154: ‘Construction is Sick’, with Jim Walker

A conversation with Jim Walker.

154: ‘Construction is Sick’, with Jim Walker

Jim Walker joins the podcast to talk about the systemic problems plaguing the construction industry and the parallels in architecture and engineering.

Jim brings over 20 years of experience in general contracting and project management across North America from sweeping floors at construction sites to working for major firms like PCL and EllisDon.

Our conversation highlights the industry's evolution towards digital transformation, increasing complexity and, yet in many ways, inefficiency. But more importantly, we discuss the concept of construction being 'sick', the adversarial nature of traditional contract models, toxic work environments, health issues among workers, the value of the blue collar work and the trades, pros and cons of different project delivery models, risk and reward, and more.

Overall, the episode encapsulates a critical analysis of the construction industry's challenges and potential paths forward through innovation and systemic change.

About Jim Walker:

Jim started in construction the day after he received his driver's license, and comes from a construction family. His first exposure was in the ICI sector and began working in construction as a superintendent back in the days when the first priority in site set up was where to get a phone line connection for a fax machine.

After working in the family business for 9 years he made the move to PCL to work on large, complex projects. There, Jim learned a great deal about construction leadership, project set-up, and organization, as well as having the opportunity to work with change consultants. From there he began viewing construction as a system, and not a series of tasks linked together through contract, and it was through this lens that shaped his focus to the systemic issues plaguing the industry.

Jim left PCL after almost 15 years to join EllisDon, a Canadian competitor, to take on the challenge of opening a new office in the province of Quebec.
Having participated in Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) projects in the past, he’s seen what this contract model can do to solve the root causes of many of the issues construction struggles with. Since then he’s also taken the opportunity to join the board of the Integrated Project Delivery Alliance in Canada.

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154: ‘Construction is Sick’, with Jim Walker
Jim Walker joins the podcast to talk about the systemic problems plaguing the construction industry and the parallels in architecture and engineering.Jim bri…

Episode Transctipt:

154: ‘Construction is Sick’, with Jim Walker

Evan Troxel: [00:00:00] Welcome to the TRXL podcast. I'm Evan Troxel. In this episode, Jim Walker of EllisDon joins me to illuminate and discuss the systemic problems plaguing the construction industry, and of course, construction isn't alone, but we'll get more into that in today's conversation as well. Jim brings over 20 years of experience in general contracting and project management across North America.

From his early beginnings sweeping floors at construction sites to working for major firms like PCL and EllisDon. Our conversation highlights the industry's evolution towards digital transformation, increasing complexity, and yet in many ways inefficiency, but more importantly, we discussed the concept of construction being sick, the adversarial nature of traditional contract models. Toxic work environments, health issues among workers, the value of blue collar work in [00:01:00] the trades. Pros and cons of different project delivery models, risk and reward, and more.

Overall this episode encapsulates a critical analysis of the construction industry's challenges and potential path forward through innovation and systemic change. So now without further ado, I bring you my conversation with Jim Walker.

Evan Troxel: Jim, welcome To the podcast. Great to see you again. It's been a little bit since we hung out last, but, uh, we've met up at a couple of AUs at the, what is it? The Yardbird and that, that's kind of our, our gathering

Evan Troxel: spot our, yeah, that's watering hole. Our watering hole to have some, food and some drinks. And last time we were there, you said something that has stuck with me when we were kind of, we weren't even outlining this show, we were just talking about the industry and you said "construction is sick" and I am [00:02:00] really intrigued to kind of get into that today with you because you are on the C side of AEC but obviously you're involved in, in all of it.

Evan Troxel: But before we talk about why or how construction is sick, tell me about you, tell, tell the audience about where you're coming from, what your trajectory has been and, and where you're at in the industry


Jim Walker: Yeah, sure. So, um, my name is Jim Walker as, as you'd mentioned. Um, I'm currently working for a general contracting firm. we're making a, push to open a presence here in the province of Quebec in Canada. I started in construction basically when I could walk, like I'm from a family of, uh, general contractors, and so I've been on job sites, you know, like my first experience on a construction site was I got my driver's license three months after my birthday, and then summer vacation happened in high school, and it was okay, you're going down the 401 to, uh, sweep floors on a, on a job site, so, you know, Like at 16 years old, I was getting exposed to construction.

So I started as a superintendent working in the family business for close to nine years. Um, and then, [00:03:00] uh, sort of just my father was nearing retirement age. My brother and I just weren't old enough to take over a construction company at that point or experienced enough. So, he closed down his business.

His clientele was all retiring as well and, uh, went to work for a large general contracting firm, uh, North America wide called, uh, PCL. I'm sure lots of people have heard that, that name. So worked at PCL for for almost 15 years. and then two years ago, joined, uh, going on my third year here now, I joined a company called EllisDon, so more of a Canadian based, uh, general contracting firm. in that time, so that's almost, it's over 20 years that I've been in, around, working through construction. Like I've seen many sides of the business.

You know, I've been on the, million dollar and less size projects. I've been on the You know, approaching a billion dollar size projects. I've been around the industry as it's sort of gone

through this, we could call it a digital transformation, even though it's not quite yet a digital transformation and seeing sort of the industry change from when, you know, like your first priority when you [00:04:00] set up your job site was where do you put your trailer?

And then where do you connect your physical phone line and your fax machine? Because that's an important link to the outside world to

now where like, you don't even consider that. like, You just. You need power and then, uh, you know, you hotspot off your phone to set up, set up the job site. So I've seen sort of things go from being very unconnected to a very connected, um, construction site, you know, in a construction environment.

And, you know, the promise through all the years was that as things get more connected, they're supposed to get easier and faster. And kind of what I'm seeing is that

things are just

Evan Troxel: my


Jim Walker: yeah, things are just getting harder and more difficult and people seem to argue more. And, you know, like.

I lament for the good old days where like, you know, two people could arrive on a site in the morning, come up with a plan and then execute, well, maybe not that morning, but execute on a plan that they had made together.

That was sort of informal, but it was very efficient and then arrive at the end of the day or at the end of the project and, and realize what they set out to do and walk away. [00:05:00] And, you know, the work was done with good quality. The work was done, um, according to the intent and the drawings and the plans and specs that the project team was given.

And then it was. Okay, let's leverage this relationship and move on to the next one and keep having fun at this.

Evan Troxel: Yeah. And so, you're talking about some symptoms that we see on the outside, right? You, you, you see it, you live it, probably every day, all day long. But the underlying sickness, I think, is what we want to get into today, because, and, and, and, it's not a surprise. Uh, so, the, the clickbait

headline, construction is sick.

Jim Walker: Yeah,

Evan Troxel: It's not surprising because we see the symptoms. We see people talking about the symptoms. We talk about labor shortages, supply chain issues. Like these are, again, I think

very surfacy kind of symptoms, but you have some particular insight. into like what's really going on. And because I think those really are just at the surface and we, we do need to dig deeper so that [00:06:00] people understand the, the depth of the issues here, the depths of the challenge, the depths of the problem. So

let's get into it, I'm excited to have this conversation because it is really going to, I think, take it to a deeper level for the audience of this show to understand what's really going on. at the handoff point from design to construction, right? And what happens at that point? And what are we dealing with?

