the Site Visit

Buildex 2024 D2E11 | Revolutionizing Vancouver's Housing Scene with Mike Dias, Construction Manager at Spire Development Corporation

March 07, 2024 Andrew Hansen, James Faulkner, Christian Hamm
Buildex 2024 D2E11 | Revolutionizing Vancouver's Housing Scene with Mike Dias, Construction Manager at Spire Development Corporation
the Site Visit
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the Site Visit
Buildex 2024 D2E11 | Revolutionizing Vancouver's Housing Scene with Mike Dias, Construction Manager at Spire Development Corporation
Mar 07, 2024
Andrew Hansen, James Faulkner, Christian Hamm

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Discover the innovative trifecta that's transforming the Vancouver housing landscape, as we sit down with Mike Dias from Spire Development Corporation to dissect their integrated approach to construction, development, and investment. We navigate through the complexities of the market, from the inception of Spire Capital to the strategic decisions impacting their latest 112-unit rental venture. Mike's candid revelations on balancing construction cost inflation with project viability offer a rare glimpse into the real-world challenges facing today's developers.

Switching gears, we dig into the tech side of construction with a behind-the-scenes look at SiteMax's project management software. Tailored to adapt to clients' evolving demands, especially in the sub-trades, the software's growth is a testament to the power of customer feedback. Integration with established systems like Sage and the introduction of new features like time cards underscores our commitment to efficiency and client satisfaction. And, because we understand the value of connection beyond the screen, we reveal how SiteMax fosters a unique community through our open-door Fridays – think cold beer and warm handshakes. Join us to hear these stories and more, while deepening your industry insight with a team that's building more than just structures, we're building relationships.

PODCAST INFO:
the Site Visit Website: https://www.sitemaxsystems.com/podcast
the Site Visit on Buzzsprout: https://thesitevisit.buzzsprout.com/269424
the Site Visit on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-site-visit/id1456494446
the Site Visit on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5cp4qJE5ExZmO3EwldN1HH

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Discover the innovative trifecta that's transforming the Vancouver housing landscape, as we sit down with Mike Dias from Spire Development Corporation to dissect their integrated approach to construction, development, and investment. We navigate through the complexities of the market, from the inception of Spire Capital to the strategic decisions impacting their latest 112-unit rental venture. Mike's candid revelations on balancing construction cost inflation with project viability offer a rare glimpse into the real-world challenges facing today's developers.

Switching gears, we dig into the tech side of construction with a behind-the-scenes look at SiteMax's project management software. Tailored to adapt to clients' evolving demands, especially in the sub-trades, the software's growth is a testament to the power of customer feedback. Integration with established systems like Sage and the introduction of new features like time cards underscores our commitment to efficiency and client satisfaction. And, because we understand the value of connection beyond the screen, we reveal how SiteMax fosters a unique community through our open-door Fridays – think cold beer and warm handshakes. Join us to hear these stories and more, while deepening your industry insight with a team that's building more than just structures, we're building relationships.

PODCAST INFO:
the Site Visit Website: https://www.sitemaxsystems.com/podcast
the Site Visit on Buzzsprout: https://thesitevisit.buzzsprout.com/269424
the Site Visit on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-site-visit/id1456494446
the Site Visit on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5cp4qJE5ExZmO3EwldN1HH

FOLLOW ALONG:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thesitevisit
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thesitevisit

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Site. Visit podcast. Leadership and perspective from construction With your host, James Faulkner.

Speaker 2:

Live from BuildX Vancouver 2024.

Speaker 1:

Mike, hello, welcome to the Site Visit.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1:

It's been a long time, yeah, since you've been customers of SiteMax and now we get to meet you.

Speaker 2:

That's fantastic.

Speaker 1:

So Spire Development, just take us through your interaction, what you're doing with the company, just the entire intro of everything with Spire and what you're out there to achieve and conquer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, we're doing a lot of exciting things. It's Spire Construction, Spire Development, Spire Capital. Wow, so it's three arms yeah we recently launched a Capital Okay Company, so if you have any you want to invest your money, then come over here.

