Construction industry embraces

unlikely source of growth:

shifting work off the job site

by David Kennedy

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The shop floor at the Agile plant. The facility produces a wide range of products, from repurposed sea cans to prefabricated wall panels and washroom pods.



With high-capacity gantry cranes overhead, 65,000 sq. ft. of well-lit floor space and products at various stages of completion strung out along a tidy assembly line, PCL Constructors Inc.’s Agile operation in the Toronto suburbs looks more like it’s run by a manufacturer than by one of the country’s largest construction contractors.

A crew of about 100 workers, including 35 from an array of subtrades, work the floor, producing everything from compact eyewash stations to decoupled washroom pods and 70-foot pedestrian bridges. Typical work site nuisances like dust, active heavy equipment and the sometimes-punishing Canadian weather are conspicuously absent.

As labour shortages and accelerated construction timelines force builders to modernize their strategies, the off-site facility is one part of the industry’s evolution.

“We take more of a manufacturing approach to building when we come off-site,” Troy Galvin, manager of PCL Agile, said in an interview. He pointed to standardized designs and repeatable functions that help workers perfect their skills.

“Over time, you do it more and more, you just get better at it. So, we deliver a higher quality product,” he added.