PCL is Building the Future of Construction With Innovation

As a leading construction firm, PCL is future-proofing the industry one proprietary innovation at a time.

As a construction leader, PCL takes on all types of projects across civil, industrial and building sectors, using its scale and expertise to complete some of the most important and impressive projects in North America. The firm is also one of the most prominent innovators in its industry, developing leading-edge in-house solutions that routinely solve some of construction’s biggest problems.

PCL’s place in the market is significant. With over $6 billion (USD) in annual revenue, PCL is a top-nine construction company in the U.S. and number one in Canada. With 10,000 hourly and salaried employees and a network of hundreds of thousands of contractors, PCL delivers an incredibly wide range of services, each comprising deeply specialized teams. The challenge then is not only in communicating PCL’s story to potential clients, but also in differentiating itself from the competition.

And its story is a significant one, considering the construction firm has over 700 active projects going at any one time. Several of these are multi-year endeavors that represent significant client investment, such as the multiple projects at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), a site that PCL has been contributing to for nearly a decade. North of the border, PCL’s historical restorations team in Ottawa is entrusted to restore Canada’s Parliament buildings—a decades-long project of several two-century-old historical structures. The firm is also a top solar megaprojects builder across North America and Australia.

In all of its processes, PCL has innovation on display: Safety, where PCL paces the industry by integrating technology and culture to create a holistic environment that values safety above all else; construction techniques such as modular building that cut delivery timelines by months; sustainability features that reduce disruption and emissions; and even smart construction innovation, where proprietary technologies continue to impact the bottom line for both PCL and its clients.

“Across every one of PCL’s projects, our teams have been industry leaders, working to develop new processes and technologies that make us safer, more efficient and sustainable, and deliver better value to clients,” says Mark Bryant, chief information officer at PCL. “The innovative solutions we’ve been able to deliver show that we’re committed to shaping the future of the construction industry.”

LAX’s 1.7 million square foot Midfield Satellite Concourse, which PCL helped build.

An investment in PCL’s digital construction future

In order to better tell the story, PCL debuted its new website last week. Having the new site express both business values and project impact was extremely important to PCL given the scale of its operations. When a potential client or new employee has a chance to read about one of the largest structures in North America, and how it was built using technology PCL developed in-house, it turns heads.

The new homepage of pcl.com.

“It’s important to have a presence that demonstrates our commitment to the future of construction,” says Alison Tucker, VP of marketing and communications for PCL. “That involves showcasing the innovation this firm invests in every year so we can lead the pack as the industry becomes more digitized. Painting that picture is compelling in terms of having new recruits understand that we are a future-forward organization that will drive the industry forward.”

“We’re committed to shaping the future of the construction industry.”

Mark Bryant, chief information officer, PCL

Another important point of pride that PCL wanted to highlight is its unique status as a 100% employee-owned company. This hierarchy has fostered a collective commitment to excellence, and with a new digital presence, both new and existing employees could learn about what success meant to PCL.

“Instilling that unique differentiator was a critical requirement for our digital presence,” says Tucker. “It’s about bringing those stories of innovation and ownership to bear in a way so employees, new recruits, and clients can see the evidence of what we’re doing and how we feel every day.”

PCL enlisted the help of New York and Toronto based digital consultancy Konrad to help build the new website. Project teams on both sides collaborated over the last eight months to see the project come to life.

“From the first meeting with PCL’s executive team it was clear that there was a huge opportunity to better tell their story of being a global innovation leader,” says Bill Konrad, Co-CEO of Konrad. “Digital transformation is occurring all around us, and construction is no exception. Produced in close collaboration with their teams, the new PCL.com makes clear that a world-class customer experience at PCL begins digitally, and continues seamlessly through the completion of a remarkable construction project.”

The result is a website that prominently features case studies, projects, key individuals, innovative technologies, and more that highlight PCL’s expertise across the construction industry.