Speaker 1:

Oh, interesting yeah, Okay, so just tell us about that for a second.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, basically it's what I said. You know, if you need some help, you got some equity you want to use and invest. Yeah, I'm probably not the best to speak about it because I'm the construction guy I got you. I got you, I can invite Chris Hens over here one day. Chris Hens, yeah, he's one of the partners there.

Speaker 1:

Okay, great.

Speaker 2:

Lawrence Green and Pete Rackow are also partners through partying. Yeah, so those three have really done an awesome job launching that and it's thriving.

Speaker 1:

Everybody's super excited about it, yeah, so basically I don't want to get into too much.

Speaker 2:

It's a larger scale investment, right, I see, oh, that's cool. So into projects and stuff like that, yeah, generally into construction projects, that's our main focus, right, so is it kind of a reed or not.

Speaker 1:

We're not doing mutual funds. No, I know it's like a real estate investment trust kind of thing. The reeds Correct. Okay, cool, correct, that's cool.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, yeah, we're all excited about it.

Speaker 1:

I mean, I think what's really cool about that is as a name and a brand, it really adds credibility, understanding, especially if you're doing, depending on the work that you're doing, especially get the financial side. It really adds that kind of like yeah, we get all of it. Especially managing money I mean as a developer, even a contractor doing all that kind of stuff, like you guys are managing money is the hardest part.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the nice thing is they got free consulting. Oh no, it's not free, no, but we do have like a very deep depth of understanding construction. You know, being in that capital investment, you always need to draw on that sort of experience. All they have to do is walk down to the other side of the office and tap us on the shoulder and we give them everything they need. So there's a lot of perks in having that all in one house.

Speaker 1:

I would imagine, yeah, the communication is probably very key.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, development's been since day one. Development arm Pete Lawrence again partners on that. They've been extremely successful on that. Construction is an assist there. We do all the budgeting and estimating or estimating department and, yeah, it's been nothing but a success. You know countless buildings and we're just super excited about our upcoming project. It's been in the cooker for a few years now.

Speaker 1:

Let's talk about that.

Speaker 2:

It's Fire Landing 2. So where is this? The location was Fraser 56. It's a 112 units rental building.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

Speaker 2:

So we're happy to be providing more inventory for the Vancouver market.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, totally.

Speaker 2:

It's a big topic these days housing.

Speaker 1:

So, as a developer, how much stress do you guys have? I mean, that's obviously Metro Vancouver. That's a huge problem. Obviously. It's landlocked, you've got water everywhere, you've got the boundary, you've got basically Fraser River and people want to live in Vancouver proper or Burnaby, etc. What is that pressure for you guys as a developer to be providing that kind of stuff and, from a capital point of view, obviously a rental building? So are you guys managing the rental after that, or is it just I mean this is your property. This is your property, Todd.

Speaker 2:

It was our property.

Speaker 1:

Right, okay.

Speaker 2:

Well partnership agreement. Okay, I'm not going to get into the partnership.

Speaker 1:

For you. Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

Speaker 2:

But yeah, no, we managed the last one. It was part of landing one. It's right across the street. Okay, super excited to do the next phase.

Speaker 1:

The next one. Okay, yeah, it was that one.

Speaker 2:

a rental one as well, yeah, yeah yeah, okay, the last one was Passive House. Okay, the second one. Unfortunately we did have to drop the Passive House Okay, which, you know we would have been in the ground a little sooner than now, but it's just. You know, everybody's aware of the cost of construction and what it's done the last seven years.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Ten years or, but most of the activity in the last several years unbelievable. The inflation yeah.

Speaker 1:

I mean, how has that impacted you guys? You know a couple years ago, I think nobody.

