Procore set out to find the companies, projects and individuals that stood out for their bold achievements in construction. Among the 24 outstanding finalists selected, eight were named winners of the 2021 Groundbreaker Awards. This article is the sixth in an eight-part series spotlighting each winner.
On the heels of marking their 100th anniversary in 2020, Canadian-owned-and-operated Bird Construction took on one of their most ambitious projects yet: Merit Functional Foods’ 94,000 square-foot plant protein processing facility, the largest of its kind in the world. The project was delivered by Bird-Design-Build Construction out of the company’s local Winnipeg district.
Bird’s team is accustomed to working under the gun as fast-tracked delivery specialists with 22 offices across Canada and more than 5,000 industry professionals. Yet this project was something else: the project’s scope dramatically expanded mid-stream, quadrupling construction costs while maintaining the original deadline for completion, and so it was all hands on deck to bring it in on time.
The company, named for its founder, H.J. Bird, worked tirelessly to fulfill the new requirements of the project, keeping the site open up to 20 hours a day during the final six months. It incorporated LEAN construction principles to ensure the schedule could be kept and relied heavily on Procore and other technologies so that everything was on track.
Facing a significant time crunch in the grips of a global pandemic, Bird still managed to complete the pea and canola processing facility in record time. It performed what amounted to three years worth of design and construction in 18 months. For their tenacity and creativity in delivering an enormously complex project on time despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Bird is named Procore’s 2021 Groundbreaker winner for General Contractor Project Excellence.
A Team Effort
As the design-builder, Bird oversaw every aspect of the facility project, from managing the consultant team to coordinating the owner-supplied equipment to all subcontractors. To ensure it could meet the client’s goals and aggressive schedule, Bird also provided in-house design services, virtual design and construction (VDC), and self-performed all concrete work.
Navigating a project of that magnitude with so many moving parts and team members required extensive coordination between all project stakeholders.
“From the beginning, the line of communication was created and defined and adjusted as needed. It was very important for our project team to be flexible and responsive,” said Christina Neufeld, Bird’s Winnipeg District’s Marketing and Communications Lead.
“Procore helped with that because we were able to upload our documents so everyone had access to them, allowing us to make decisions in a timely manner. The scope changed so drastically, quickly, and frequently that everybody had to be up to date on their information and be able to review the documents and make an informed decision.”
Leading Through Change
Initially, the facility was only supposed to process pea protein. After construction began, however, the owner added canola processing capabilities to the plans. This doubled the scope of the project and resulted in the value tripling from its original budget. Although the building footprint and square footage would remain the same, the change required extensive adjusting of the building to fit the correct processing systems that hadn’t been part of the initial plans.
Adding even more complexity to the mix, the pandemic struck as work was underway. Suddenly, the team was wearing masks and social distancing. The company’s stringent compliance with new COVID-related safety regulations helped ensure the site remained open during the crisis. At the same time, Bird was pulling out every stop to ensure the project’s timely delivery, operating the site 20 hours a day with 200–250 workers at a time, and deploying LEAN building principles, like pre-fabricating materials and equipment offsite with just-in-time delivery.
Thanks to its responsiveness and flexibility, Bird was able to finish the project in half the time, an achievement Bird Project Manager Jeremy Steski said is due to the team working together as one.
“We put together a great team, both internally and with our designers and trade partners. The team was accountable to each other, which was a big part of our success,” he said.
“Communication is key on a project of this speed and complexity. All parties had access to the most up-to-date drawings, submittals, and changes, which allowed us to communicate it to our international engineers and suppliers as well as the evening and overnight shift workers.”
Technology Helps Get the Job Done in Record Time
With such a drastic change in scope as work was already underway, and with ongoing changes piling on, keeping stakeholders on the same page was an integral part of the project’s success. Procore’s Project Management tool allowed Bird to collaborate with the client, architect, consultants, and sub-trades in a single environment. They could track RFIs, changes, and deficiencies and ensure all parties had round-the-clock access to the latest project documents.
Bird utilized the deficiency tool within Procore throughout construction – a key factor to the project’s success. It allowed Bird to track and assign deficiencies as soon as they were identified, streamlining the process. Trades could address the issues while remaining on-site to complete their work, saving both time and money.
“The deficiency tool was something we started using early during construction as part of our QAQC plan,” said Steski. “We used it to track early issues to prevent them from becoming large problems at the end. Being able to log, repair, and approve the repairs in the field was a big help and far more user-friendly than issuing multiple deficiency reports in emails.”
A project of this size and scope typically takes more than a year to design and two years to build. Through diligent coordination, deliberative marshaling of resources, and willingness to be flexible, Bird got the job done in just 18 months. Procore and VDC helped facilitate communication across everyone involved, allowing for rapid decision making and total transparency.