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Off-site Construction Research Centre injects diverse, highly skilled talent in rapidly evolving construction workforce

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Aug 23, 2022

Category: UNB Fredericton

The Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) is leveraging the province’s existing strengths from the manufacturing sector to support the construction industry and its workforce of the future.

From Aug. 23-25, the OCRC will bring together leading off-site construction experts for the first-of-its-kind specialty conference offered in Canada, Transforming Construction with Reality Capture Technologies. It will feature state-of-the-art technologies and presentations on leading research in off-site construction from around the world, with UNB and OCRC leading way.

“The OCRC is a table to bring together industry and our talent - our students - to exchange information and solve problems currently facing the construction industry,” said Dr. Zhen Lei, OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction at UNB and OCRC Scientific Director. “By placing our students on-site in the workplace, we can discover the needs of industry and employers to help retool existing solutions to be more applicable to real-world needs." 

On-site refers to traditional construction methods of building and constructing structures on the location site exposed to the elements. Off-site is a sustainable practice of manufacturing prefabricated portions of a construction project in a controlled environment to maximize efficiencies. The prefabricated sections are then assembled to the permanent structure on the final location site.  

“Constructing off-site comes with reduced risks, cost-saving benefits and efficiencies,” said Nicole Odo, a recent UNB master of science in engineering graduate. “It allows us to build components of a larger project in a dedicated facility which produces faster outcomes and utilizes less product while implementing specific safety controls for the workers. We can simultaneously build sections of the construction project while preparing the job site.”

The OCRC is injecting younger and diverse candidates directly into an aging labour force, including international students who come to UNB specifically to join the OCRC. Innovative research and technology advancement merges the traditional construction process and design with new innovative tools and techniques. It is opening the door for a diverse new generation of workers to enter the construction industry to fill the gap of an aging workforce. 

“Our centre is helping recruit women into the construction sector and attracting students from all over the world,” Dr. Lei explained. “Not only are these highly skilled professionals making an impact in our community, but the increase of diversity creates a stronger, enriched construction industry.”

With an interest in process efficiency and improvement efforts to streamline construction engineering and management practices, Odo was recently hired as a project manager for OCRC.

“The most rewarding aspect of my work is doing outreach with OCRC partners. We help transfer complicated research knowledge in ways that workers will understand. At the OCRC, we educate people and mobilize knowledge resources to illustrate the benefits of off-site construction,” Odo said.

About Off-site Construction Research Centre 

The Off-site Construction Research Centre (OCRC) builds on UNB’s faculty of engineering strengths in civil engineering and related pre-manufacturing technology. Established in 2018, the OCRC uses a technology-driven approach to optimize off-site manufacturing and on-site assembly to revolutionize the construction industry and train the next generation of builders.