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Edmonton-developed Job Site Insights bridges construction and technology

PCL’s Mark Bryant, Canadian CIO of the Year.

PCL Construction is preparing to take its cutting-edge platform to the next level 

Picture this: it’s two o’clock in the morning, a sprinkler head breaks and water begins to pour down 30 floors of a building that’s under construction. The ensuing damage would cause expensive repairs and lengthy delays. 
“The biggest challenge in construction and finished construction is water leaks,” says Mark Bryant, chief information officer for the Edmonton metro region’s PCL Construction

Bryant and his team had that in mind when building Job Sight Insights™ (JSI™), a new cloud-based smart construction platform designed to monitor environmental conditions on construction projects. 

The technology consolidates the data from IoT sensors under a PCL-developed platform which allows the company to ingest, consume, and analyze the information in real time. 

In the case of a water leak, JSI™ can detect the problem, and with a recently added new technology, automatically shut the water off, reducing the potential for rework, warranty claims, and driving down insurance premiums.  

Award winning technology

The idea for JSI™ was born out of the questions many customers were asking about smart building technology. As Bryant explains, he wanted to first understand how technology could be used in the work phase of construction. 

“The architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry historically has not been a large investor in technology — pretty resistant to change, pretty frugal,” Bryant says. “We see the value of investing in technology for PCL, our workers, the environment, and especially for our client’s bottom line.”

PCL’s leadership in tech innovation is being recognized across Canada even beyond the construction sector. In November 2019, Bryant was recognized by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) as the Canadian CIO of the Year. PCL was also recognized with an Ingenious Award in the Large Private Sector category for JSI™.

A second technology developed by PCL finished as a runner up to JSI™. Hazard Inspection App blends machine learning and artificial intelligence with safety standards to produce a new and lean way of conducting inspections in the field. 

Bryant says employees at PCL were integral in providing the expertise to figure out which aspects of construction were the most important to monitor. 

PCL, which is headquartered in Edmonton with operations across Canada, the United States, Caribbean and Australia, started off using the technology while building the Stantec Tower – a 66-storey, 1.2 million square foot tower in Edmonton’s Ice District. Over 500 sensors were put in to monitor temperature, humidity and barometric pressure in the building. 

Edmonton’s Stantec Tower, the tallest building in Canada, west of Toronto (centre right).

“On a project like the Stantec Tower where you have a three to four year build, you’ve got 70 degree temperature swings over four seasons. Things like drywall or millwork can have issues that require rework so we monitor the temperature and humidity and keep that constant through heaters and smart provisioning,” Bryant says. 

Animation of the full Ice District buildout including Stantec Tower and Rogers Place – both built by PCL Construction.

Another application used at Stantec and part of JSI™ are concrete sensors, which help PCL measure strength and humidity, as well as determine the length of time it takes for concrete to cure. “We can determine maybe it’s 24 hours, instead of 30, which then allows us to advance the schedule and improve time to market for clients,” he explains. 

Commercialization

JSI™ hasn’t just been used for construction projects — it’s also been installed inside a pasta manufacturing facility north of Toronto, Ont. to measure temperature and humidity in refrigeration units. 

The facility is required to measure the levels three times a day, and report the findings to an inspector on a monthly basis. They were also experiencing freezers breaking down on a monthly basis, resulting in thousands of dollars of food being thrown away. 

JSI™ has taken away the manual labor of the historical reporting, and alerts four different people in the case of a freezer breakdown so someone can get to the facility to move the product to another unit, says Bryant. 

Since its launch in March 2018, PCL has expanded JSI™ to over 70 projects, and is ramping up to take it even further. The 114-year-old company completes around 700-800 projects a year, with a total construction value of around $9 billion annually, so there is huge potential for JSI™ to be used in everything from sports stadiums and commercial towers to retail plazas. 

Next, PCL plans to commercialize the award-winning platform for the benefit of the entire construction industry. 

“We have signed up a top 50 ranked Engineering News-Record company to use Job Site Insights. That’s pretty big news that another construction company is licensing our technology,” Bryant says. 

“I think it has the ability to revolutionize the construction market.”

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