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Digital tools could speed up construction of housing
March 31st, 2021 4:51 pm     A+ | a-

 By Grant Cameron

Digital tools and technology could speed up the approvals process for new home construction – they just need to be applied, says Richard Lyall, president of the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON).
 
Lyall spoke about the issue at a March 25 industry webinar, titled The Digital Age of Construction, that was hosted by ReNew Canada magazine.
 
The event was sponsored by Citylitics and featured several speakers discussing how digital tools can help the industry and what the future looks like. Todd Latham, president of ReNew, was moderator of the event.
 
In his remarks, Lyall said a big part of the housing problem is the lack of predictability and accountability in the process.
 
There are digital tools that can be used to tackle the issue, but they need to be co-ordinated and embraced province-wide, he said.
 
“There’s nothing more complicated, really, when you talk about the building and development industry with respect to approvals. There’s a lot of moving parts here and a lot of different players and you have to bring them together.
 
“That’s why the One Ontario initiative is good because we’ve got over 20 organizations and entities, including the planners, the building officials, the builders, saying, ‘Hey, we want to do this, this is going to make things better.’ We need to have that data exchange capability for that interoperability between systems.”
 
The World Bank ranks Ontario as 64th in construction permitting, Lyall noted, and there are up to 45 agencies involved in the approvals process.
 
“If that process isn’t working smoothly, then you lose time, and if you lose time you lose money.”

Lyall said developers and investors must know when they’re going to get projects approved so they can figure out the numbers and measure risk.
 
“A very important part of this whole exercise is really de-risking the development process which is critical, especially with respect to any private sector-based investment.”
 
RESCON ran analytics recently to gauge the impact of streamlining the approvals process on the supply of housing and tax revenues for government, Lyall said, and the numbers were astounding.
 
“You get a lot more housing, governments get more revenues, people live better. What’s wrong with that?”
 
While there are challenges, such as keeping up with the pace of change, Lyall said the future looks bright for the use of new technology in construction.
 
Drones and sensors can provide up-to-date information so drawings can be changed as a project is progressing, he said, and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to simulate the effects of climate change on a structure so drawings can be revised to make it more energy efficient.
 
One day, he said, AI may be used to let high school students do a virtual walk-through of a jobsite to get a feel for the work.
 
Other panelists at the event included:
  • John Revell, chief building official with the City of Windsor
  • Anna Robak, director of research at innovation at WSP Canada
  • Ahmed Badruddin, CEO of Citylitics
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