Because I think what this will ultimately do is help, I would hope, us on the design side of that. Make some adjustments to make that, make that easier, make that better. And I know we can't affect all of it, right? Because there's some very serious issues that you're going to get into here, but maybe some of it can be addressed by taking a cross section through all of AEC and, and really understanding the underlying issues here,

because we've got our

own problems too, that we're dealing with that are, there [00:07:00] is sickness in architecture as well, but let's talk about construction. What are the systematic issues in the construction industry that, that are really underlying and

like, give us a place to start



Jim Walker: yeah. So, I mean, system, that word right there is probably the best place to start, right? And a lot of times I find that we view our industry in sort of silos. Like you have the design, you have the execution,

and then close out. And there's no sort of. understanding of the interrelation between all of those.

We try, you know, we sort of orbit around the answer, but we never get right down into the meat. And that, like, that root cause causes all these other things. You know, you talked one there about, um, labour shortage. Like to me, labour shortage is tied to this, the, the the sickness that we create in the industry.

Um, where, where we sort of kicked off our conversation last time we were talking, right, was about. Um, walking the floor at, um, at Autodesk and we were sort of looking at all of these vendors that are [00:08:00] promising, like, to make it so that the plumber doesn't install the pipe in the wrong spot. And, you know, I gotta say, like, when I, when I hear that as, like, the pitch, it sort of, like, closes me down right away because I can tell you there's, the plumber doesn't

install the pipe in the wrong spot.

If you trace it back to the root cause, there's a, um, Are there a misunderstanding of where the pipe should have been? There was a conflict in some documents somewhere. There was maybe a misunderstanding on what the client wanted, and there was a change of the documents somewhere down the road, which caused a misalignment.

But like, to solve, to solve where the plumber puts the pipe is solving the problem at the wrong point in the system. Like, you have to go further upstream in order to really, right, have a valuable

solution to it. But it doesn't stop there, because the sickness then becomes, it's like, You know, you have all of these people that go to work in the construction industry every day, and, and nobody, like, I honestly believe nobody's getting up in the morning thinking to themselves, Oh, today I'm going to do a bad job.

Like, everybody's getting up in the morning thinking they're going to do

a [00:09:00] good job, but that alignment of what it defines a good job is, is different. And so those differences in alignment create this tension and this toxicity on a construction site, and it's, and it's not just on the construction site, it's in the offices that support the construction project.

that it also happens. And so what is the sickness? Well, you know, we're talking about like higher instances of heart disease, like I'm sure, you know, the smoking construction worker stereotype, um, like you don't have other industries that have that same sort of, you know, uh, stereotype associated with it, right?

But that, that there are a lot of smokers, there's a lot of

alcoholism and substance abuse, like the majority of fentanyl deaths in North America are associated with people in the construction industry.

Evan Troxel: Wow.

Jim Walker: Suicide,

uh, like, all of these, like, really big health problems that make our people sick, I believe, are all associated with the environment that we put people to work on in a construction site.

It's uncollaborative, it's toxic, it's argumentative. You know, and it's part of, like, you know, going from when you just had the fax machine, and if [00:10:00] you were going to write a letter to somebody, you had to, like, type it out, then print it, proofread it, write a cover letter for the fax, and then fax it to someone.

Versus, you know what, that's just too much of a pain. I'm just going to call the person and air my grievances and sort it out. But now like you can create these emails that you can sit down, write it out in a, in a fury, send it off. Then somebody else responds and it's just the cycle of like, well, you did this and you did this.

Yeah. Piling up. And then

what happens at the end of the day, like where does that tension and stress where, where does it all go? Well, in some instances it goes into,

you know, escape through the form of substances and.


Evan Troxel: Coping

mechanisms, right?

Jim Walker: Yeah,


Evan Troxel: Yeah, those root issues are really interesting because you brought back kind of the imagery in my mind of what was it like maybe in the 70s on a construction site. We see these old construction site photos with the guys on the skyscraper beams as

the steel, primary steels going up in New York City. And I just, I think about that kind of [00:11:00] imagery still to this day, even though, you know, we're going through this quote unquote digital transformation, right, of the construction site. And so, like. Is it just because old habits die hard? Is it really because of the old? older generations in the construction industry who really like embodied that kind of, that

kind of visual that I'm thinking of and it's proliferating on, because I can tell you that's what's happened a lot in architecture, right?

Which is like, no, you're going to sit at your drafting board for 12 plus, maybe 16 hours a day, because you have to dedicate your life to architecture and the studio environment that we went to school in, everything revolved around the designs. Studio, everything played second fiddle to the design studio.

The design studio was always the most important thing in your entire life. In fact, you need to give up the rest of your life for these five years while you're in school because it's so important and it's it's training grounds for [00:12:00] what it's going to be like. And

I'm using my podcasting air quotes here of what it's gonna be when you actually get into the industry.

And in many cases it is because we're. Pre programmed to believe it is like that and then the previous generations are operating like that as well and have Expectations that you have to do it the same way that they did, right? You're gonna have to pay your dues You have to go through the same struggles and trials and tribulations that they did you have to work your way up the ladder?

And it takes a lot of time and there's no immediate like Metrics of, of measuring any of that so you know where you are in the system. And so I'm, I'm just, I could go on and on obviously about this and, and I imagine you have a version of

that in construction.

Jim Walker: Oh yeah, absolutely. Right. Like you have to, you have to, you know, if you're a superintendent and even to some extent, like, you know, the project manager, like you have to, you have to do your time in the field. And I think that, doing your time in the field is important because you have to, especially from the general contracting sphere, like you have to [00:13:00] understand what you're planning and what you're trying to set out to build, which is I'm sure the same, you know, for, for in the architectural field, like you have to have a, an understanding of how to draw things, how to bring them together and coordinate them. Um, like I, I'm not an architect, right? So like, uh, maybe I'm, I'm speaking out of turn here, but like, you know, that when you're not physically drawing something and similar to, if you're not like picking something up and learning with your hands, as well as your eyes, as well as reading, like it, You don't, you don't sink into the information as much.

Sometimes it feels like it. So in this age of like digitization, like we're not coordinating with shop drawings as much as we used to. And I think it's also a function of like architects time is being squeezed so much in this race to the bottom, right? Like you don't take the time. Does the door frame work with the tile that's going to go on the wall to create the reveal that is intended?

Or does it mess up the, the elevator lobbies, the entire height of it? Of a 30 floor. Office tower, right? Like just because that, that, [00:14:00] that understanding of the shop drawing of the elevator throat, the elevator doorframe throat wasn't understood. I, I drew it onto dry, it's digital. I

got it there. Like I pulled the icons down and I made it work and I

sent it out. That's right.

And then the

plumber installed the pipe in the wrong spot because it sticks out of the wall now. Well, no, it's just, we didn't take the time to understand what everybody needed and where where everybody's. Uh, needs were, let's say, for lack of a better term, when it came to coordinating the details and making sure tolerances lined up and things aligned.


