Clint Undseth

Innovation is a Discipline for Transformative Change

Having studied and worked in both technology and construction industries I recognized significant inefficiencies and the disruption technology was creating in construction and real estate.

Construction and operations of large real estate facilities consume 50% of our natural resources, generate 30% of our landfills, and represent 30% of our embodied carbon. These figures stand against a backdrop of multiple technologies, utilized throughout the lifecycle of a building, where processes often create inefficiencies while generating massive amounts of data that regularly go unutilized.

We saw this as an opportunity to develop Canada’s Centre for Building Performance to optimally employ technology at the intersection of circular process and materials for productivity and unique differentiation within a regenerative economic model. But we soon learned that our technology strategy was in fact the least challenging aspect of ensuring high performing sustainable buildings. What proved to be most difficult was addressing the process inefficiencies related to procurement, lack of integrated design methods, and inefficient project handover, all too common in the construction industry. This is where we first recognized the opportunity for algorithms.

Through this learning process, our team developed a vision 11 years past that remains as relevant today: “We see a future where high-performing buildings are intelligently connected, environmentally proud, healthy, and financially justified.”

As we grew in our experience our team’s Massive Transformative Purpose matured to this: “Transform waste (energy, materials and data) into liquid assets.”

I learned that when trying to innovate, the internal immune system is one of the greatest challenges, whether at the company or the industry level. Innovation is about strategic change. Change management requires alignment and collaborative teamwork. A business must align its innovation with growth strategies—including financial and operational priorities—while at the same time creating a collaborative ecosystem aligned to a shared purpose.

Change management we learned had to quickly become one of our core competencies, as did agility, which came in the form of a matrix-based team structure. A critical success factor included a team of collaborative diverse talent while continuously improving company and industry wide engagement.

Successful change occurs when there is a clear purpose and vision, a sense of organizational urgency, a healthy and ethical team, sincere stakeholder engagement, transparent communications, and a disciplined execution plan to enable greatest results. Only with these elements in place could our organization hope to successfully address systemic construction inefficiencies hindering the achievement of high performing sustainable buildings.

As sustainability performance increasingly influences organizations’ investment or procurement decisions, clear results-oriented metrics are becoming standard. Sustainability is not just about building performance ratings or certifications. Analysts will make their decisions or recommendations based on transparent metrics that can only be supported by insightful information that comes through transforming data into assets.

Going forward the rate of change is only accelerating. We need to embrace this change through continuous learning and experimentation while celebrating purpose-driven success. Looking forward, having a passionate team who have an infinite mindset and are purpose-driven with consistency is key.

This I believe is the foundation to success, creating a culture of innovation in our knowledge economy.

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