Message From the Chair: Announcing 2017-2021 IRC Renewal

Dr. Aminah Robinson Fayek - 30 July 2016

IRC research team

The IRC research team: (Left, top-bottom) Getaneh Tiruneh, PhD student; Ahmed Daoud, MSc student; Cassandra Ommerli, technical writer; Natalie Monzer, MSc student; Selam Ayele, PhD student; (Middle, top-bottom) Nima Gerami Seresht, PhD candidate; Dr. Aminah Robinson Fayek, professor; (Right, top-bottom) Mohammad Raoufi, PhD candidate; Dr. Abraham Tsehayae, postdoctoral fellow; Dr. Moataz Omar, (former) postdoctoral fellow; Nasir Siraj, PhD student; Yonas Halala, MSc student.

It is with great pleasure that I announce the official renewal of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Strategic Construction Modeling and Delivery for the 2017-2021 term. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the contributions of my current and former industry partners, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff members who have not only helped to secure the renewal of this dynamic and very valuable relationship, but that have also helped to ensure the ongoing success of the IRC since its inception in 2007. I would also like to thank NSERC for their support over the years. This past April, I was the proud recipient of APEGA Summit's 2016 Excellence in Education Award (see page 5 for awards and announcements); I am grateful to my nominators, Dr. Roger Cheng, Dr. Mohamed Al-Hussein, and Dr. Abraham Tsehayae, and to APEGA for this honour and recognition of my work as an educator, which is truly my most important role. On page 3 of IRC KeyNotes, we profile Dr. Tsehayae and Cassandra Ommerli, two key members of the IRC research team who play distinctive yet crucial roles in facilitating research and in helping the IRC to achieve its core objectives. I am also excited to welcome two new partner organizations to the IRC for the 2017-2021 term, the Electrical Contractors Association of Alberta (ECAA) and the Alberta Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association (ARHCA), who will be joining our six returning partners: Capital Power, Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC), Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA), Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA), Suncor Energy, and Merit Contractors Association.

As I mentioned briefly in our March 2016 edition of IRC KeyNotes, developing strategies to increase knowledge and technology transfer is a top priority for the IRC, as is it a crucial component in ensuring that the benefits of the program are shared broadly. After the successful debut of our presentation on Practices & People Skills for Productivity and Performance: Owner & Contractor Perspectives at the COAA Best Practices Conference in May, the IRC held its Key Results and Recommendations Workshop in early June (see our recap on page 4). The full-day event provided a comprehensive and highly interactive look at IRC projects on construction labour productivity and organizational competencies and project performance, which were covered in two back-to-back sessions led by myself and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Abraham Tsehayae. With a strong turnout and active participation from attendees, the Key Results and Recommendations Workshop proved to be a great opportunity to engage with our stakeholders and provided an effective format for communicating IRC research to industry practitioners in a way that is useful and accessible to them. Moreover, the workshop allowed us to gain direct feedback from individuals and groups both within and outside our partner base, which is an important step in developing methods and tools that truly move beyond the industry status quo.

One of the most significant challenges in producing innovation is in assessing the impact an innovation has had on performance. In order to effectively identify and implement innovations, it is critical that we improve our capacity to define and measure performance. In addition, we must enhance our ability to harness the large amounts of data collected through projects and offered by our partner organizations, while also ensuring that our practices effectively capture subjectivity, expert judgement, and the interaction of numerous factors that impact performance. In the context of construction, performance is assessed in terms of metrics such as cost, schedule, productivity, quality, and safety, all of which are core pillars in our research application areas. On page 1, we discuss two crucial components of an extensive multilevel study on construction productivity analysis and modeling currently being conducted by the IRC. We deliver innovation to our partners and the wider construction industry by developing resources that help them to better define, structure, and optimize their processes; to develop better methods of measuring their performance; and to identify underlying performance drivers so that organizations can focus on improving those project factors that have the highest value-added impact. Helping construction organizations improve their efficiency and performance will make them more profitable and competitive, in addition to creating safer and better work environments and generating new employment opportunities for Albertans.

This piece originally appeared in IRC KeyNotes Issue 6 (July 2016).

Photo by Grecia Pacheo, 2016, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.