Briefing

‘We’re intending on disrupting ourselves’: EllisDon’s Geoff Smith on digitizing the construction business

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In a conference call with The Logic hosted by the Canadian Club on Tuesday, the longtime CEO discussed how his industry is under threat from Silicon Valley and how the company plans to develop its own software. “Construction is much more a knowledge industry than it is a building—hands and tools—industry,” said Smith. “It’s really complex and it is data-driven: if you can predict failure, you can take over the world. Silicon Valley gets this; we get it, too, and we’re willing to take on the risk to get it right.” (The Logic)

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Talking point: Smith said his firm’s digital strategy doesn’t mean hoarding its data. “I believe all the data should be communally owned,” he said. “Put it all out there and anyone can take advantage of it for whatever their purpose.” Responding to a question from The Logic about data ownership around Sidewalk Labs’ former smart-city plans proposed for the Toronto waterfront, Smith said the Alphabet subsidiary could have done a better job communicating its data plans. “The future that they laid out is coming: it’s a question of what you do with the data, who owns it and who gets to profit from it.” Digitization is just one aspect of how EllisDon is adapting its business to keep pace with social and economic shifts in the world. The family-owned company is transitioning to a 100 per cent employee-ownership model, which Smith hopes will keep the company agile, and it’s leading an industry plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions.