Member Spotlight

Wayne Farey, General Manager/Operations Manager at Campbell Construction

For our May 2020 Newsletter, we asked Wayne about the impacts of COVID-19 on his company and what challenges and opportunities he sees ahead for the construction industry.

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Can you briefly introduce yourself and Campbell Construction?
Campbell Construction ltd started operations in 1964. Since, Campbell has completed hundreds of large projects throughout Greater Victoria. From building institutional learning centers, such as schools and University developments, office buildings, recreational facilities, theaters, shopping malls, care facilities,  low rise and high rise residential rental, and condominium projects. I have been a part of Campbell Construction since 1979 when I started my Carpentry apprenticeship. From that time I worked my way up the ladder, advancing to the position of site Superintendent, successfully completing numerous large projects. After the completion of Broadmead Lodge in Saanich, my father (Ken Farey) brought me into the office in 1995 to learn the other side of the business. My new role of Operations Manager / General Manager soon encompassed the responsibility of both the business and operations of the Company. Today Campbell employees and average of 300 – 400 employees. We are proud of our long term relationships that we have developed, especially with a number of prominent developers over the past few decades.

What projects do you get most excited to work on?
Anything to do with building honestly gets my blood flowing. From project inception to completion, it’s an incredible industry to be a part of. Projects which are most exciting are the ones that, when we are building them, we know will stand up through the testament of time, and be well used, whether private or public. It’s very motivating to walk by projects all over Victoria that I personally worked on dating back as far as 40 years.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding construction being named an essential service. Why do you believe it’s important for construction to continue through this crisis?
When the construction industry was branded an essential service through the COVID-19 pandemic, I had never thought about the construction industry as an essential service. Above and beyond the fact that the construction industry is the largest revenue generating machine in the Country, with so many connected supply chains, shutting it down could have led to the quickest path to a recession or worse. This to me makes it essential to the entire Country’s livelihood to help support financially the battle against COVID-19 and keep some tax revenue rolling.

How is Campbell Construction accommodating the need for physical distancing, and what impact do those measures have on your business?
Although we were criticized by many for keeping our sites open, we had no alternatives other than to follow the regulated safety guidelines mandated to keep the industry open for business. Unless there were to be an implemented Government shut down of the industry, there are far too many implications involved in just shutting construction sites down on our own accord. We have taken steps beyond the COVID-19 health and safety regulations to help ensure the safety of all workers on our sites. This includes the precautionary measures of actually closing a couple of the sites down for a few days due to COVID-19 scares which were fortunately false alarms. We have had good feedback from our employees and subcontractors who are complimentary of the Health and Safety actions and precautions we have taken to date to keep the crews working.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, there were several challenges facing construction. How have these been affected, and what do you expect will happen over the next weeks and months?
The COVID-19 pandemic is a new challenge to industry that started on March 16 / 2020 for most of us. Aside from the COVID-19 issues, previous lingering industry issues are still in my view of most concern. Cost of construction comes to mind foremost. Economic booms can shadow the overlying issues. Major factors to cost escalation, in my opinion, include the ever changing building codes, design, and material choices in general as dictated by Municipalities, as well as a lack of skill set and productivity throughout the industry. Of course material costs play a factor, but material costs react to market change where other listed factors won’t react without some real lobbing. As a General Contractor who has been in business for 56 years, it is not a difficult task to pinpoint the real contributing factors to the challenges the industry faces today and into the unforeseeable future. Although we all get caught up in the crazy day to day challenges of the industry, we need to spend a lot more time with the younger up and coming workforce, as there is a real lack of mentorship to develop skills throughout the industry. There are some real assets out there, let’s just spend the time to develop them.

What are your largest concerns moving forward, and how are you hoping to address those concerns?
Our concerns are the ability to make future projects in Greater Victoria and other areas viable. By this I mean financially making projects a worthwhile financial risk for both Developers and Contractors. Let’s face it, all construction has its ups and downs in cycles and British Columbia hit its peak a year ago. We need to buckle down and really understand what affordability really means and how we make it happen. Subsidizing projects is one thing, but affordability is a completely different subject. Over the past 6 years construction costs have increased roughly 20 percent which well exceeds any inflation rates.

Looking into the future, are there any positive changes you hope to see in the construction industry as a result of the current crisis?
My hope for our industry is that everyone from City Councils to Consultants trickling right down to the onsite workforces, understands what could lie ahead of us. We will all need to work hard to make the dollars stretch further by reassessing the way we approach the builds with regards to design and overall constructability considerations. The process of development bureaucracy within most Municipalities must be streamlined. The approval processes as they currently stand are more than discouraging.

What do you love most about living in Victoria?
Born and raised in Victoria, it’s really the freedom advantage of what the Island as a whole has to offer. There are obvious issues within Victoria area which are beyond concerning and must be handled in a way to keep our streets and City safe, and maintain it as a desirable place to live and visit.

When you’re not working, what are your favourite activities? What has been bringing you joy during this time?
There will definitely be some change in how we live, work, and play after the pandemic is over. It was truly unimaginable to us all that we would ever face a pandemic in North America. Although it will be difficult to ever mention anything but hardship and tragedy for a lot of people through this time, I believe this will pass soon and we will all take something from this and turn it into a positive. Having the opportunity to take action and keep our sites open has definitely helped all the workers and their families financially cope through these hard times, and we are thankful for that. I look forward to all businesses reopening very soon, which will require all of our support in order to try and re-establish those who have shut down.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
The most satisfying part of my working carrier to date through Campbell Construction is what we have done by not only building buildings, but providing careers for thousands of dedicated hard working people over our past 56 years.