Q&A with Jeremy McConnell from ATL Construction
The Edmonton-based general contractor has been involved in many notable projects in the residential, commercial, light industrial, and mixed-use sectors, relying on strong partnerships and sound project delivery. Managing Director Jeremy McConnell joins us to discuss ATL’s key core values, the importance of team collaboration, and how they go above the line, every time.
Stadium Plaza located east of Edmonton downtown core, and with 5 minutes walking distance to the stadium LRT station, it offers quick access to Downtown, University of Alberta, Concordia University, Macewan University, NAIT and Royal Alexander Hospital.
Q: Your Four Corners of Partnering system is what first caught our interest and influenced us to speak with you. Can you speak to how these pillars that lay the foundation at ATL Construction?
Our Four Corners of Partnering consist of ATL Construction itself, along with Clients, Design Team, And Trades. Having the four work together as a cohesive team is crucial when you want to deliver a successful project. ATL stands for Above the Line for a reason. This is our mantra to always want to go above and beyond, and we take great pride in our ability to build innovative, high-quality work.
We want to make sure all four partners share insights and expertise. Being transparent with our clients is extremely important to us, and we take pride in our ability to build inventive, superior products that are always cost-efficient.
Q: Open communication is essential for successful project delivery. How do you make this a priority when working with the client?
We limit the number of projects we take on in a year to ensure the client is getting appropriate the care and attention throughout all aspects of the build. We submit bid prices that are fair, clear, and carefully checked in order to minimize any future cost issues. The most important thing for clients right now is getting finished on time as interest rates have jumped through the roof. A one-month delay on an average sized project can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong team and a project system and schedule that keep things on track.
“That’s why it’s so important
to have a strong team and a project system and schedule that keep things on track.”
Q: How are you making sure the project schedule stays efficient and follows timelines while providing that expectational service?
Effective scheduling is an important step toward keeping a project on time and on budget. We take the time to assess the project life cycle, the expenses, and new product development. I think one of the most important things about ATL is that the client is working with me and our Managing Director George Mansi directly. We’re not a company that meets with the client, signs the contract, and then hands the project off to others in the company or sub-contractors to oversee.
We want to ensure all our team members and project schedule are on point so we have the ability to hit the ground running and we’re not tripping over ourselves trying to determine next steps. We utilize Microsoft suite software that makes scheduling and communications easier and more efficient. I’m a computer engineer by trade so I tend to push technology, and having our software in place gives everyone access to the same information in real time. Our superintendent can be onsite with his tablet and review daily reports, project documents, change orders, and a master schedule in real time. Since we work closely with our team members and include them in the chain of information, the software optimizes supply chain management which, it turn, eliminates risks to timely project completion.
Q: Keeping everyone safe is crucial, can you discuss your safety plan when onsite?
We all share the responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace and to work safely. Every contractor, worker, supplier, and visitor must comply with our project’s safety plan. I commend all of our staff who are onsite for following the plan and executing good judgement. I conduct surprise inspections and we go outside the company with our third-party safety officer. That way, the plan is third party verified with an unbiased review. I would rather hear that we’ve done something wrong, or need to improve on something, than someone worrying about upsetting the boss.
Q: What are some of your projects you are currently working on? And how do you maximize efficiency in your builds?
A project we are really excited about is the TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) project just east of Edmonton’s downtown core called Stadium Plaza. That entire area is part of the City’s plan to add more developments that provide a mix of housing, commercial, civic, and other amenities integrated into a pedestrian friendly area within close proximity to the LRT. Stadium Plaza is a six-storey, 78-unit residential condo with commercial space in Parkdale, near Commonwealth Stadium and the Stadium LRT Station.
The client came to us with a broad idea of what they wanted. The original architectural plans called for wood framing during a time where lumber costs were through the roof. We asked the client an important question ‘Are you doing this to sell, or do you want to make this a long-term revenue legacy property?” After a few discussions it was clear that this was going to be a long-term ownership, so we suggested switching to structural steel studs instead of wood studs.
Steel framing provides a low-cost alternative to wood, and it’s waterproof and lightweight. We worked with a local structural steel stud company that build all the panels in their manufacturing facility and they are delivered onsite and assembled like LEGO. It was just a fantastic build; we were building a floors every three weeks with that method and to see a structure go up that fast and that clean was impressive.
Q: How do you adapt onsite when projects are faced with unexpected challenges?
Not all projects are like the Stadium Plaza build. However, challenges are nothing new to us. It’s a credit to our great team, clear communication, and efficient project execution that we can adjust and adapt to any situation. A current project we have is called Princeton Place in a town in southern British Columbia. The town has requested more residential housing to fill the need of the industry boom that’s currently happening. The structure itself is an L-shaped building that’s 5 storeys and a mix of condominium and rental amenities with commercial space on the main floor.
It has some unique challenges in that the town of Princeton is located 3 hours east of Vancouver in the Cascade Mountains. The number-one rule when building a project in a remote location is to plan ahead. Long before the project starts it’s important for us to find ask the client; is the site accessible? Do we have all the resources and skilled labour? And how do we ensure we have access to energy, heat, running water, etc. Asking these questions early helps you define the overall project scope, requirements, and goals. Each of these aspects has logistical impacts on the building process. We need to consider how materials, supplies, and labour will get to the site, as well as plans for prefab temporary camps. Another challenge in remote locations is that they can be in fire zones and there is no fire department nearby. Keeping our site as fire-safe as possible, especially in locations where wildfires are prevalent, is always front of mind.
Another challenging project we are working on is on Salt Spring Island, which is one of the Gulf Islands between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Summerside Village, and consists of 12 single family townhomes that the client wanted to be built all at once. Building on an island is no easy task. Without power and the island’s distant location, there are certain challenges that come up, and ultimately, a lot can go wrong. The entire island is pure rock so clearing the site takes a lot longer than on a flat lot. We had to blast, hammer out, and scrape just to find a foundation to build on. Just getting the construction machinery and materials by ferry requires a lot of organization. ATL is always up for the challenge.
Q: How do you manage trade partnerships in the design and execution of ATL’s projects?
We meet with our building team and trade partners during early design meetings to better understand the scope of the project and discuss best practices, delivery, and project timelines. They are the experts in their field, and we trust them with what they do. Our design team works closely with the client, and combining the design and trade teams in those initial design concepts helps us evaluate the entire construction process from start to finish. It’s not always easy getting the design and on-site staff on the same page all the time during the building process, so we must have a collaborative team approach from the beginning so that we can provide expert consultation services to the client. As long as all 4 partners are on the same page, we can better understand the project complexities together, the better success we’ll have onsite.