Evan Troxel: squeeze. Right. The architect's time is getting squeezed. And I would actually position it that, or posit that we are incentivized to spend less time on everything. And I'm coming at this from a large term, large firm perspective, because that's my experience when I was working in design and production there, it was like, go faster, go faster, go faster, right?

And go faster means do

[00:15:00] less. That's actually what it means, right? So to your point about lack of coordination and understanding and understanding the weight of a material or how to materials actually go together, not just Taking a Revit detail component and slapping it up against another Revit detail component and saying, that's how they

go together because it's not right.

Like, that's just a graphic representation of what you want the outcome to be. It's not necessarily how it works. Right? And when you, when you talked about the importance of, you know, superintendents and project managers on construction sites, having site time, having experience on construction projects to get. to those levels. It's the same thing for architecture, but we spend literally close to zero time out on the site. There are a few people who do construction administration who go to the site meetings, right, and, and work through those issues. The digital process, the phone, the email, whatever, is sending problems back to the production team to solve in drawing format. [00:16:00] And really those two things don't ever meet in the middle. The production teams don't get to go to the site and actually learn what the lines they're drawing mean when it comes

to, um, In the real world, physical world getting built, they don't have the time. And because the incentive again, isn't there like, okay, now the firm's got to pay for your time, got to pay for your mileage, right.

To do that. Who knows how far away from the borders of a firm are expanding because competition is getting more and more fierce all the time. And so they're trying to cover more area. And that just means the projects are farther away. And now we've got to spend even more time to go do that. So we're going to, what are we going to do?

We're going to send less people. We're going to send one person once a week to the. construction meeting, right? So,


Jim Walker: With no, with no mentoring, with no sort of like,

Evan Troxel: because yeah, you can't send two people. You can't send the person who, who's been there, done that along with the new person who's learning it on the way. It's a, and, and I think what's interesting about all this is we just expect it to still work, right? Like the expectation [00:17:00] is that people are getting mentored. It's that they are gaining experience and what they're, they are gaining experience. through failure because they have to as they learn things on the way. But often that failure is like, those are the very expensive mistakes. And it's happening too late in the process rather than this proactive relationship building mentoring process.

No, it's like, no, we're going to

learn by mistakes.

Jim Walker: And it'd be de do be defensive when we do make mistakes And both. Like, look, at, let me be very clear here, Evan, right? Like, yeah, I'm not trying to

make hay on, on architects here by in this conversation. And I hope that that's very clear. Like, I I understand there's challenges in, in the architecture and engineering spheres as there as well as the, the building spheres.

Like I'm not, all that to say, I'm not trying to to just point fingers

Evan Troxel: We've all got

Jim Walker: have

our challenges. Yeah, yeah,

exactly. Um, .But yeah, like, right, like there's if, you make a mistake and somebody's there to support you through that mistake or, parties are there to support you through that.

Look, I, [00:18:00] get it. Like mistakes happen. Let's work together and, make this thing better. Versus you made this better, now you're going to have to pay. Well, no, I didn't make, or sorry, you made a mistake. Now you're going to have to pay. Well, no, hang on. I didn't make the mistake if I go back through my emails, you made the mistake.

And so now we're like. Focused on going through emails, generating waste for the construction system instead of focusing on solutions and generating value for the construction system as a system, you know, and and it's sort of like the

notion, go slow to go fast, like take your time in design and, and, you know, and this ties into the contract model of the construction project, take your time to understand the design, take your time to understand the needs of the client.

Avoid those RFIs and those SIs through the construction process because those are waste and if you drill down into the root cause of RFIs and SIs, I'm, willing to go toe to toe that if there wasn't an argument, if there wasn't a change in scope, every SI can be drilled [00:19:00] down into a root cause if we didn't just spend enough time at the beginning of the project.

And when I say we, I don't mean architecture and engineers, I mean everybody involved in the construction process. Client,

consultant, builder. sub trade, um, Inspector, everybody didn't spend enough time in that front end. We don't, maybe we don't have enough time, but if we don't have enough time, then we have to realize that like this waste that we're generating is part of it.

And when we sit through these, these presentations at, at, um, You know, some of these events that you and I cross paths at, and they show that same graph where everybody else's efficiencies going up and constructions is going down. Well, let's not sit there and go, hmm, interesting, like, we know why.

Evan Troxel: Can you, just before we move on,

define RFI and SI for

those that don't know what those terms


Jim Walker: Yeah, so, um, I know the term is different in some other jurisdictions, but sort of in the building sphere that I work in, like RFI is a request for information. but And [00:20:00] SI is a site instruction and you can have, you know, different terms to contemplate

a change. Uh, you know, there's all kinds of different terms that can be used interchangeably, but it's basically like we had a set of documents.

We're changing those documents because something has changed and we're building something different now.

And I used to

Evan Troxel: way to,

Jim Walker: Go

Evan Troxel: I was just going to say another, another acronym for RFI that I've heard recently, which I think still

applies, is Room for


It's like, you could have made the document, you, you could have answered, and many times the answer is already in the documents, and so maybe that's outside of this conversation, but it's like, the information that I need isn't there, right?

And so I'm requesting information at the same time, like, next time. Now you, now you know, like what should, what I needed, and, and again, sometimes it already is in there and people just don't know where to look, but, um, sometimes the information is not

there, and we have to be honest about

that too.

Jim Walker: Think of the data that's being generated in RFIs, right? Like if you take a large architectural firm, like how many RFIs have they been asked? [00:21:00] How many of those RFIs are the same, but yet

every construction project, like, okay, we got these 10 RFIs. These are what we gotta ask. Right? But, okay, well

why are we asking the RFI? Why isn't this being corrected at the outset?

And you could probably drill in deeper into the data if you really had a good data set. Let's go from the perspective of the builder. Like, if I work with this architectural firm, I know that these details are going to be poorly coordinated. I know that these are the RFIs that are going to need to be asked.

because these are always the, misses that

this house, design house always makes. All right. you know, and I'm sure with architects, you could say the same thing. Okay, with this builder, we know they're going to come at us with this RFI, and we know they're going to miss these things when we go and we do our, our sign off inspections at the end.

So, why not use that data

at the front end of the, construction system to say, okay guys, have we captured all this? Because we know working together, we always have these problems.

Evan Troxel: Well, I'll tell you why, Jim, right? We know this too. We know the answer to that, which is, it's a, it's going to be a different team. It's going to, the team makeup is going to be different on the next project [00:22:00] because of

availability in the design firm of those individuals on different projects. Um, there's turnover.

on projects as well, right, in the, in the offices, um, and then nobody has the time again, we keep coming back to time, but to actually implement those lessons learned on the next project, because we're looking at the next project and the old project is done and out the door, it's in the archives. Moving on, now we're going to do the next one. And That, that is a huge problem is that like, okay, we do learn through failure. We do learn through these challenges. We do come up with the solutions and yet they do not get implemented back into the process. The feedback loop

itself is also broken in most circumstances, in most

instances across the



Jim Walker: And this is my hope to where technology can really help the industry. It's not in making sure the plumber installs the pipe in the right spot. It's like, what are [00:23:00] the 10 questions that we always ask on every project over a billion dollars? Like, let's, let's solve those for every project going forward.

