News at the University of New Brunswick

UNB welcomes off-site construction research chair

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Aug 6, 2019

Category: myUNB , UNB Fredericton

The University of New Brunswick’s Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) has announced Dr. Zhen Lei as the OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction with funding support from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

By leveraging technology and optimizing alternate solutions to conventional “stick-built” on-site construction, funding support from OSCO Construction Group and ACOA will help lay the foundation for innovation and entrepreneurship in off-site construction research in New Brunswick.

ACOA has invested $634,434 through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. When combined with $344,000 from OSCO’s contribution of $2 million in 2018, OSCO and ACOA will provide more than $978,000 funding to operationalize OCRC at UNB.

Current trends in the construction industry reflect the need to adopt technological advances and initiate a transformational shift from conventional on-site construction to a Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach. This approach combines two methodologies that focuses on design, ease of parts manufacturing and efficiency of end-product assembly.

Research conducted by Dr. Lei will build upon the UNB faculty of engineering’s strength in civil engineering and related pre-manufacturing technology that is leading the way to create strong ties between researchers and the construction and manufacturing industry.

With OSCO’s numerous construction lines of business that serve the marketplace and as a funding partner in the centre, OSCO foresees great potential in off-site DfMA construction and technology to establish New Brunswick as a hub for off-site construction by developing innovative solutions to construction industry problems.

Dr. Lei will help grow the industry expertise and knowledge as the OSCO Research Chair in Off-Site Construction and scientific director of the Off-Site Construction Research Centre at UNB.

He began his new chair position in April. His main research areas include construction process simulation and optimization, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and emerging digital technologies, and work process improvement in off-site construction.

In addition to his research work, Dr. Lei will also be an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering. He received a MSc and PhD in construction engineering and management from the University of Alberta and worked at PCL Industrial Management Inc. prior to joining the OCRC team at UNB.


“UNB actively pursues strategic partnerships to drive economic growth to build a better future for New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. By working with OSCO and other industry partner companies, the Off-site Construction Research Centre under the direction of Dr. Lei will help grow skilled expertise and develop innovative solutions for the construction industry.”

- Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New Brunswick

“The OSCO Construction Group is thrilled to have Dr. Lei join the OCRC as its leader and foresees great potential in the OCRC to further develop the offsite supply chain model for the construction industry.”

- Hans O. Klohn, President of OSCO Construction Group

“Our government’s support for projects like UNB’s Off-Site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) reflects our commitment to driving economic growth in Atlantic Canada by supporting strategic partnerships between academic institutions and industry. Not only will this Centre help to form highly-skilled graduates ready for the jobs of tomorrow, but the research and development conducted will lead to innovations in the way our homes, workplaces, and public infrastructure are built in the future.”

- Karen Ludwig, Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA

“Funding support from OSCO Construction Group and ACOA will allow OCRC to continue to grow our team and build capacity of industry partnership with academia. I am excited to build on UNB’s leading research capabilities and leverage emerging technologies that are changing construction and manufacturing industries globally.”

- Dr. Zhen Lei, OSCO Research Chair in Off-Site Construction and Scientific Director of the Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) at UNB

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Photo: Left to right: Dr. David Magee, Vice President Research, UNB, Dr. Laura Richard, Director of Research, NBIF, Hans Klohn, President, OSCO Contruction Group, Dr. Zhen Lei, OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction, Karen Ludwig, Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest and Dr. Paul Mazerolle, President and Vice-Chancellor, UNB. Credit: Jeff Crawford/Photo UNB.