Off-site Construction Research Centre

Off-site chronicles with Patrick Crabbe, corporate director of Mass Timber, Bird Construction – part one

Author: OCRC

Posted on Sep 11, 2023

Category: Off-site chronicles , Student spotlight

Meet Patrick Crabbe, the Corporate Director of Mass Timber at Bird Construction. At 36 years old, Patrick is not only committed to his professional endeavors but also takes pride in his role as a loving husband and a devoted father to two wonderful children, a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Currently residing and working in Bedford, NS, Patrick's journey began within a third-generation forestry family, fostering a deep connection with the industry from an early age. Although he ventured into the hospitality sector, a seemingly different path, the experience equipped him with essential skills, connecting with people, anticipating needs and building lasting relationships.

During his university years, Patrick continued to work within the family forestry enterprise, aiming to eventually lead it. However, challenges arose when the US market downturn led to the loss of their family business and hundreds of jobs. A turning point emerged as Patrick joined the Woodworks initiative, passionately diversifying markets for forestry-based companies across Canada. After six impactful years, Patrick found his place at Bird Construction, where his contributions to the industry continue to thrive.

In this conversation with Patrick, we discuss with him his journey and his take on the future of off-site construction.

To start on a lighthearted note, could you share an interesting tidbit about yourself that the world may not know?

I have a natural talent when it comes to sports involving a racquet. I played varsity tennis at UBC and surprisingly, I won a varsity ping pong championship at UBC despite never having played competitively before.

Moreover, I once made a significant decision to take a year off from university to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. This journey led me and my brother to backpack through New Zealand for a whole year. Although it meant sacrificing my scholarship at UBC, it turned out to be the most enriching educational experience I ever had.

Can you tell us about your current role as the director of the Mass Timber division in Bird Construction? What is your day-to-day like?

As the director of the Mass Timber division at Bird Construction, my role encompasses various essential objectives:

Promoting mass timber adoption: I prioritize educating and encouraging the widespread adoption of mass timber as a highly efficient, code-approved and low-carbon infrastructure solution. Additionally, I emphasize how it can add significant value, up to ten times, to the precious commodity resources produced daily by the forest industry.

Trusted resource for stakeholders: I position myself as a trusted resource for stakeholders involved in the construction process, including owners, architects, engineers and trades. My aim is to provide support and validation for mass timber construction projects.

On a typical day, my activities include:

  1. Supporting project setup: Assisting owners and clients in setting up mass timber projects for success by offering expert advice and guidance.
  2. Collaborating with divisions: Working closely with Bird's commercial and industrial divisions, I provide support during pursuits, pre-construction efforts, procurement and construction phases related to mass timber projects.
  3. Carbon mitigation strategies: Devising strategies to help clients achieve their carbon mitigation objectives by leveraging the unique properties of mass timber.

What unique value does the mass timber division bring to the construction industry?

Bird's Mass Timber Centre of Excellence brings exceptional value to the construction industry through several key initiatives:

Global supply chain and manufacturing understanding: Understanding the mass timber supply chain and designing projects according to its capabilities is crucial for cost-effective mass timber structures. Wood is a natural material and its strength values vary depending on its origin. Each mass timber manufacturer also has specific production limitations and sweet spots, which must be considered during early design and programming exercises.

Creative procurement strategies: Bird has successfully engaged the industry for conceptual value engineering, budgeting, and schedule feedback and then competitively awarded mass timber partners through an apples-to-apples RFP process. This innovative approach has proven effective in streamlining the procurement process.

Competitive course of construction (CoC) insurance rates: Bird's comprehensive moisture management, fire site safety planning and mass timber QA/QC practices have resulted in the company receiving highly competitive mass timber CoC insurance rates in Canada. This effort has been in collaboration with the Canadian Wood Council to address challenges related to insurance premiums associated with mass timber.

Carbon literacy: Bird Construction plays a significant role in helping owners and design teams evaluate the embodied and operational carbon impact of planned projects. The company ensures that design strategies and specified materials do not inadvertently counteract the environmental objectives they were intended to achieve, particularly concerning embodied carbon.

In summary, my role involves advocating for mass timber, supporting clients in project setup and implementing innovative initiatives that bring significant value to the construction industry and contribute to sustainability efforts.

Follow us on LinkedIn to stay tuned for the next edition of ‘Offsite Insights with Patrick Crabbe’. Patrick will be answering questions related to off-site and modular construction, explaining how the off-site industry is evolving and debunking some myths related to off-site construction.