And then like, boom, we've just made the system more efficient. And, and yeah, you're right. We don't have enough people to look at those every single project. Let's solve them once and for all. Because there are things that repeat and every. whoever's listening who's from like a building side, like, you know what I'm, you know what I'm talking about.

Like you always have, I pick on doorframes, but you always have doorframe throat size RFIs that get asked on, on big projects. Cause it's always like a mess. It's, you know, you have two or three different

disciplines coming together right there at a doorframe and it's, it's always a tough spot. But, you know, going back to like, Not having, you know, going further back then in this, this thing that we don't have enough people in the industry.

Like there's not enough people to do the work. It's, it's like, well, we, we did it to ourselves. I mean, you've been in this industry, um, as long as I have, right?

Evan Troxel: you can see the gray

hair. [00:24:00]

Jim Walker: there you go. But, but people started talking about labor shortage like 15 years ago, 20 years ago. Oh, the baby boomers are all going to retire.

It's going to be a huge labor crunch. And what did we do? Oh, we need to put more people into into, We need to get more kids in trade schools and vocational schools and support the, the trades Well, instead high schools cut all the trade programs. But that's not addressing the root cause still. Like the root cause is an image issue that the construction industry has.

Like if. I'm sure, you know, you have. friends who have children who have nothing to do with construction. And if you ask them, Hey, why don't you encourage your, your six year old child to pick up a trade and go into the trades that I'm, uh, I'm willing to tell you they would, they would say no. And

Evan Troxel: It's about as popular as going into the military, I would think, right? It's, it's one of those things where it's, it's just not the kind of job that, that people aspire to because parents and teachers have basically programmed everybody to aspire to going and, actually, going and working

in a cubicle [00:25:00] in an office.

Jim Walker: that's right.

Evan Troxel: becoming a knowledge worker, which actually means sitting in a seven by seven cubicle for eight or nine or 10 hours a day, every day, commuting to that job, right? And, and it's, it's, it's kind of crazy. I, I, I just recently had an interview with Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough from Autodesk, who runs the technology center, which they do a lot of R and D and hands on stuff at.

The Pier 9 in San Francisco. And it's really like where the rubber meets the road. Like Autodesk makes software, right? And they have a research department. But they also are highly invested in making real things at these technology

centers. There's one in Boston, there's one in San Francisco. And the, the book came up, it's all, I'll reiterate it here, and I'll put a link to it in the show notes, but it's called Shop Classes Soulcraft by Matthew B.

Crawford. It's, it's a, and a fantastic book about the value of creativity. Hands on work. Uh, and so he, he kind of makes the [00:26:00] distinctions between knowledge workers and tradesmen, right? As an example of, but, but the satisfaction that comes out of actually working with your hands is lost on several generations, right?

And because you have to be a knowledge worker, you have to work at a think tank, you have to have a job in finance, or you have to. Become an architect and sit at a desk, sit behind a computer and stare at

glowing screens for

20 hours a day,

Jim Walker: God forbid.

Evan Troxel: hours a day,

like we're doing right now. But, but that, so, so I'm glad you brought it back to the image problem, because I think that this is one of the main problems that we have.

And what's funny is people who are in the industry who are trying to attack technology. Attract talent, not attack talent. We're trying to attract talent, aren't actually doing

anything about it, they're just complaining about it, right? And so what are they actually doing to attract? What stories are they telling? What are they showing the [00:27:00] young people of the next generation? about what's attractive about coming and working and doing this kind of work. Instead, it's like, we throw our hands up and it's like, I don't know what we're going to do. I guess we can't do anything. I guess we're just going to have to figure out better ways, right?

That the answer is offsite construction or it's prefab or it's modular. And it's like, no,


that, those are, those

are just layers on top of the problem. Like the real.

the real problem is the image problem. I think that you're talking about, and we have to figure out ways and it applies to architecture too.

That's why I say we, because leadership and architecture firms have the same challenge, right? It's, they have to be a model of what. the vision of what somebody could be is. And so you need representation, you need equity, you need all those things. So every person out there can see a version of themselves and where they could go with that and what they could do with that and what the challenges are that they could be solving and how it can change the world. And yet, leadership. [00:28:00] Has a hard time with that, I think, in

many, many


Jim Walker: Yeah, like, so you go back to, you know, you can put all the trade schools in the high schools you want. You can put all the funding for college courses that you want, but if parents aren't going to encourage their kids to go into construction in some form, like you're just not going to have an uptick and people using those resources that are there.

And what's the, what's the image that any parent who isn't associated with the construction industry has? of a plumber or a form worker or an electrician. Well, it's that, that, that stereotype, which doesn't really belong in our industry because the reality is, you know, from the trade side, like what, what, well, even construction as a whole, as an industry, like what industries are left in the world where if somebody has an entrepreneurial spirit and they really want to go it alone, can with a relatively small budget, go and start making a company on their own and then grow that company, if they really have the drive and the desire.[00:29:00]

To go and build it into something and they can build it into something which can be, you know, as I'm sure you're aware, like very profitable. Like that, that seven by seven cubicle, like working in finance, like you're not going to go and start your own finance firm on Wall Street, working on the weekends and doing odd jobs after hours.

Like it's it's not going to happen, but like in construction, you can, you can do that. And we need to be encouraging that we need to be showing people, Hey, like, look at this is that, that stereotype you had. is not how it actually is, but the only way we're going to do that is by actually changing the industry to pivot away from that.

And when the statistics keep coming back that, you know, there's more deaths that are more overdoses from fentanyl than any other industry in North America. Well,

we'll get, let's start there. But why, why is that happening?

Evan Troxel: Building on top of another interview that I recently did, which I think comes out before this one too. So it's probably safe to talk about it here, which is, is the idea that every [00:30:00] company is actually a media company in addition to what they do, whether they're leveraging that or not is up to them.

Right? And so the going back to this idea of image and and Telling the story about what you can do as a contractor, a tradesperson, whatever, whatever, however you would slot into that isn't happening at scale. And so what's happening then is we're allowing somebody else to tell our story and that's probably not correct.

That story that's getting out there is The story of the plumber is about

the plumber's crack, right? It's not, it's not

about the, they're they're making 150 an hour, right? On the weekend, because somebody has an emergency and the only person that can solve that

emergency is a licensed plumber, right.

And so it's like, how do, how do contractors tell the story?

How do architects tell the story about what. The vision is of what you could do with those skills and with, with that [00:31:00] information, with that knowledge, with that wisdom of having done it to better society, to change the world, right? To go back, like, to the highest level. We could actually, you can actually do those things.

Do you have to aspire to those levels? No, you don't. You can literally, like you said, be working on the weekends, doing bathroom remodels, right? And making an impact in your community for your neighbors or for, for your clients. It has to start somewhere and those. Those stories need to be told from the source, not from somebody else's idea of what that is.

Like, architects have failed at this forever, right? We

let HGTV tell our story.

Jim Walker: Yep.

Evan Troxel: Of what design is. And now we complain that every client wants their project in eight hours, right? Or they want it because they saw it, that they thought it could happen in a week because

HGTV told them so, right? We're letting somebody else tell our story because we take no responsibility over being the [00:32:00] media of our own profession.

