Q&A with Ellen Bensky, CEO & Principal Turner Fleischer Architects

November 28, 2017

R. Allan Partridge, Principal Next Architecture and Ellen Bensky, CEO & Partner, Turner Fleischer Architects

We followed up with Ellen Bensky, winner of the CanBIM professional achievement award at the Toronto regional session to get to know her thoughts on winning the award, her role in advocating for BIM at Turner Fleischer and beyond and what she thinks about the state of BIM adoption in Canada.

CanBIM: What do you feel is the most important enabler of technology adoption?

Ellen: Primarily it comes down to mindset. A workplace that wants to adapt technology needs to embrace change and dedicate itself to getting rid of the culture of fear that typically surrounds it. The pace of innovation is staggering, but the growth opportunities that come with its implementation are exponential. Ultimately the biggest enabler is being able to adapt a new paradigm and support your staff to evolve as your firm does.

CanBIM: How do you see the future of BIM and innovation in the Canadian AEC industry?

Ellen: I really see the future in our industry as VDC which has it’s foundation in BIM. The Canadian AEC industry needs to let go of the past and embrace the future, hopefully supported by various levels of government getting on board and mandating BIM. Beyond government bodies, for a BIM-centric future, clients need to be educated on benefits and how this workflow can not only allow for a better product, but give ample savings in both time and money.

Looking ahead, contractors need to adopt BIM and demand to be involved in the process earlier. On a similar vein, consultants need to seek out others to work with collaboratively in this environment. I really believe the silos need to be broken, and knowledge-sharing across like minded firms needs to happen. Through open dialogue, we can leverage expertise to better the industry collectively. For a viable future, the AEC industry needs to be proactive in the adoption of BIM and stop being reactive.

CanBIM: What are some of the important milestones we need to hit in the Canadian Industry?

Ellen: Looking at where Canada stands on a global scale, the government really needs to mandate BIM in their projects and public-sector work; a strong message that will trickle down to the private sector. In the meantime, however, we need to start sharing knowledge with each other instead of competing with one another. Leveraging our collective experience in order to elevate the industry as a whole would advance our national BIM base and ease its industry wide implementation.

CanBIM: What role does Turner Fleischer play in the evolution of AEC industry in Canada?

Ellen: I am proud that Turner Fleischer is committed to BIM and embraces its potential. In taking this strong stance, we face unique challenges as our work is primarily from the private sector, where BIM is not at the forefront. Even though BIM is unfortunately not a priority for our clients, as part of our initiatives we make the most of opportunities to showcase what TF has done from a BIM point of view – QTO, Clash Detection, Virtual Reality, Computational Design, etc. Taking this message outside of the office, we speak at every opportunity about our experiences with our BIM transformation, including universities, colleges and conferences. We strive to educate clients, consultants, industry partners and staff, setting ourselves up for success for the time when BIM is a requirement. We are dedicated to being ready.

Turner Fleischer has embraced CanBIM and supported the certification process with our employees and our firm, seeing this as an amazing opportunity to support BIM in Canada. Part of this process involved inviting contractors, consultants and experts into our firm to share their knowledge with our staff and to begin to break down the barriers currently in the AEC Industry. From a human resource standpoint, we hire many new comers to Canada who have BIM experience world wide but lack Canadian experience. TF is also proud to hire many co-op students who have great interest in BIM and provide these staff members with the opportunity to work in BIM in our firm.

CanBIM: Can you tell us about any special projects your team is working on that exemplifies innovation?

Ellen: Everyday I see that Turner Fleischer is pushing for innovation. An example is how BIM has allowed us to explore new ways of doing things on the Nobu Residences in Toronto. From the start, the Fee proposal was changed to add “data drops”, which allows for an exchange of information at various phases of the project. Related to project launch, the contractor has been engaged since day one and was part of interview process. A great benefit of this choice was that with the contractor on board, we have been able to use design assist with the trades to vet proposed detailing/options so that we do not have to value engineer during the tender phase. As the project became more engaged, we used VR as a tool to show the client what the exterior skin would look like, leading to enhanced client understanding of the project and ensuring the final product was in line with the design intent. Additionally, TF will be modelling the Interior portions of the project based on the ID Consultant’s design. The Interior Design team does not work in BIM software, yet the interior work needs to be modelled to facilitate good clash detection. It really is a project where innovation is paying off!

CanBIM: What does it mean to you to have been selected by your peers for the CanBIM Professional Achievement Award?

Ellen: To be recognized for my leadership and dedication to Building Information Modelling, Virtual Design and Construction and Innovation in the Canadian AECO Industry shows me that my peers value and recognize the impact everyone can have on the advancement of BIM in the industry. You don’t have to be an architect, engineer or contractor to be an agent of change. As a CEO my role is to address and solve challenges on a daily basis and it is this same mindset that I bring to the promotion of BIM in the Canadian AEC Industry.

I strongly believe that in order for the Canadian AEC industry to be aligned in the adoption and promotion of BIM, there needs to be a collaborative group of leaders who are all working with a sense of urgency around the need for exponential change in the industry. I am honoured and grateful to have been selected to receive this award.

About Ellen Bensky

As a Partner and CEO of Turner Fleischer Architects Inc. and CanBIM member, Ellen has contributed, on a daily basis, to the advancement of BIM and Virtual Design not only in her firm, but industry-wide through her initiatives and dedication. With a passion for learning, she has spear-headed continuing education programs for staff and has presented at on a local and international level. Through her current role, Ellen is able to engage daily in the process of successfully leveraging business needs and architectural realities, driving her passion for operational excellence. Ellen is proudly the recipient of CanBIM’s 2017 Professional Achievement Award for all her accomplishments related to this platform.

Please contact her for any questions or collaboration opportunities at: ellen@turnerfleicher.com or 416-425-2222