Technology at PCL: Job Site Insights™

Digital innovation extends throughout the PCL organization, and nothing exemplifies that commitment more than Job Site Insights™ (JSI™) This cutting-edge IoT (internet of things) tool is a proprietary software platform developed by PCL that aggregates project data from sensors placed throughout a job site and provides real-time alerting should conditions exceed set thresholds. That data can take the form of humidity readings, temperature readings, water pressure, concrete curing rates, flood alerts, safety hazards, exposure risks, and much more, all of which is combined into both a mobile or desktop-based dashboard which provides critical insights that can considerably impact a project’s safety, budget, timeline, and environmental impact.

Job Site Insights™ mobile dashboard in action.

While it is unusual for a construction firm to make an investment into proprietary technology such as this, the development of JSI™ is proof of PCL’s dedication to digitizing the construction industry with real purpose. It is not a budget line that is unnecessarily added, but rather one that PCL leverages to create a safer and more efficient project, both during construction, and long after the project is completed.

“It’s all about de-risking the project by eliminating scheduling impacts, potential rework, insurance claims, and other issues,” says Bryant. “For us to be better builders, we need to understand and leverage technologies that provide solutions to our customers that enhance project delivery. The value of what we’ve developed with Job Site Insights™ is the reduction of all those risks, delays, and costs.”

One of PCL’s sensors used in JSI™-equipped projects.

The results of JSI’s integration into several PCL projects have been so successful that PCL is now offering it as a solution to other construction leaders as they enable next-generation job sites themselves.

“We’re stepping out as a world-class firm with this real investment online, bringing forward our iconic portfolio and really showcasing our people and their expertise.”

Alison Tucker, VP of marketing and communications, PCL.

“JSI™ really future proofs the construction process,” says Tucker. “The whole digital ecosystem around the platform really brings to bear smart technology and future-proofing against colossal events like water damage. Essentially, it is true IoT technology within a job site that creates a smart building that can send information into broad analytics platforms, providing a look at potential issues before they happen.”

Pandemic response at PCL

JSI™ has played a key role in improving timelines and augmenting the digital construction experience PCL offers to clients, but the true value comes from its flexibility. It can be used to aggregate data from nearly any kind of IoT sensor imaginable, which means it can offer assistance in a wide range of settings, including timely responses to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the spring of 2020, PCL partnered with the Citizen Care Pod Corporation to build and launch custom mobile COVID-19 testing units called Citizen Care Pods. The pods went from concept to completion in less than a month and were built with the help of PCL’s deep knowledge in modular construction.

The PCL-build Citizen Care Pod, integrated with the JSI™ platform.

The process involved PCL retrofitting shipping containers with customizable options and technology to support successful rapid testing in any type of high-traffic or remote environment. Citizen Care Pods also come integrated with JSI™ and its associated sensors to monitor climate conditions such as temperature, pressure and humidity, and automatically providing notifications if certain thresholds are exceeded. 

There are four to 10 testing stations inside each pod, and PCL built them to ensure that each one would be able to be customized with intelligent technologies and aid companies in pandemic response for years to come.

“At PCL, we anticipate challenges and are proactive in developing solutions that make construction safer, more efficient and more sustainable,” says Kelly Wallace, vice president and district manager at PCL. “The Citizen Care Pod’s modular construction and integrated technology make it a sustainable, plug-and-play solution that can be rapidly deployed to support the safe reopening of our economy.”

Building the future of construction

The employee-owned PCL has prioritized innovation in every area of its business–a shared vision that not only serves the clients, but also the longevity of the organization.

Job Site Insights™, pandemic-response, and the new site are simply the latest investments in innovation that supports this notion. These moves and many more propel PCL to the front of the construction sector, which it will surely capitalize on for the next decade.

“If you look at the competition, a strong digital presence is just not something that the construction industry invests in at a broader scale,” says Tucker. “We’re stepping out as a world-class firm with this real investment online, bringing forward our iconic portfolio and really showcasing our people and their expertise. We’re best-in-class in terms of showcasing that portfolio at this point.”