And I think every, that I just want to throw this in here because I think this is an important part. We have to take that responsibility of telling our own story, especially those who really champion and have a passion for the thing that they're doing there. Granted, there are a lot of people who work in AEC who are miserable and they should not be the ones telling the story.

There's a misalignment like they probably shouldn't even be in the industry or they should be working for a different company or they should be starting their own company and cutting the misery part out of it. That could mean leaving. all together, right? But let the people who are passionate, I mean, this is something that I've been doing for 12 years now on ArcaSpeak podcast with my co host Cormac Phelan, right?

Like, we want to see the industry get better and we're telling the stories inside the industry, maybe not outside of the industry. I don't think we have too many listeners who come from general public to learn about architecture from us. because we're not, we talk about insider industry stuff, what [00:33:00] people should be looking out for, what's great about it, what should you be avoiding. That's appreciated at the student level for sure, because students go to their teachers and their academic teachers who are career academics, and they're like, don't work in offices. They don't know what it's actually like. So they're getting a version of what architecture is from them. And now what they're getting is a version of that from people who have actually done it. And that's been incredibly rewarding for me to hear people give me that feedback, but also it's great for them because it's, it's a look, it's a slice, it's a lens into the reality of what it's like to work in the profession. Are contractors doing that?

Jim Walker: No, I don't think so. I think, you know, like there's the same TLC shows about construction, which, uh,

Evan Troxel: Yes.

Jim Walker: they don't really

speak to the, to the, you know, like the, the, the reality of what the industry is like and, uh, how dynamic and exciting. And, and, you know, every day you go to it, like, it's funny, [00:34:00] right? Like young people come to construction and I'll often tell them, right?

Like a lot of people are very change averse. But you have this weird culture and, I don't mean weird, you have this different culture of people in construction that sort of gravitate to this industry that have an allergy to things not changing. You know, if you put people on a construction site and it's the same at the end of the day as when you went in in the morning, like, People start getting, Oh, this, this isn't good.

Like there should be changed, you know, tell somebody that, Hey, look at this construction project's going to be like

two and a half, maybe three years long. Like once you hit that three year mark, people start like breaking out in hives and like,

are you sure there isn't something else? Like I need, I need,

change. I need evolution. I need to work at one end of the city. And then the other, like I, sort of need that, that comfort in that chaos that, that happens, that excitement in that chaos, and I use the term chaos loosely, but like, that, that chaos and a little bit of the unknown that happens and having to plan it and figure it out and work, work together and bring, you know, group A together to solve this problem.

And then group B [00:35:00] together to, to plan out the next, the next step. And then group C to make sure that group A and B can work together properly, right? Like there's this evolution and this looseness of structure that, that a lot of people really enjoy. And yeah, that, that I don't think there's I don't know how you would really capture that in a, in a TV show for 30 minutes.

Well, 22 minutes of runtime less commercials, but yeah, it's a tough challenge. But I think that, you know, the people that are talking about like trade schools and vocation schools and, and, you know, like, um, putting funding into that stuff also have to be looking at, well, what are ways that we can solve the image problem in construction.

And I think the image problem in construction comes from the toxic workplace we create, which is in a. affect the cause of the contract that everybody is brought together under? And that to

me is that the root cause, is that the solution to the core problem of the toxic culture that we have in construction, which is what is making [00:36:00] everybody sick, which is what is driving people away, which is what is driving inefficiency and lack of collaboration, and a lot of the the core issues stem out from from that one spot.

Evan Troxel: But they say like attracts like. And so I would also, you know, in addition to what you just said about driving out, there is also an attraction. To likeness, right? And so people who thrive on those toxic environments are attracted to come in and proliferate them. Right. And the feedback loop continues when it comes to that, which doesn't get us to a better place.

I've seen this happen so many times in architecture offices where there will be somebody in a leadership position or a senior position who is the. definitely a toxic person. How do you know? Because everybody

talks about it behind their back, right?

Jim Walker: Yeah. Yeah.

Evan Troxel: People find ways to get off projects with those people.

They say, I will never work with that person. And instead of the company addressing that behavior issue [00:37:00] or that person as a problem and getting rid of them, they just shuffle people around and they avoid that as long as possible. And that toxicity proliferates as long as it possibly can, because nobody wants to have a confrontational, uh, meeting to address the, the, the root issue. And so on the other flip side of that is there will be people who. gravitate toward that and they will learn from that and they will become that person as well because it does get results of its own kind that somebody is think thinks is good for them right to move up the corporate ladder to look good on a project to make their career go into a what seems to look like a good place and so I I think that you're right on there is that like it is

driving out the good people, or, or it's never attracting them in the first place, but it's also building more people like that, which, which just [00:38:00] makes this

problem last



Jim Walker: So you said a couple of things there that I agree with, right? Like, I mean, yes, bad managers, but I mean, bad managers can occur in any industry. I don't think that's a unique problem

to, uh, to the, the AEC

industry, but like attracts like, I think is, is key there. Like everybody that comes to work in construction in the morning.

And again, I think I said this before, but I honestly believe it. Honestly believes they've come to work today to do a good job. And I believe that you surround yourself and you know, we're surrounded by people in the industry that, that want to do a good job. The problem is, is how do you define what a good job is?

And, you know, to an architect on a construction project, it's, it's looking after the best interests of x, y, z architecture. Second thing is to realize a product for their client. So you look at a general contractor, you know. like, number one is to, to maintain the life of the general contracting firm. And number two is to realize a product for the client.

And then the same thing all the way down [00:39:00] the chain, the plumber, it's to look after the, call it XYZ plumbing is number one. And then number two is to do the work that was contracted and provide a product you're being paid for. But the problem is, is that priority number one in all those instances is different for everybody.

It's always look after your own. your own fortress first and then the project is second. And, you know, one of the things that we had talked about, um, a couple of months ago was like, how can you change that in the contract? And, you know, a couple of years ago I happened upon, um, the IPD contract model and I'd executed, uh, uh, I've executed projects in the IPD contract model and the key way to simply look at an IPD project is you take everybody's definition of what a good job is and you align it centrally on success of the project.

Because without success of the project, you do not have success of the company. You do not have success of the individual and you cannot have one party succeed where another fails. So all of a sudden you have everybody then saying, wow, okay, I got to [00:40:00] work together. We got to leverage everybody's mind in this room to be as, as efficient, productive, collaborative as possible and profitable as possible.

to make sure we all do a good job at the end of the day.


Evan Troxel: So define IDP. So just so everybody knows what, what that IPD, sorry, I always do that. Tell, tell everybody what that acronym means. And, and then, because it is also different than design build, and maybe we can talk a little bit

about the differentiation there, but I think we're seeing a lot more projects doing IPD and doing design build for, for reasons that,

that are based on the things that

you just said,

Jim Walker: Yeah. I, IPD is a integrated project delivery. So the, at its core is, um, there's a shared profit pool, which is shared amongst the parties that sign onto the IPD contract. In Canada, it's a CCDC30. There's some other contract models as well, but you have a shared profit. pool, which is always at risk. So, you know, you go back to the, example of [00:41:00] the SIs being generated.

