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September 18, 2018

What’s Feasible and What’s Not?


Long before your lease is up, your organization should be studying its workplace options – gathering information about your current space and staff numbers and estimating your projected headcount. You should also be thinking about all the amenity spaces you might like (lunchrooms, meeting rooms, teaming areas, computer rooms, and libraries, for example).

At the same time, you will be looking at how your organization works. Perhaps its time to rethink the traffic flow among the departments. Maybe the way individuals and teams work together has changed. Does your office space match your culture?

Clearly, one of the first steps should be to find the right architectural and/or interior design team to help. They may be able to determine that a renovation of existing space would answer all your needs, rather than a relocation. If a relocation is in the cards, then a different type of study is done. Test fits help you to select a space that meets your needs most efficiently, while allowing for future growth.

Involving the architect or designer at an early stage can result in real estate savings in a more productive working environment. The test fit will indicate that the space can accommodate your organization; a detailed space plan will elaborate on that with a great deal more detail based on your design parameters and goals.

The other partner to bring onside early is a qualified, reputable general contractor, who can help ensure accurate test fit budgeting. But do understand that the further the design is detailed, the more accurate the budget will be. Be very wary of budgets based only on a simple test fit. Remember, “the devil is in the details.” A good contractor can also review the constructability of early design concepts, performing value engineering before the design development is finalized.

Not just design details but also a good understanding of the unique building conditions is needed.

Recently, we worked in a midtown office building where the nature of the building itself resulted in a huge noise problem for adjacent tenants. The only solution was to go to all after hours work, which strained both the budget and the schedule. Because of that experience, we’re able to inform potential tenants and their design teams about this matter upfront.

That’s the kind of issue that isn’t revealed by a feasibility, test fit or review of the tenant manual.

When bringing in a contractor to help with that early decision making, make sure to ask about their experience with, and intimate knowledge of, the properties being considered. They just might be able to save you time and money immediately.



February 21, 2018

You Can Go Home Again – and You’ll Be Welcome


Most of us know the famous quote from the title of the Thomas Mann book, “You Can’t Go Home Again”. The author’s point was that you can’t truly go back to a place you once lived because so much will have changed since you left that it is not the same place anymore – nor are you the same person who left.

Here at Gillanders, we like to think that the experience of working with us does change over the years, always for the better. That’s one reason we’re always delighted when a former client does come home to us again.

For example, for many years, one of our clients, a large, national law firm headquartered in Toronto, relied on our service.

As their Facilities Manager told us, “I never lost sleep, even on our first major project. Their site supervision was constant and effective. Over the following years, they were our on-call contractor, willing to handle any size of job, any time. They were so responsive; if a problem showed up on Friday night; it was fixed by Monday morning. That level of responsiveness is especially important in a law firm environment. They really understand that environment, how law firms work and what it takes to achieve a successful project for us.”

But when it came time for the firm to relocate, the selection committee thought they needed a bigger company and chose one with whom they had no existing service relationship. We were sorry not to be chosen, but wished the client the best of luck with the big move.


In fact, only months after their relocation, the Facility Manager was on the phone asking us to resolve some problems.


It seems that working with the huge constructor was not a happy experience, at all. Instead it was marked by poor communication; missed deadlines; inadequate site supervision (despite billing for multiple site supervisors); and worst of all, more that a year after the move, incomplete close out with outstanding deficiencies. It had been a long nightmare for the law firm, the designers and the project managers.  As the Facility Manager said, “It just shouldn’t be that painful.”


Some people might think we’d be delighted to hear about a competitor’s poor performance. But sadly, that kind of experience casts a shadow on our whole industry and we hate to hear it. However, we hastened to resolve the outstanding problems and get things back on an even keel for the benefit of all involved.


Despite the unfortunate reason for it, it is a great pleasure for us to be serving the firm again. We have welcomed them “home” wholeheartedly.



August 31, 2017

Why Hiring Local Makes Sense


Have you noticed how much emphasis there is now on farm-to-table eating, locally brewed beers and regional wines? On local artists and musicians? Most people recognize the value and importance of those kinds of local buying.

But what about when hiring a construction manager?

There are some important benefits of “buying local” in that area, too.

Local firms can act more quickly if there are problems because they don’t need to search for the right contacts to remedy the issue. Local constructors have extensive knowledge of the relevant building codes and regulations and approval processes. They don’t just know the regulations, but more importantly, they know and have worked with the people who enforce them. And they have a stronger grasp on the local pricing and availability of quality trades and suppliers.

