A Millennial/GenX-er in an Aging Workforce, Keeping Pace With Technological Advances & Regulatory Changes

On a Bernhardt Contracting job site, you’re more likely to see the Victoria company’s name emblazoned on an electric car than on a vehicle more traditionally associated with construction.

Two of the three vehicles in Bernhardt’s fleet are all-electric Smart cars. The third is a diesel-powered Mercedes van.

“I’ve been harassing Mercedes to get me an electric version of it,” quips Mark Bernhardt, who started in construction about 16 years ago and has been running his own firm for a dozen years.

Almost 40, Bernhardt considers himself a millennial/genX-er. That makes him a youngster in an industry grappling with an aging workforce and straining to keep pace with technological advances and regulatory changes. It also positions Bernhardt on the leading edge of a new generation of upstart Victoria builders — like Matty Jardine and Ryan Goodman of Aryze Developments — that is coinciding with a changing of the guard at established firms like Durwest Construction Management.

“The nice thing about construction is that it does have a relatively low barrier to coming in,” says Bernhardt, who has eight employees. “In the early stages, I was able to hire the expertise that I needed and then learn and take courses. I’ve been taking courses since I started.”

AN Eco-Friendly SHIFT

The electric cars mesh well with Bernhardt’s focus on what he calls high-performance building. That includes installing vehicle chargers on all of its projects. Originally from the Okanagan, Bernhardt earned a science degree at the University of Calgary. Upon graduation, he did impact assessments for oil and gas pipelines. Now, he applies similar methodologies he learned in that field to his construction projects.

“When we do that, we come out with energy as our biggest cost,” Bernhardt says. “Not only is it our biggest cost, but it’s also the easiest thing to fix.”

Bernhardt’s recent projects include acting as a “passive house” consultant and envelope contractor on the Charter Telecom commercial project in Langford. He is an unabashed proponent of the BC Energy Step Code, which the provincial government introduced in 2017 as a voluntary standard within the B.C. Building Code. His website even plays up its Step Code certifications, and its capacity for doing blower door tests and providing EnerGuide ratings.

“I know Langford isn’t pursuing the Step Code, but they’re getting the highest tier of Step Code, regardless, right in their city,” he says.

For others, however, the Step Code is anathema. The Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA), for example, has advocated strongly against it. Casey Edge, executive director, voices a litany of complaints. They include that it isn’t mandatory, enabling individual municipalities to skip any or all of the steps. “And there’s no mentoring, education and training for it,” adds Edge, citing estimates of an average of $80,000 in additional costs for a new home built to step five of the code.

Edge would rather see a program to retrofit older, draftier homes because new homes are already highly energy efficient.

“So an older home will have anywhere from 10 to 40 air changes per hour,” Edge explains. “A new home will have, let’s say, three air changes per hour. And the Step Code reduces that from three to one. Why wouldn’t you do a retrofit program for older homes and reduce them from 40 to 10?”

Bernhardt, who is also president of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association’s Vancouver Island (CHBA-VI) chapter, disagrees.

“And it’s not an us versus them,” he says. “It’s not a renovator versus new builder argument. It’s both. And we need to do both now.”

Continue reading on Douglas Magazine: http://douglasmagazine.com/new-generation-of-builders-make-exciting-changes-in-construction-industry/


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