A lot of times when there's an SI or, a site instruction or a request for information generated in the, the construction component of a, the, the construction system, that's, I mean, it's associated with cost. Um, architect issues, a site instruction, general contractor prices, the site instruction, it's a yes or no.

And there's an additional cost of the contract depending on the contract model and in IPD,


There is an S. Or a


True, true. Yeah, you're 100 percent right. In the IPD model, is if there is an extra cost to the project, it comes out of that. Pool of profit that sits there in, uh, you know, there's gates to release it through.

That's a, you know, getting into the technicalities, but there's gates to release profit throughout the job, but it comes out of that centralized profit pool. So instead of, you know, the knee jerk reaction on the builder side to be, Oh, drawings aren't right, issue an RFI, it's drawings aren't right. But what can we do as

a team to solve this problem with no cost

and no time impact to [00:42:00] keep things

moving on and still realize the vision of the client.

Because if you don't. Realize the, the, the value definitions and the value statements at the end of the job that you created at the start of the job, well, then there's a cost impact there. So it's not like you're trying to short circuit the client and deliver a less than optimal product. You still have to deliver the optimal product.

The thing is now you're, you're leveraging everybody's brain power on site to to be as efficient as possible and as as profitable as possible and work together as a truly as a team


Evan Troxel: You're all on the same team. I was going to say, yeah, you're all on the same team, and it doesn't incentivize this kind of pitting people against each other, which is the, the traditional method of design bid build, right? And, and it's interesting, the whole design bid build delivery mechanism, right?

Which is. As architects, we compete to typically it's going to be based on lowest fee to do the project, which means we're going to spend the least number of hours. Right? And you, you

mentioned the words earlier, race [00:43:00] to the bottom, right? This is it. And, and then we put that project out to bid. We take the lowest bidder.

Right? And that lowest bidder is often looking for

holes in the documentation as much as they can, because they need to make up for it, because they really can't do it at the low bid that they provided. And it's like designed to fail is another way that I would say it, right? It's, it's, How can a person, an entity, uh, an owner think that that's going to come to the best outcome?

And yet, like, we have to do it in many circumstances. If it's public projects, if it's a school, I mean, it's because you're using the public's resources. to build said project, and therefore we want to make sure we're getting the best deal. But is it really the best deal? Right? When it's actually causing these much larger issues, like on paper, you can see how people would think that this is the best deal. But in reality, it's actually creating these toxic environments, pitting these silos against each other to [00:44:00] fight the whole way through. And are you really going to get a great project when there's just this constant battle the whole time? Is that, is war The answer, right? It's like, because that's kind of what it is.

A lot of times it's rare and it does happen that you do have good relationships through that process.


but it

is rare.

Jim Walker: Well, you definitely can. It's just the, the IPD contract model. So it contracts those relationships into the, into the construction system. You know, take like, let's walk through an example and you know, it's something that repeats on, on every big job. Let's say you're building some kind of a, theater or something where acoustic walls are very important.

So you have very, very important top of wall sealant details, things like that. But in the construction, what's the first

thing that happens? Well, you'll either have like a, a ductwork trade or a plumbing trade come through and they'll slap all of their ductwork up in the ceiling. And just, you know, first I did it, I'm done.



Evan Troxel: Done and out, right? That's the goal, right? Is to

be there earlier than somebody else because the, the problems

ripple down. They don't

ripple up,

Jim Walker: So what happened? Yeah. So what happens [00:45:00] now? Well, now your drywall trade is forced to try to work around massive ducts that a lot of times, you know, we're in corridors right up against walls where your sound. Your STC rating. Yeah, right.

Is also important and they're trying to seal the tops of walls and create, still create a good product for the client and the end user at the end of the day.

Only the system you're using has like put all of these sticks in the wheels of that system to, to realize that.

Evan Troxel: Mm hmm.

Jim Walker: So, so what happens then while

you come through and you start trying to do your sound testing and, and, you know, across walls and like, everything's failing. Well, it's, yeah, it's failing because it couldn't get up to the top of the.

The wall to seal. it. 'cause the duct work was there first. Yeah. But he was really fast. Why weren't you that fast? Yeah. But , so what, what the

experience, yeah, the experience in the IPD environment then, is that your, your h like in this particular example would be your HVAC trade and your drywaller in your SubT trade meeting.

They go away after the meeting and they talk amongst themselves. Hey look. I want to be as quick as possible. Do you think I could do this component of the work? So do you think I could frame the [00:46:00] wall and just do five feet of the drywall at the top, seal it, and then you come through afterwards and do all your ductwork? that leaves me weeks afterwards to do board tape, sand, all that other stuff.

And I can take my time to do my work properly. You unencumbered access, unencumbered access to do your work, so you're as efficient as possible. Together, we don't have to come back and do rework. We deliver a better product for the client. Together, we're And everybody's happy. And we did it in less time than we originally scheduled because we were scheduling under traditional contract model delivery, you know, delivery models, where our metrics are quite inefficient and according to the graph that we always get presented in the conferences that we go to, construction efficiency is tailing off.

So, you know, it, it, it just works so much better. And then what happens at the end of the day? Well, everybody feels great because they went in, they get, did a good job that day. everybody worked together, it was really rewarding

Evan Troxel: They're ready to show up the

next day, right?


Jim Walker: right. And instead instead of hitting the bottle, or,

yeah, instead of going to [00:47:00] the pub for pints after work, or, you know, like, hitting the bottle, you know what, I went for a walk.

I went and watched the waves roll in on the beach, because I was really happy and satisfied. And then the health benefits come along with that, and then all of a sudden we don't have all of this other, Stuff associated with their industry. And then maybe parents start seeing that, Hey, you know what?

Construction's actually a really great place to send my kids, uh, to encourage them to, to go for their, for their careers. And then all of a sudden this labor shortage that we were talking about starts going away. I know I'm talking about, you know, like utopian, uh, blue sky, but, but what if, right? Like, like,

Evan Troxel: I

thumbed through Instagram quite often and I see, have you seen these videos where people, it's, it's a guy like, you know, he's, he's just Cut out the background and he's, he's wearing his hard hat and his safety vest and his, his eyeglasses and he's, he's watching like

terrible shit go down,

Jim Walker: yeah,

Evan Troxel: OSHA problems. It's like the guy on the ladder slipping off this and falling off that and the pouring this into [00:48:00] that that shouldn't go there. And it's just like one thing after another. And like, again, we're letting somebody else. It's, it's a meme, right, but, but that is, those funny

videos stick with people. And so when I've got a kid and I'm like, they, and if they show an interest in something, and that's my mental image of what it looks like to work in construction is like major,

major fails, right?

Jim Walker: Yeah.