Our business is about relationships. The people involved in the local constructor community have relationships with the local architects, designers, suppliers, subtrades, municipal authorities and others who are important to the success of any project. A non-local firm, or a branch of a big out-of-town firm, may have some contacts, but is unlikely to have the strong relationships developed over years of collaboration and shared problem-solving.

By hiring a local firm, you gain the peace of mind of knowing that someone intimately familiar with the market is problem-solving on your behalf.

Sometimes, decision makers choose large national or international firms because they think the quality of the end product will be better. In fact, the local firms work hard to maintain their carefully established market reputations, which are based on providing the best quality results combined with prompt, reliable, service to their clients.

When hiring a constructor to help you with your renovation or new office development journey, choose a firm that can offer a relationship built on trust, familiarity and personalized service. When you find a locally owned firm that has been in the community for decades, they offer more than building skills – they give you the knowledge, expertise, network and attention you deserve.

And on a higher level, working with a local firm helps you help the community. Significantly more of your investment will stay in the area, making a much greater local economic impact.

Everybody wins.



May 17, 2017

Keeping It Safe


On May 11, the Ontario government launched several initiatives to prevent worker deaths, injuries and illness in the construction sector as part of Ontario’s Construction Health and Safety Action Plan. That plan contains 16 recommendations to create a more knowledgeable, skilled sector and to increase the sector’s compliance with occupational health and safety laws. Notably, in addition to enhanced worker awareness and training, it calls for more targeted enforcement, exploring opportunities to expand the application of tickets,

There are compelling reasons for this program. About 30% of all work-related traumatic fatalities and occupational disease fatality claims for workplaces in Ontario occurred in the construction sector, even though it comprises only 6.7 per cent of all provincial employment.

Of course, most of those terrible accidents don’t take place on commercial interiors projects, in which we specialize. Still, at Gillanders, we are always working to improve safety performance. And we are very proud of our CAD 7 safety rating from WSIB, which is the highest rating attainable.

Our Accident Prevention and Safety Plan is distributed onsite to ensure all personnel and trades people are fully equipped to deal will accidents and keep our sites safe. At the start of each project, it is important to designate persons representing both the workers and management who are responsible for ensuring the adherence to the safety plan. The health and safety reps can also be responsible for relaying the schedule to all affected personnel, including building maintenance and security. We want to be sure that the workers and tenants are communicating and agree on the methods being used to correct problems when they occur.

We are known for our ability to carry out complex interior renovations with the least disruption to our clients’ businesses … and that includes safeguarding their employees. Whenever possible, we use physical barriers to isolate the work activities from occupied spaces. We pay special attention to sealing ventilation systems and minimizing contaminant migration between spaces. We also make certain that all proper exits are maintained or suitable alternates designated.

What may not be as obvious is the role that our commitment to quality plays in keeping everyone safe. You see, because we set a high quality standard for the work from the outset, you can be confident that there will be no sloppiness, no hastiness, no need for rework and no enhanced risks.

Your project stays on schedule; your goals are met; your business continues to run smoothly … and everyone is safe.



March 24, 2017

What a Party!


Celebrating Our 60th Anniversary and Investing in the Future

We were delighted that so many real estate, design and corporate leaders joined us at the Toronto Board of Trade on Thursday, March 23, to celebrate our Diamond Jubilee, a remarkable milestone in our history.

As our President, Berto Ramos, said, “The new Gillanders logo is a highly visible symbol of change, but it simply represents the brand, which is really made up of every aspect of the connection between ourselves and the clients we serve – our promise and our performance. New challenges have arisen in our industry, and our responses have changed accordingly. But not our core values of integrity, value, service and quality. We remain to true to our history while we focus on being a 21st century organization.”

Berto thanked the clients, building owners and managers, project managers, and the many talented designers whose visions we’ve made real over the years.

In recognition of the role of design in our industry, VP Mark Tomjenovic announced our investment in the future of the industry – the establishment of the annual Gillanders Diamond Scholarships, one for each of a 2nd year and 4th year student in Ryerson’s Design Technology program. The awards will recognize the way their work demonstrates an in-depth understanding of construction technology and how it affects the quality of their designs. These students will have successfully brought together the art of building science and the design of a commercial, institutional or retrofitted projects.

As do we, from the construction perspective.



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