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The Personal Touch from Big-Thinking Luxton

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You might call it the “sweet spot”. A company that is easy to work with, where the organizational style ensures clients receive that “personal touch” – yet where the management expertise and the systems in place are those of a much larger organization. Whatever it is – the “sweet spot”, the “X-factor”, it seems Luxton has found it. And like all great achievements it started with a simple premise.

Principal / Director of Operations, Pedram Farzadmanesh tells us: “Amir (Amir Kassaian, Principal / General Manager), Bill (William Puranen, Principal / Chief Estimator) and myself had worked away from home in the oil and gas and infrastructure industry – travel in, travel out. We did this for ten-plus years working for the giants of our industry in top managerial positions.” 

Luxton workers on bridge project site

Apart from this shared experience, the trio, it turned out, had many other things in common. One of these was, “the urge to make a living in our hometown of Vancouver”. Hence the birth of Luxton Construction, offering construction services based out of the Metro Vancouver area in British Columbia, Canada. It proved to be a decision more conducive to a manageable work-life balance and would also put to good use the skills picked up through working for the largest construction companies in Canada – applying such learnings to a smaller, leaner organisation. This was about taking that giant-company-mindset and applying these methodologies and thought processes to a setting where environment, safety, community, people and a special set of core values were prioritized alongside professional excellence.

The result of all of this – the “Luxton way” – represented a powerful combination which saw the organization experience a one-hundredfold growth in the first four years of creating revenue. “We turned out to be the second-fastest growing construction company in Canada and the fastest growing in western Canada,” says Pedram, adding that this is all barely the start per their envisioned growth plan.

The sectors they focus on here are Heavy Civil, Buildings and “last but not least”, says Amir, Marine. A fourth area might be termed “Specialty Projects” for want of a better descriptor; Luxton’s projects can tend to read like a list of locations for the latest blockbuster movie. For instance, working in the frozen Arctic, atop iconic city bridges or deep beneath the ocean floor with a microphone installed on the seabed to monitor noise levels on account of the marine life – just the usual passing whales and orcas! The latter was on a project for the city of Vancouver – the Victoria Outfall. It involved drilling thirty-six-inch diameter piles into the ocean floor. The point is, wherever Luxton finds itself, it brings an energetic, can-do attitude along with bags of enthusiasm.

“We turned out to be the second-fastest growing construction company in Canada and the fastest growing in western Canada,”

Bill cites another good example. The setting: “just east of Tuktayuktak”, a base camp in Tuktut Nogait National Park, the sort of place you have to fly into on float planes. Think: the setting for one of those popular “survival”-type TV shows. Here, members of the local indigenous population take youngsters to learn traditional skills. Only, they had no real facilities to speak of – besides one tent structure, recalls Bill. “So, they put out a tender to build two bathrooms, a shower facility and kitchen. The logistics meant we had to build the facilities in Edmonton and put them on a barge – and then, four months later, they arrive on site.” Executing the project on site entailed being dropped off by plane with a promise that it would return in a week!

Part of the draw for Luxton is a shared love of puzzle solving and finding solutions. This is backed up by a culture of “no ego”. “It is not a problem for us to say we don’t know something,” says Pedram. “However, we have the tools to draw on to be able to take on a challenge and solve it. And that is a joy we take, day-in, day-out, from showing up to work. When we talk about the skillsets of our people we don’t say we need carpenters, labourers or whatever. We say: ‘we need problem solvers’. And that is what we have here.”

It is not surprising that the company found itself working on major projects soon after it was established. One of the earliest was the Anderson Creek bridge project, a vehicular bridge for the city of Surrey. This involved demolishing an existing bridge and replacing it with a much larger 18m precast girder bridge. Another one is the seismic repairs on the Granville Bridge currently ongoing. After just three years in service, taking on such a project – on an iconic structure in Vancouver – was a big moment for Luxton.

Projects like the Stanley Park Box Culvert Placement, “the beaver deceiver” job, meanwhile, allowed Luxton to demonstrate ability to execute sensitive sites successfully on time and within budget. Work here involved replacing a culvert by Beaver Lake which kept being filled up by the super-industrious mammals. This was actually drying up the adjacent creek and “a huge problem for the city”, says Bill. What you have here is both a highly important ecological zone and a culturally significant site for indigenous groups. “We had to go in and drive sheet piles,” says Bill. Clearly it was potentially very invasive. “We had archaeological monitoring,” adds Amir. “We also had to take account of old growth trees and maneuver between them in order to be environmentally compliant.

As well as several projects on different army bases at the moment, spanning the full range of services they offer, Luxton recently completed a major SAR building (Search and Rescue) on a floating barge to facilitate search and rescue in remote areas. Again, while the logistics and challenges were significant, they were tackled head-on. “There is a 170 x 55-foot concrete float. We built fully functional offices, work areas, shower facilities, full mechanical and electrical control”, says Bill. “This is going to be pulled to Hartley Bay.”

“Together we are building an organization that will benefit communities and also provide growth and mentorship opportunities.”

The indigenous community is mentioned a lot in the work of Luxton which brings us to Luxton Construction Plains Inc. Under a government initiative, certain contracts are set aside for indigenous-only construction companies. “You have to meet certain criteria”, explains Bill. “We reached out to an indigenous company and created Luxton Construction Plains Inc. It is fifty-one percent owned by the indigenous party and forty-nine by Luxton. Together we are building an organization that will benefit communities and also provide growth and mentorship opportunities.”

Through all of this work the same values hold true, and the same priorities are key – listening and delivering on their client needs, taking care of their people, delivering a quality product, safely and with respect to the environment while supporting the surrounding communities. “Our clients are federal, provincial, and local municipalities – the Coastguard, Department of National Defence, Parks Canada, Ministry of Transportation to name a few. All of these groups hold themselves to the highest execution standards”, points out Amir. “So, in order for us to be first awarded the contract our past experience, systems and procedures always get vetted by the awarding party.”

With employee growth as central aim, a firm foundation was laid early on at Luxton. Amir stresses how the processes and systems that are in place support that. “We have some of the best performing systems in the industry”, he says. “I have been part of rolling out systems for some of the largest construction companies in Canada and we are rolling out some of those same systems here.” One is Procore. It is a construction management software and covers aspects like management of drawings, budgeting and forecasting, invoicing, daily logs, time sheeting, safety management and so on. Amir explains. “There is Hilti ON!Track for asset management. We do SAP Concur which is a major player in accounting and expense management. We also just rolled out an AP processing system, Beanworks. We have SiteDocs, a safety management module that’s well-known in the industry. And Bid 2 Win is our estimating software, which is quite powerful.”

At Luxton there is no doubting the first few years have been hugely successful and paved the way for strong growth. “We have fifteen people in the office and about forty in the field now”, says Pedram. “We have a series of meetings we attend called ‘Vision2030’ – and under that vision our office is going to be around 50-strong and our field employees will number in the region of 200.”

Yet one thing will not change at Luxton: “The professionalism of an industry-leading company, as related to high revenue”, says Pedram, “yet personable – a family environment with the mindset and desires and growth path of a giant of industry. That is the plan and we are not shying away from doing what is needed to get there.”

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