Whelan Construction lays the groundwork as Vancouver’s premiere general contracting and construction management firm.
With any construction project, project management is crucial. The process of communicating, strategizing, and planning from the beginning to the completion of a project can be an overwhelming task. To keep a project on track, metrics and project goals must be properly managed to meet each client’s unique requirements. Enter Vancouver-based Whelan Construction, a general contracting and construction management firm that operates across multiple market sectors including institutional, healthcare, light rail, airport, renewable energy and building performance upgrades.
A cursory scroll through past projects—from the 100-bed community nursing unit in Loughrea, Co. Galway, Ireland to the Pier D Expansion project in Vancouver—demonstrates how Whelan’s founder, Brian Whelan, has been engaged in many notable and challenging projects over his 22 years in the industry. “I’ve enjoyed both the successes and challenges of working on complex projects in Ireland and Canada. Our experience has given us a clear vision of what a client needs from a contractor and construction management company,” he states. “We consider ourselves a proactive, problem-solving business, with a focus on consistent delivery and quality of service.”
The company’s proficiencies of quality, service excellence, and due diligence are interconnected. This is particularly evident in Whelan’s safety management system which lays the foundation for how the team defines excellence on their projects. “Safety is, without a doubt, a key core value for us. It’s something that we’ve pushed to the forefront of our approach. We want to educate, coach, and model the correct way to ensure we improve efficiency and performance while keeping everyone safe,” explained Brian.
Communication is essential. The lack of it is one of the fundamental problems when it comes to safety. There’s a lot of planning, risk assessments, document management and safety training management required before each project begins. Whelan ensures all trade partners are completely aligned with its safety procedures throughout the entire project.
Partnering with the best
Whelan values partnerships as the team recognizes that a best-of-breed approach delivers the best possible outcome for clients. “One important thing that separates us from other contractors is that we have a model whereby we price projects with our trade partners. We don’t tender it out to five different trades like other general contractors. Instead, we carry the people who are best suited for the project. It’s a perfect model for us and we’ve been successful to date with it.”
Building solid foundations
After graduating from the Technological University of Dublin and spending some time at ABM Design and Build in Ireland, Brian Whelan moved to Vancouver with his family in 2013, where he continued to hone his skills and expertise working on a variety of project types, many of which were based at Vancouver International Airport.
He started Whelan Construction in 2021 and extended its reach into the Metro Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Squamish-Lillooet regions. Whelan highlights their approach to be open and transparent with clients as a differentiator, and he gave an example of this in action. “A US-based general contractor, Lease Crutcher Lewis, approached us about a large structural seismic upgrade package for an existing office building in the heart of Gastown,” he said. “They asked us for recommendations with regards to constructability and asked for a turnkey proposal given our experience in the field. We highlighted some solutions and constructability recommendations given the design was at 75% and we made recommendations to provide them a streamlined turnkey proposal that better suited their needs. Whelan was successful in being awarded the structural seismic upgrade project. The project will increase the existing cable capacity which allows for higher bandwidth services, further enriching Vancouver’s position as a growing global tech hub.
Whelan underscores the importance of having an organized construction process and ensuring the client’s expectations are met during every step of the process. “There are various building models out there and it can be confusing for clients. We simply have a construction management model and a general contracting model. For all our contracting jobs, whether it’s a lump sum contract or construction management contract, we use the same simplified model to keep things transparent for the client.
Considering the highly technical and complicated nature of its work, it’s no surprise that Whelan embraces technology across its own operations.
“We built Whelan as a next-generation construction company with the best-in-class technologies to give us a competitive edge. Everything is cloud-based and we’ve automated some manual, repetitive back office tasks to save time and reduce the risk of human error. Our system unites office and field teams from the design phase to the construction phase and into operations.”
Growth is crucial in the early stages of any business. Whelan Construction has it covered with several outstanding community projects ongoing across Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. “We recently finished phase one civil scope of works of the Vancouver International Airport bridge replacement project We conducted all the excavation, demolition, new deep utility work and the installation of utilities to rehabilitate and upgrade the infrastructure to meet current and future needs. We were awarded phase two of that project which consists of the installation of 6 new bridges at the terminal gates in both domestic and international buildings. We are completing the base building, as well as all the mechanical and electrical scope of work, so we’re excited to start that,” said Brian.
Whelan also just finished a pre-construction seismic upgrade for Vancouver Airport Property Management and has been awarded the Air Canada Jazz refurbishment project.
The road ahead
Demand for Whelan Construction’s services remains high and Brian is optimistic about the company’s future prospects based on its trajectory.
“We will be focusing on a lot on structural upgrade projects in Vancouver and surrounding areas and hopefully we will have an opportunity to partner with Fraser Health Authority to assist in building and equipping their hospitals with new buildings, more operating rooms, and expanding their specialized care options to meet the needs of our communities,” said Brian.
In the long term, Whelan plans to invest in offsite modular construction. “Coming from Ireland, where we use a lot of system-build solutions for health care facilities, schools, and social housing, I see a big market for it here in Vancouver,” explained Brian.
“One of the big things for us is to grow slowly and deliberately. We want to bolster and grow what we have built so far so having the right people on the team is a priority for us,” he says.
In the next five years Whelan plans to have 30-40 people operating in the field to meet demand for its services. Brian concluded, “We’re excited to see where the future takes us. Our people—including our valued trade partners—will ensure Whelan continues to build successful, sustainable projects across Vancouver for decades to come.”