Panel Discusses Local Construction & Building Industry

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Professional Know-How: Panel of 6 Local Experts

Refined Saskatoon sat down with a panel of six experts in Saskatoon’s building and construction industry to get the “low down” on all things home-related. With backgrounds in painting, electrical, solar power and more, the panelists shared their expertise on changes in the industry, new technology, and what homeowners should ask when hiring contractors. 

What major changes have you seen in the industry in the past five years?

Brian Johnson: “In the solar industry, the price of solar has dropped significantly. We’ve seen a shift from customers who just want to go green to customers who want the payback, too. Because of that, the demand for solar has gone through the roof, making it more affordable.”

Laura Johnson: “Clients in the painting industry want products that are durable and environmentally-friendly. As a result, there are a lot of paints coming out that are less harsh on the environment and involve water clean-up.”

What changes would you like to see in the building and construction industry in Saskatoon?

Andrew Wagner: “Although we always attempt to recycle our waste streams — drywall, wood, shingles, metal, cardboard — there is a general lack of awareness or consumer push for this initiative. I hope that the industry sees this gap and creates a waste recycling strategy to divert the millions of tonnes of recyclable waste that is disposed of in city landfills.”

Giuseppe Almeida: “I would like to see more value within businesses. I think we’ve focused too much on the dollar value and you have to make up that money through labour and materials. If you skip on either, the longevity of the product decreases. I’d like to see a true investment of what you’re building. If you’re going to build, then build it right.”

What are some of the biggest technological changes for your industry?

Wade Heuscher: “Efficiencies have changed in the electrical industry and people are moving to LEDs and automation. Moving forward, I think we’re going to see people starting to utilize technology more. We have the ability to wire your fridge to tell you what groceries are missing; the technology is there, but the utilization is not.

Chase Cook: “The advances are incredible in imaging on our products with texturing and embossing on vinyl planks and laminates. You can’t tell the difference between hardwood and vinyl plank. The other thing that’s really helpful is that almost every company we work with has an app where I can walk into a customer’s house, take a picture, and put the product they want in the photo. That’s very helpful because I can give them a visual of what it will look like.”

What is the No. 1 factor or influence for your business to be able to grow both locally and outside of Saskatoon?

AW: “The addition of PST to our home purchases and the mortgage stress tests continue to be inhibitors to growth. These policies need to be adjusted in a sustainable way, so that Saskatoon can continue its path to be a centre of innovation, education and manufacturing.”

WH: “We’re still relatively new, so it’s about slowly building trust with customers, one house and one project at a time — and then letting our work speak for itself.”

What opportunities are untouched and underutilized in your trade in Saskatoon?

BJ: “In the solar industry, one of our main challenges is that we don’t have well-trained people applying for the jobs. There are training companies out there, but nothing local and even then, it’s still not comprehensive enough. We need hands-on training.”

What is your favourite part about the work you do?

CC: “I love meeting people. When a young couple building their first house comes in with their little baby, they don’t know where to start when they walk in. Seeing how excited they are about their selections when they leave the showroom — I genuinely enjoy that.”

GA: “I love meeting people and figuring out their true needs. The more you’re able to figure out the person and talk to them, the more you’re able to figure out the design. I love turning someone’s home into a standout one, and then seeing how ecstatic they are about it.”

What should homeowners ask or be aware of when hiring contractors?

LJ: “I always tell clients to get three quotes and then see who you feel comfortable with being in your home. Ask about insurance coverage and workers’ compensation, because if the contractor doesn’t have workers’ comp, then the clients are liable for that.”

CC: “Once you hire someone, listen to them. You can Google anything enough times to find something that contradicts what we’re saying. But if you’re going to hire us, you have to trust us. We’re there to help and we want it to be done right.”

Where do you see this local industry in five years?

BJ: “Five years from now, we’ll see a huge uptake in commercial areas with factories, warehouses and farms getting solar. There’s a 100 per cent federal tax write off in the first year for commercial solar right now.”

LJ: “In the next five years, I’d love to see more females in the construction industry. Women bring a certain touch to contracts, and it changes the environment when both genders are working.”

WJ: “It does change the dynamic when we have female workers on site. It changes how the rest of the crew interacts, and it brings a unique set of solutions to the table, too. We often find that female electricians think outside the conventional electrical box in creative ways.”

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs looking to get into the industry?

GA: “Have a vision, know where you want to go and always remember the reason why you got into it. If you’re not focused on why you got into it, that’s the first sign it will go under because your passion is gone. If you have a vision and value system in place, then no matter what happens, you can always make decisions according to your value system.”


Participating Panelists:

Giuseppe Almeida, Safe & Sound Exteriors

Wade Heushcerm KBO Tech

Brian Johnson, Roots Rock Solar

Laura Johnson, 3 Sisters Painting

Chase Cook, Floor Covering Direct

Andrew Wagner, Maison Design Build