What is knotweed?

There are 4 types of knotweed in British Columbia - Himalayan, Giant, Japanese and Bohemian. It is a highly invasive non-native plant that is quickly taking over sites across the province. Japanese and Giant species are thought to have been originally introduced to Canada in the 1800s as a garden plant after their popularity in English gardens. These two species created an offspring, Bohemian knotweed, which is the most invasive of the species. Himalayan is less prevalent but still an issue.

Knotweeds thrive in moist soil (usually near watercourses and beaches) and sunlight…something BC offers in abundance, especially in the spring when it starts is an annual active season. Knotweed is tough, and we mean crazy tough. It can move through almost anything…including concrete! It is perennial and goes dormant in the winter making it strong enough to survive a good Canadian winter as well. In the spring, in March, it grows new stalks, spreads its roots and it blossoms around late August. The 4 species can cross-pollinate. It grows between 1.5m to 6m tall. All in all an impressive but dangerous plant.

Why is it a Menace?

Knotweed’s ability to penetrate hard surfaces causes damage to buildings, storm sewer, and sanitary services, pavements, and sidewalks. Treating knotweed is complicated and it has the potential to add significant delays and costs to construction projects, especially if dealt with incorrectly. Its mere presence on site has been known to prevent the sale of and/or devalue land.

Just one piece of rhizome, root, or seed can produce a new plant. Soil moving from one site to another is at particular risk of unintentionally risking multiple sites. Its root system is extensive: every stalk you see could have a root ball extending horizontally underground up to 15m-20m and 3m deep!! with new stalks growing new roots, the site (and potentially neighboring sites) can quickly have an underground network extending through huge sections of the property.

As they often grow next to watercourses, they are naturally distributed from site to site easily.

How to identify Japanese knotweed?

Knotweed shoots appear in spring, rapidly growing from a plant that resembles asparagus, into a dense thicket of knotweed 3 meters tall or more by June. It is important that you identify knotweed as early as possible. If you think you may have knotweed on your site, contact an expert to confirm and come up with a plan to deal with it correctly.

How to eradicate – Time or Money.

It is notoriously difficult to kill and you will need the help of a professional. You have a few options but they involve weighing time and money.

  • In the first option, the herbicide is injected directly into stalks, moving through the rhizomes. The plant may look dead but it’s very difficult to kill the underground rhizome system in its entirety, and even more difficult to verify with confidence that eradication has been achieved. Treatment is often unsuccessful unless performed over the course of 2 to 3+ years/seasons. There are inherent risks even after a site has been treated with herbicide. If building within an area where knotweed has been previously treated with herbicide, extreme caution is required. The mere action of disturbing ground during groundworks or landscaping can reinvigorate rhizomes made dormant by herbicide treatment, resulting in considerable spread across a much larger area. Removal is often the way forward for development sites.

  • If waiting 2 to 3+ years is not practical, you should consult an expert well versed in knotweed for options. On a recent project, we were presented with 2 options to expedite construction: Bury or take away.

  • The excavation option involved cutting off the stalks and digging up the surrounding soil (in a minimum 15m wide radius, 3m deep). Once excavated stalks, roots and related soil need to be buried at a minimum of 5m down, wrapped in a special geotextile.

  • Often, physical removal is the answer. Although it is more expensive than herbicide treatment, it’s carried out in days not years, has a better success rate, cuts delays, risks, and, therefore, overall (or potential) cost.

  • In both the removal and the burial options, there is still a huge risk of the site activities inadvertently moving deleterious around the site or just as bad, offsite which will just make a new problem in a few years time somewhere else (and/or maybe right where the knotweed was in the first place).

The moral of the story is, investigate your site regularly as a maintenance procedure and especially before buying land or building on it. If you think it may have knotweed, call an expert to come and have a look. It’s not expensive and it will be money well spent to have enabled you to make sound decisions for your potential property and/or project.

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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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