English Translation:
Traduction en français:
Lauréat du prix d’excellence professionnelle 2019

Interview with Patrick Saavedra

The CanBIM Professional Achievement Award is given to the individual(s) who have made a significant and meaningful contribution to the advancement of BIM and VDC in Canada. The 2019 CanBIM Professional Achievement Award was presented to Patrick Saavedra, Director, Planning, Architectural Design and Renovations Facilities Services at York University. For over a decade, Patrick has been implementing BIM and digital work flows in planning, architecture and construction at York University, leading the completion of seven major capital projects and a significant number of major renovations valued over $500M. Patrick is pushing BIM and the digital workflows by collaborating with ESRI Canada to better integrate BIM models with GIS as a way to create a fully integrated environment where every capital asset is geo-positioned, tracked and maintained.

CanBIM: Tell us about your background and what led you to become the Director, Planning, Architectural Design and Renovations Facilities Services at York University? 

I am an architect, urban planner and educator with almost 30 years professional experience. I am dual trained and hold multiple degrees; a Bachelor of Architectural Science from Ryerson University, and professional degrees; a Masters of Architecture and Masters of Urban Planning both from the University of Michigan, and have completed studies at the University of Copenhagen. I currently teach foreign trained architects at Ryerson University in a post-professional program. I have been a guest critic at a number of architectural schools in the U.S and Canada, and I am involved in a number of advisory roles as a member of The City of Toronto’s Public Art Commission and the City of Mississauga’s Urban Design Review Panel. The most rewarding part of my career took place this past October when I was recognized by my peers and thus was elevated to Fellow of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada; it’s an incredible honour.

I have worked on a variety of projects varying in scale and complexity here in Toronto and internationally, including Dubai, Trinidad and Tobago, to New York, and, of course, the Washington DC metro area. It was in 2006 that I was introduced to the world of BIM where, at the time, I had the opportunity to work on large complex international projects using BIM to drive design, decisions, and integration.

While I was working in the Washington DC area in 2008, it became evident that, as the U.S economy was failing, I needed to decide whether to stay and become one of the casualties or pursue other opportunities. At the time, a close colleague of mine suggested I consider returning back to Toronto and take on this role at York University; this was in the summer of 2009. At York, as the University Architect and Director, I oversee a team of almost 30 people and I am responsible for the planning and design of all projects, from small renewal projects to key capital projects.

CanBIM: Why did York University embark on this journey to deploy digital technologies (BIM) and digital work-flows for asset management?

My encouragement and insistence that BIM will facilitate collaboration and integration became the mantra to incorporate digital technologies. My previous Assistant Vice President (AVP) and current AVP both recognized the significance early and through early projects the value became obvious. It did not only bring our external teams together, but it brought our internal stakeholders and colleagues to understand the importance of working together and trusting that digital technologies will improve or facilities services. This all started back in early 2010 when we assisted a Professor’s project to create two very small, but important robotics pavilions. The models were done in our office and issued to the fabricator and contractor for execution; this was 2011/2012. Soon after, we began to explore parametric tools and BIM to aid in the design of our major renewal and capital projects.

CanBIM: What advice do you have for other owners and facility managers who have large portfolios of assets to enhance or manage their portfolio?

Start early, start slow, and start smart. What I mean is, don’t rush to do the largest project without understanding the power, the information, and the deliverables that will come by working in a digital environment. It can be overwhelming if everyone is not on the same page and all are not aligned.

I would suggest owners with large portfolio assets embark in this environment by using a small project as a pilot to test the process and thus better understand the entire workflow; the opportunities as well as the required infrastructure.

I would also encourage owners to establish a BIM or Digital Technology group who would meet on a regular basis to develop standards, best practices methodologies, to understand roles and responsibilities in a BIM workflow. I would invite folks to consider including in this group procurement, legal, IT, O & M members and others who will be impacted directly and indirectly by the information that will be derived through such an undertaking. Thus it will be the only way buy-in can be achieved  — by having everyone at the table. This is what York did in the early years; now it’s just part of our ethos.

CanBIM: What are the key benefits that you have gained by deploying digital technologies at York University?

I would say setting the university up for the future to become the “smart campus.” Also, understanding the life cycle of buildings and how important it is to begin with this in mind. Knowing early that our buildings are becoming more and more complex, sophisticated and smart and how crucial this is at the inception of a Capital Project planning or the management of existing facility and thus establishing the framework that will minimize our impact on the environment. Similarly, the biggest benefit has been the ability to be better informed about our decisions that will impact energy, carbon, and so on.

CanBIM: What technologies do you think will disrupt the Architectural, Engineering, Construction, Owner, Operator and supply chain industry the most over the next five years?

I think AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robotics will change how we build our buildings, our neighbourhoods and our Cities at large. Perhaps, finally our industry will be able to catch up to other fast evolving industries of the economy that has grown exponentially since the 60’s. The growth in our industry, on the other hand, has been dreadful over the past 50 plus years; it has declined. I strongly believe AI and robotics will improve how we envision, design, engineer and construct our built environment with much more precession, less delays, less errors and better quality overall. Similarly, AI will manage our facilities in such a way that very little human intervention will be required. Smart buildings akin to the Smart City will have its entire infrastructure interconnected; thereby self managing by adjusting, evaluating, diagnosing and correcting its performance in seconds, in real time.

CanBIM: What does it mean to you to have received the 2019 Professional Achievement Award?

It means that nationally York has been recognized as a pioneer; a leader in the deployment of BIM and other digital technologies and a “model” client that shows commitment to improving the built environment now and into the future. This is evidenced by the delivery of seven major capital projects and significant number of renovations that have been successfully completed at York. Personally, the award means my steadfast commitment has not been in vain. It means my significant and meaningful contribution to the advancement of Canada’s digital transformation through the implementation of technology and innovation has been valued by the industry, and that my hard work, my willingness to guide other institutions and learn from others has been recognized and has merit.

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Patrick Saavedra

York University

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