Meet Vicente Gonzalez, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Construction engineer believes that careful consideration of people and culture leads to significant and sustained improvements in this industry, with real impacts on communities and society as a whole.

Donna McKinnon - 03 October 2022

Meet Vicente Gonzalez, Civil and Environmental Engineering

New to Canada, the construction engineer believes that careful consideration of people and culture leads to significant and sustained improvements in this industry, with real impacts on communities and society as a whole.

Welcome Vicente!

Tell us about your research

My research work is at the interface of construction engineering and management, and computer science. I have pioneered along with other colleagues from University of Alberta and Catholic University of Chile the Lean Construction 4.0 concept, which merges Lean-based production management theory and industry 4.0-driven smart and digital technologies. Under this concept, the digital transformation of the architecture-engineering-construction (AEC) industry confronts a real opportunity to make an effective digital transformation by focusing not only on technology, but also people and processes in tandem. 

Another relevant aspect of my research is its trans and cross-disciplinary nature. I have been able to collaborate with colleagues in education, psychology, computer science, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering science, even arts, to tackle AEC industry problems related to productivity, safety, planning and control, and societal problems such as quake/tsunami evacuation preparedness and education. On top of that, my research has enabled the development of high impact digitally-driven engineering research facilities, and university-wide digital technology-centric and corporate-sponsored teaching and research initiatives.

What inspired you to enter this field?

But what really inspired my research is the nature of the problems in the AEC industry. Let's talk about projects. They are complex entities in very dynamic environments where people, technical resources, and management processes co-exist and merge on-site. One could say that projects are fundamentally socio-technical systems and one-size-fits-all type of solutions don't really exist in this realm. I am a true believer that a careful consideration of people and culture with all that this entailseducation, organisational sociology and psychology, resilience and sustainability, along with the development of approaches, methods and methodologies grounded on a robust production management theory that are supported on smart and digital technologies such as extended reality, AI, computer simulation and modelling, digital twins, among otherscan lead to significant and sustained improvements in this industry, and real impacts on communities and society as a whole. The real challenge is to align the sometimes opposing goals of scientists, firms, policy makers, and communities and inspire them to work together to solve the big challenges of the AEC industry.

Tell us about your teaching

My research informs and heavily influences my teaching. I used to teach traditional construction engineering and management courses such as planning and control, project management, but also more advanced courses such as construction supply chain, discrete-event simulation in construction, and building information modelling. Several of my courses were at undergrad and graduate level. When we faculty understand our fundamental role as teachers and the incredible and transformative power in it (as we can shape the career of our students), we really start understanding that we need to do our best when teaching. Well this is what happened to me, that realisation. Since then, I understand that in every class I have to perform my role the best I can by being approachable and empathic with my students, having real fun with them, using the best pedagogical approaches and digital technologies at hand. I'm also pretty active in engineering education research and I have developed hands-on management simulation games that are available and played all over the world by universities and AEC firms.

What are your impressions of Edmonton/the University of Alberta so far?

I'm originally from Chile and I spent 12 years in New Zealand. So I have a high bar when it comes to assessing a country/city...right!? Well, I've loved Canada and Edmonton. People are super nice and welcoming. We have developed nice friendships. My wife and my two girls (6 and 8 years old) like the city and the country so much. On top of that, my colleagues in the CEE department have been wonderful and extremely nice to me. Well, and the Hole School of Construction Engineering, the programme I belong to, is a world-renowned CEM programme. The quality of the students and faculty is remarkable. So I feel supported and challenged by the professional environment I'm in. So far, so good!

What are your hobbies, or things you like to do outside of work?

Well, I love to play football (what people call soccer here...😀). I used to play in Chile and in New Zealand. Something I feel proud of is that I played in third and second-division amateur football in New Zealand, which is quite an achievement as I was 43 years old by the time I was playing in New Zealand. I play football twice a week now in Edmonton. I'm also an amateur musician and I'm fortunate to play guitar, bass and drums. I also sing and am learning piano. What I love the most is to play a riff on the guitar and my eldest daughter improvises the tunes and lyrics in real-time. My youngest daughter is starting to develop an interest in music, so she sings along with us. I like to run when I can and play a bit of tennis if a partner is available. My family and I enjoy the outdoors pretty much all year long, and the Edmonton winter won't stop that!