We spend a lot of money on the Big City Projects.  A LOT. So it makes sense that we stretch that money as far as it can go - and we aren’t.

Case in point. A recently completed City building has large staff change rooms. The ceramic tile in those rooms are reported to be 1.5m by 3m in size. Tiles that size are not locally supplied and get delivered in custom made individual crates.

That same building reportedly has special order exterior metal siding - again, with one piece of siding per crate, delivered from some far away place. The siding used on the Expo Centre (a project where I represented the owner) was locally fabricated and supplied 20+ pieces per package. To my knowledge, no one hosting an event there has ever complained about the siding.

Our latest fire hall cost us $21.5M and was roughly 3 years late (it was our first Net Zero building).

I am completely supportive of building long lasting, sturdy, functional infrastructure. But our construction standards are missing the mark.

And we have all heard about those Really Big Projects that have gone sideways.

It is important to note that City Administration does not construct and deliver those big projects - private contractors do. Responsibility for those less successful projects is shared, but they have led to a characterization of City Administration that isn’t accurate.

It was not too long ago that Mayor Mandel issued the edict “No more crap.”  The goal was to see more architecture that is emblematic of a Capital City, and fewer plain, disposable buildings.

It makes sense. Most people agree that when you are in the heart of Edmonton, the Capital City, you should feel at least a little bit like you are in the seat of government. The Art Gallery looks like a piece of art, City Hall is a wide open space (the indoor town square), the Winspear is the best concert hall in Canada, the Milner Library - well, it gets you talking.

But I think the pendulum has swung too far. 

We need to restore a measure of pragmatism. Why not find building materials that are less expensive and more readily available? 

I don’t think that “no more crap” comment was intended as a licence for EVERY new building in Edmonton to be designed by an award-winning internationally renowned architect. 

It's time for a shift in thinking.

I want to consider prototype buildings - one really good, economic, appealing design for a recreation centre or a fire hall that we build a few times over.  There are economies of scale there.

I want us to look at other jurisdictions and see where they are spending less money to deliver the same facility (if that’s true). Lets see what is driving our costs up, and see if we want to spend that money. In some cases, we absolutely will. But it bears a review.

Lets limit the size of the projects we undertake. I think our recent LRT projects have been too big to manage, and I think we lose local involvement when the projects get too big. Let’s break those giant projects up into smaller parts.

As a member of Edmonton’s design and construction community, I hear regularly about the positive efforts that City Administration has made to its delivery and procurement models. 

As one example, City Administration is adopting more collaborative project delivery models. The goal is generally to allow City representatives, contractors and design professionals to develop a project together. These approaches reduce rework, reduce “extras” and generally give better results.

Over the last few years, City Administration has developed a new project design and delivery model, where they come back to Council to approve movement of a project to the next stage. This new approach has eliminated the circumstance where a project was approved with a budget, then designed only to find that the budget was incorrect. 

We do a lot of good work at the City. But it’s time to get greater value from your tax dollars, to match the resources to the demand, to put the aesthetic dollars into the places that really call for them, and not in the places where they add no value.

No more crap now means making every dollar count.

Timothy Cartmell


Honoured to be the City Councillor in Edmonton's Ward pihêsiwin. #yegcc #Wardpihêsiwin