Evan Troxel: And, and so I, but I think about the reality of, I, I love to build myself, I love to make things, and I have a shop and I've got a lot of tools that I should do a better job at justifying my ownership of them. But it's, it's one of those things where you're, you have a new challenge. You have the opportunity of having a new challenge every day. And I think people who like to solve puzzles. Construction's a great place to go do that, and you get to go to different locations, and you get to be outdoors, and you get to do all kinds of things that are very different than going and working in a factory or working [00:49:00] in an office, and I think there's a lot of really great people there. pieces to this that could be talked about and kind of going back to this image and then marrying that to this IPD process, I think is very interesting potential, right? To actually tell those stories. I think we tell those stories to potential clients. Right? Because we want to show them that there is a better way of working, or there is a different way of working.

Uh, and there are advantages to getting the teams all at the same table and incentivizing them with the same profit pool, so that they work together instead of adversarially. Right? And so, we, we tell those two clients because we think that there's a higher chance that we might get commission if they buy into that as well. But what are we doing beyond? The potential clients, what are we doing to actually get this information out into the world at large to start to change perceptions about AEC and what it's like [00:50:00] to deliver projects that do take

literally years to do, right? And then these are the biggest projects on the planet, and they're difficult.

They're extremely nuanced. There's different challenges every day. Just because you solved it here doesn't mean it's going to work over there on the next project. And, and. But I think that's also attractive, right? And so it's like starting to tell those stories. I know there's people out there who are doing this.

There's like Tyler Campbell. I see his posts on LinkedIn all the time, Construction Brothers podcast. He's doing a lot of media work for these companies, but I mean, this is the kind of thing that I think needs a lot of help and it needs people like you who are passionate about the construction industry to come on a podcast like this. and talk about it, about how it could be better. How it, what is the vision of what it could be and why that's something worth pursuing. Um, but man, like the call to

action here is we

need a


more of that.

Jim Walker: Yeah, there's groups that

are, looking to do that. You know, Hanson Wade has a conference called Advancing IPD, um, and that, you know, [00:51:00] that's, they, have a couple of different ones in the U. S. In Canada,

like I'm a board member of the, Integrated Project Delivery Alliance, who is a non for profit group whose sole mission is just educating the industry on, on IPD and IPD in Canada.

There is, you know, especially in the province of Quebec, uh, in the past two years, there's really been sort of a, uh, I'm going to call it a groundswell, but that might be a little premature, but there's a bit of a groundswell among the client side, the public client side, to find a different way to do projects.

And I know that, you know, our, our department of national defense, um, saw a systemic issue with the delivery of their projects that, you know, they were over budget and over cost and looked for a different way to, to deliver those projects and and was the first. Uh, first organization in Canada to execute a CCDC 30 contract.

CCDC is, um, like our documents, uh, Canadian Construction Documents Corporation, or center that [00:52:00] generates a lot of their standard contract models and things like that. Um, so yeah, it was like a pretty big step on the side of the, client. Um, you know, it's interesting too about like the, um, the, um, um, the, The IPD contract model is when you're executing the project, like the metrics that you use to judge success sort of change, um, you know, as traditional contract model.

We're constantly using like rear looking, um, metrics that occurred in

the past that don't help you predict really if a problem is going to occur. Um, same thing sort of like with safety, right? With near misses, like, um, a lot of times near misses are considered a forward looking indicator if there's going to be a bigger problem, but really a near miss for anybody that doesn't know what near miss is, like a, an accident that almost happened.

It's, it's severe enough to take note, but nobody actually, no property was damaged and nobody got hurt. So for example, you know, um, somebody walking along A worker walking along a grade level and then something falls off of an upper floor and lands, say a hammer or a [00:53:00] wrench, lands beside them. Um, it didn't break anything, it didn't hurt anybody, but it's still significant enough that we stand up and we take notice and we try to, to make changes to, to what we're doing so that something really severe doesn't actually happen.

Um, and can, and you know, the other thing about like, if construction is sick, like there's all, you know, besides mining, construction is the most dangerous industry to work in. So, one of the metrics that you start measuring in, in an IPD project is like, do you feel like we were being collaborative this week? I mean, you ask these questions after every, every meeting that involves, you know, your trades people, your foreman, your, your, even your architects, your, your engineers as a group.

Like, do you feel we were collaborating? Do you feel like we were collaborating? Um, we upheld the values we set out to do. Do you feel like, and it's a lot of like feeling, do you feel these things? Do you feel bought in still to the purpose? And I first got turned on to this, even before IPD, this construction as a system, when I was doing some work at [00:54:00] a past employer with a company out of the UK called Vanguard, um, and it was started by a gentleman named John Seddon, who said like any organization, look at what they're delivering in terms of a system.

That's so. What we were trying to do is if, you know, when you walk out on a site, ask any worker, what is the purpose of this project we're working on now? And the more times that workers could easily articulate what was the purpose of what we were doing today, the less instances of safety you would have, the less instances of quality, uh, you know, non conformities would you have?

And you would overall have a more, uh, efficient and cleaner job site. Because when people are

bought into a central purpose, They automatically take more care in what they're doing, and that could be take more care in being safe, take more care in delivering quality. And you see it all the time, right?

Like the military has mission statements like, you know people that are on, in the US Navy like they're on an aircraft carrier, like they wear the hats with the silhouette of the ship and then [00:55:00] the I don't know if it's a serial number or whatever of the, of the boat that they're on, but there's a pride and association with that boat, with that military unit, like this is known, this is stuff that organizations already do.

And so like,

you know, for our line of work, like I'm really big on project teams, like, Hey, like take the time, create a mission statement for your project. What do you mean a mission statement for my project? Yeah. Like take the time to encourage your team. To participate and do that, and then when you go out on site, like, Hey, do you know the mission statement of this, of this project?

Yes. It's to, you know, deliver quality for, I dunno, the University of McGill in this sound stage that we're building, which is only one little room in, in a big building retrofit, but still everybody working there knows what the purpose is. They're all bought into it. And I'm, I'm guaranteeing you if you, you, you study those metrics across every project going on in North America, the ones where people know the purpose.

You have less safety incidents and you have better quality at the end of the day and probably a more efficient project. And [00:56:00] then if you really get granular into the data, like I bet you there's less requests for information, less site instructions. And, and it even goes back to, you know, ask your consultants.

Like, do you know what the purpose of this project is? And the more people answer yes and articulate it, the more of those inefficiencies and wastes trend down. And that's, that's what we need.

Evan Troxel: And you're talking about pride of ownership, right? You talked about the ship and the hat, right? The silhouette, and it's like the association and

the, it becomes part of your identity, right? As, as you wear that. outward facing garment, right? Happened to be a hat, right? But it's like pride of ownership in your contribution to making the thing a reality. And I saw this comment on a YouTube video, um, for somebody who's doing some education about the upcoming solar eclipse of all things. And the comment was, thank you so much for spent, taking the time to make something for people that you will never meet. I thought that was so interesting.

And that's what you're talking about with construction [00:57:00] too, right?

You're making a product for people who you will likely never meet, but you, the thing that you're contributing to will affect them and it can affect them negatively, or it can affect them positively, right? And it's that kind of bigger picture thinking, I think that actually is what drives me and my passion for architecture is that architecture can change the world.

