require, what they are flexible on, where the loopholes are, etc.) you can expose yourself to multiple iterations of the redesign. This will have costly redesign fees from your consultant team and it will further delay the project schedule. If done correctly at the optimal time and with all the necessary information though, this can easily shave several months out of the schedule.

Another way to reduce the time frame is to work with a design-build contractor rather than handling the design team yourself. A very common delay in this process is solving budget issues and dealing with redesign when the budget comes in, and it’s more than expected (it happens pretty much every time)! When Colony is involved as a design-builder, we update the budget in “real-time”, meaning that we’re able to provide price feedback to the owner and the consultant team as changes occur (or better yet, when changes are being contemplated). This saves time and money on a redesign because we don’t allow the project team to put itself in a position where the project is heading into the over-budget territory.

Questions about how this applies to your project??


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