Stuart Olson: Embracing BIM

January 18, 2016

​CanBIM discusses the integration of BIM into Stuart Olson’s workflow.  



“We get paid for bringing value to the business. It takes time… but we get paid for the value, not the time”   Arthur Atkinson, COO Stuart Olson Buildings Group



The Canadian construction industry has seen an increased use of digital technologies for many years. BIM and Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) services are having stronger impact on the way jobs are both won and performed. As a result, Canadian construction firms are quickly getting onboard with BIM to keep up with the increasing demands of the industry.


This month CanBIM sat down with an industry expert who has been a driving force in the BIM industry for over 20 years. In this article we will talk to Tanner Clark from Stuart Olson Construction Ltd. to see how his firm is embracing BIM.



Tanner Clark is the Director of BIM/VDC Construction Services at Stuart Olson Construction Ltd., where he has helped lead the initiative of integrating BIM into the firm’s workflow. Tanner has more than twenty years of experience in the development and application of BIM and VDC methods. Tanner possesses a rare combination of skills and knowledge. In an industry filled with constructors, designers and managers, Tanner slides seamlessly from one role to the next as he has practical construction experience, an applied knowledge of the leading design software tools, and experience constructing facilities and infrastructure both virtually and physically.



CanBIM: What is your role at Stuart Olson? And what are your responsibilities?


Tanner Clark: I am the Director of the BIM/VDC Construction Services at Stuart Olson. I’m responsible for leading the charge in bringing BIM/VDC to our client’s projects and structuring it into our current workflows. I’m working to integrate BIM/VDC processes into all applicable areas of Stuart Olson.


CanBIM: What is your outlook on the adoption of BIM


Tanner Clark: The reality of the construction industry is that the way we've worked in the past is inefficient. With a lack of communication between the project stakeholders, we often see issues on site or clashes between documents. BIM is all about improving communication between project participants, and that is exactly what we are using it for. BIM is at tool that enables us to work as a team and talk to each other to find the most effective and efficient ways to build.


CanBIM: What is Stuart Olson’s stance on adopting BIM?



Tanner Clark: Stuart Olson has been working towards adopting BIM processes since 2004. We saw early on that BIM/VDC could be used to reduce rework resulting from constructability issues, keep a project on schedule and ensure a quality product for our clients. Previously, our firm utilized third party consultants for our BIM work. However, we have since developed and grown our VDC Group to implement BIM processes into our daily activities. Stuart Olson is working towards a goal of having the majority of our operational staff working with BIM. We don’t see BIM as a tool only for our VDC Group. We see BIM as a tool that can benefit the entire project team from the initial estimate through to handover and beyond.


CanBIM: How is the VDC Group working to integrate BIM into the firm’s workflow?


Tanner Clark: As the Director I am constantly working to ensure our department is on the leading edge of BIM technology and processes. Part of my job is to attend events and seminars to determine what new tools can best benefit our team, gather information on other projects to learn how other firms are operating with BIM/VDC, and develop best practices from that information.

We have in-house VDC coordinators, working directly with the project team, who undertake the majority of our BIM tasks, and we will soon have VDC managers who oversee these processes. Our firm looks at BIM differently though; in the way that we are working towards educating almost all of our staff with a base knowledge of BIM/VDC related technology and processes. We provide more detailed training for our project coordinators, enhancing their traditional role and enabling them to assist in the application of BIM/VDC processes on our projects. We are also educating our project managers and site supervisors in the use of BIM/VDC, however, we go beyond this by including our trade partners by enhancing their BIM/VDC knowledge and how we apply the operational benefits of the process and technology.


We believe that when the majority of our team is trained to understand these BIM applications, we will become more effective in communicating and sharing information, reducing rework and allowing us to better control project outcomes.



CanBIM: What are some of the BIM initiatives at Stuart Olson?


Tanner Clark: Our main initiative is to embed BIM/VDC into our daily activities within the firm ensuring BIM/VDC processes are used on all of our projects. That is not to say we will apply all aspects of BIM on every project we do, we review our projects and look for areas where BIM will provide clarity. For example, on some projects we may only use BIM to plan and coordinate a mechanical room, whereas on others, we will apply BIM processes to every aspect of the design and construction. We utilize BIM to find better ways of collaborating, coordinating and managing the construction process, it is a tool that we include on all of our projects, at no extra cost. We have integrated VDC into our project delivery model, it is just how we do business.


Aside from ensuring our company is well rounded in regard to BIM application and education, we have also been investigating other BIM related opportunities. A few years ago Stuart Olson acquired the Seacliff group of companies which included an Innovation Centre - The Centre for Building Performance. Our Centre researches and verifies means and methods of delivering and optimizing true building performance.


One of our initiatives at the Centre is integrating energy modeling and analytics where we are able to compare real-time operational performance to the baseline model. This not only provides insight into potential gaps but by applying the intelligent automated analytics we help to optimize the performance. 


This platform enables Stuart Olson to accelerate timelines to get a building operating as designed/intended. This platform also enables the operators to continuously optimize their building in real time.


Fundamentally we are transforming today’s manual process into an automated approach providing auditable verifiable reporting. This will ensure a soft landing for Day 2 Hand Off transitioning from construction to operations. This particular initiative is run out of our Center for Building Performance in Vancouver.



CanBIM: What do you think 2016 will bring for BIM at Stuart Olson?


Tanner Clark: With the downturn in oil prices and the concerns surrounding the future, it is more important than ever to apply BIM/VDC processes to our projects. 2016 will bring increased adoption of BIM and our VDC services. Our VDC Group will continue to grow, as will our ability to perform. We are looking forward to implementing our services on more projects in the new year, and training more of our staff to grow and expand our BIM integration. We are also looking forward to further implementing of our performance analytics services through the Center for Building Performance.



In Conclusion 

Stuart Olson represents a firm that is truly embracing BIM. With such wide spread adoption of BIM/VDC services within their firm, 2016 will surely bring some exciting advancements and accomplishments for them. Thank you Tanner Clark and Stuart Olson Ltd., for collaborating with us and sharing with the community. If you or your firm would like to collaborate with CanBIM in the future, please reach out!



About Stuart Olson Ltd. 

Our model for success is simple, yet powerful in its application. An approach to doing business grounded in respect, transparency and collaboration. A commitment to all stakeholders – clients, consultants, trades and community – to engage in a team approach that values people and thrives on fresh ideas and intelligent solutions. A dynamic process that allows for flexibility and adaptability, with a focus on achieving results and nurturing lasting relationships. We are an organization of people, motivated by the opportunity to make a difference.


We are Creating value through people, respect and collaboration.