It can change the way people interact with space. It can change their behavior and therefore their contribution back to society, right? In a positive way or a negative way. And of course, my goal would be that it always affects them in a positive way. How is that going to happen? By truly understanding number one, like how that could happen, but number two, by delivering a great product. So that they are taken care of, and so that it does the things they need it to do, or it drives them to aspire to do what they do even better, because they're in a place that lifts them up, right? [00:58:00] To, to deliver that to somebody else, right? If it's patients, or if it's children, or coming into a school, right?

It's like, you can have a learning environment that is actually conducive to learning, or you can have something that's much more like a prison cell, right? Those are two

viable options for a school classroom. We've seen examples of both of those, right? And, and so I, I, going back to, like, just the overall image, and the buy in, and the ownership that could be created, that there's so much potential here. How do we leverage that? How do we tell those stories to attract people to that so that we start getting more of that in these industries? That's, that to me is really the, the, crux of the question

here, and who's willing

to do that?

Jim Walker: well, we have, we have to figure it out, right? Like, we're, we're running out of time to figure it out. Like, you look at, so just speaking specifically for Canada, but I'm willing to say that the, the the U S is in the same boat and probably all of the Western world for that, for that matter. Like, [00:59:00] we need, we don't have enough hospitals to, for our populations.

We don't have enough homes for our populations. We don't have enough, um, you know, military infrastructure for populations. We don't have enough power generation. for, for our, for our populations. We have a climate crisis that, you know, needs these things solved. And what are we doing to really leverage the, scarce resource of people that we have to realize those projects and get those things built?

Like right now we're doing the same thing we've been doing, which has been driving the efficiency graph I keep, I keep banging on it, but driving that efficiency graph further into the ground. So. Like, yeah, great. Like, let's all complain about it or let's, you know, it's, what's the expression? It's better to, light a candle than, curse the dark.

Like, so let's start lighting some candles. Let's start lighting some fires under people and get moving on something. Like start taking action, start working together instead of using our talents to work against each other. Cause really that's what we're doing in, in a traditional contract model is we're using everybody's [01:00:00] expertise to, to work against each other and then build a, build a project in the end.

And I'm speaking, you know, in, in. exaggerations, obviously, but some, some days it kind of feels like that.

Evan Troxel: Yeah, yeah, and I like how you, you, you point to potential solutions with IPD and even design build right where it creates an environment, uh, for positive outcomes. And that's a choice that these companies can choose to participate in or not. Like you could actually make the decision that we are only going to pursue these kinds of

projects that have this delivery mechanism.

Jim Walker: Hmm.

Evan Troxel: Because they lead to better outcomes. And then you can be known for a company that creates better outcomes because of the systems that you've put in place to get there, but you don't have to participate in design bid build anymore. You just, you don't have to, right? It's up to you. Nobody's, nobody's making you do that.

Right. And so I think that there are ways to start to create. The cultures that you're talking about that are less about de risking, right, but, [01:01:00] but shared risk going in together and, and changing the narrative around adversarial, no trust relationships between silos, right? And going into a model where we're all on the same team. These, there are ways to get, it's not like there's no hope, right? There are absolutely ways to do this. And on top of that, we have to find ways to tell these stories. to young, impressionable people who are open to doing something different than maybe even what their parents are telling them is an acceptable vocation or profession to go into. Uh, I, I think that there are definitely, and it's not, you know, totally generalizing there, right, with the parent thing. But, but it, overall, it's, it's, we feel it, we see it, we keep seeing the, the reports on shortages for labor, for construction, but also for the architectural

industry as well.


Jim Walker: Every aspect of it.

Evan Troxel: Right. Yeah. So I don't know if there's anything else that we're missing here, but I feel like this was a really, [01:02:00] productive conversation because bringing something to light that maybe not everybody knew was such a big issue is the construction industry has some sickness. And so does the architecture industry as well. And, and figuring out ways to, I mean, the people listening to the show are, are probably already in the industry, but this might be a good one to share. Yeah. out with colleagues and with other people to understand the, how big this problem actually is that the challenges that are in front of us, because like, no one else is going to solve this for us. It's up to us to take the responsibility to do that. I think this is where disruption is kind of a scary thing, right? Because you could have people coming from the outside and just saying, uh, you're doing it wrong. Here's a better way to

do it. And just eat our

lunch for, you know, that would, I would rather, uh, be part of the solution than just. saying, Hey, there's a problem over here and I don't know what to do about it. So this, this to me has been a productive conversation

and a good [01:03:00] message

to get out.

Jim Walker: Yeah. I really, I really appreciate you, you having me on and participating in this and you know, like I just, want to be really clear, right? Like I'm, my criticisms of, of our industry, they come from a place of like, I've been, I've been in this my whole life, right?

So I'm, I'm not, I'm not from the outside looking in, like I believe in what we're doing and I want to see it improve.

And, uh, there's, a lane, there's a, path we, can do it. And if we work together, we'll get there.


Evan Troxel: Being critical is absolutely important because you want it to get better. That's the whole point of what we call in architecture, a crit. is to make the project better. We, we do critiques and we critique the work. It's not about the people as much. We want people to have a good time and good morale and, and, and enjoy what they're doing and even have a passion and a fire for it.

But the goal is so that the thing gets better, right? And we see the problems and you're here helping to put those on display, but then also attempt to get [01:04:00] us moving in a solution


Jim Walker: Oh yeah, And you know, if you want to, without, trying to sound too alarmist, right? Like our, Grandchildren and future generations are depending on us to start figuring these things out.

Evan Troxel: Yeah, I think that's an important. Perspective to have is, it's not just about this project. It's not just about this week or this year. You're

setting the stage for what's to come. Right. And we should have that bigger picture view of where things are headed because like, yeah, maybe it isn't your problem. in 20 years.

It's your problem now though, right? And, and you are contributing to the solution or the problem wherever you're at right now. And, and so I would hope that message like yours today on this show is really about being a part of the solution from wherever you are that, you know, the whole idea of 360 degree of leadership, right?

You don't have to be a quote unquote, leader to lead. Uh, leadership is not appointed to you. It [01:05:00] is, is a skill that you can develop from. Any position that you're in and, and it is a constant battle, maybe not the right

word, but it is a constant project to, to be looking at

that And leading from wherever you



Jim Walker: and I believe we have the best and brightest minds right. In this industry that are capable of doing it. And once we, start working together, we'll get there.

Mm hmm.

Evan Troxel: Yeah. Well Jim, this has been a great conversation. I'll put links to where people can find you and connect with you, and I just wanted to say thank you because I think it was five years

ago. I mean, you were still at PCL when you first reached out to me at au, I think just LinkedIn or something, said, Hey, want to want to grab a beer?

Let's chat. And I, that was awesome. I mean, it's been, it's been great. So I, I appreciate you and everything that you've

brought to this

conversation today.

Jim Walker: Yeah, use well. Thanks. Thanks for having the platform to be able to spread the, gospel

Evan Troxel: Awesome. Well, until the next au uh, let's go ride bikes at the, at the next one. And, [01:06:00] uh, I learned that Jim's a fellow mountain biker and we're gonna have some fun, uh, au in San

Diego this year. I hope so. That'll be, that'll be

Jim Walker: Yeah, can't

Evan Troxel: All right. See you then.

Jim Walker: See ya.