Speaker 2:

There wasn't too many. Unless you had tenured a project within the last six months, you wouldn't have an idea what that final number would be.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's got to be like you can't plan anything based on that. Well, I mean, you don't know that until you ended up tendering it and you're like oh oh oh, it's almost like you know flying to a trip and then happening to figure out what your expenses and your hotel are Like. Usually you want to do that prior to you're basically landing in a place that you've got a course correct and figure out how your money's going to get to a stretch. And you know supply chains are weird.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the ability to pivot quickly, and you know we had to make quick decision. We dropped passive. On the second one, right, I mean Metro Vancouver, or say Metro Vancouver, the city of Vancouver is very particular on their building requirements. I'm not going to get into the technical nature of that, but a lot of those requirements that were passive didn't get dropped. We were able to reduce, like insulation requirements, energy model requirements. Like you know, passive house you're not allowed to, you're allowed minimal penetrations into the building. Now that's a little, you know, lessened and you know. So that is a big relief and I think you know at this point we're very confident on marching forward into the spring and putting some shovels in the ground.

Speaker 1:

That's awesome. That's going to be good. We're really excited about it. So I mean, maybe we'll talk about, like you know, you've adopted technology, you've done some stuff. You know we worked together. We've been working together for a while with SiteMax and you know how's that been going with you guys.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you know, I don't even remember how long we've been using SiteMax, for I've used it in the past, before, and you know we adopted SiteMax quite honestly because you guys have it looks like a fantastic product at the time. But you know, let's be honest here, your pricing is good, like in terms of what's out there, because price is a big thing. I mean, you know, everybody's got bottom lines and we got to make the numbers work.

Speaker 1:

Especially with the uncertainties out there in terms of what everything's going to cost.

Speaker 2:

So running lean and mean, you know SiteMax fits into that equation but it, you know, incredibly does everything we need. You know there's since the last couple of years it's grown a lot and super excited and impressed what it's done in the last year. I mean I think you guys are grounded a lot in safety management before and Site kind of activity. You've moved, pivoted your product, I would say expanded your product into project management, which is a challenging environment.

Speaker 1:

It's very challenging.

Speaker 2:

It's a challenging because there's a lot of, I think, what you guys done. There is found a sweet spot of what you need to provide and I've seen. I spent countless hours and I'm not going to get into which other software as I looked into because I don't want to, I don't want to go there. However, I spent countless hours and there are some phenomenal softwares out there, you know, but like what? Like I don't. You know you don't need to like. Sometimes, if you use all the features, you'd have to hire somebody to run the features.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense Exactly. So out of the box, yeah, so out of the out of the box.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's a lot, you know. When something works out of the box, yeah, then it. You know it's a great thing. Okay, that makes sense.

Speaker 1:

So one of the compliments we got is that, um, sitemax still allows your company to be agile, and that was something I was like oh yeah, it's something that we've always tried to be able to bend the product a little bit for our customers. And the agility is something I think people are really wanting, because I think that when something's too rigid, you can't really. A lot of people do things a lot of different ways. Absolutely, and we see that on the sub-trade side, a lot is that people can hear this.

Speaker 1:

We have 14 of these podcasts and I'm going to say something for like the fifth time but often what happens is many sub-trades have invented their processes. They didn't necessarily come from project management school or whatever it is, or accounting school or whatever it is, for construction specifically, so they've actually invented all of the things that they've done. They used to do it on paper. Now they're like, yeah, but we've been doing this and we've been a successful sub-trade for since 1990, whatever, and we've been going for 30, 40 years and we don't really want to change, but we just want it to be digital and that's that agility that SiteMax has been able to provide for people is to be able to have what their beloved invention was, and now it's here.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's funny you mentioned that. I think you guys you've got that small company, like attention to your client, which I like. When you say that you are willing to adapt, because that's a perfect example of a bigger corporation, they don't hear your voice. And when I, you guys actually take my feedback and you've been implemented into some of the features in project management and I'm impressed that you actually listen and I'm impressed by the developers that you guys have. They've done a great job.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they're going to love to hear that. Yeah, pump their tires. Yeah, pump their tires. Their tires need to be pumped often, because often it's not a thankless job but to have a customer say something like that. So, thank you very much. Yeah, nikolai Gallum, Sam Steven.

Speaker 2:

I think all of them. I think I've made contact with most of them, not all of them, and they all they kind of own the product right. They're not just punching the clock.

Speaker 1:

No, I mean, as you said, like the product's actually become quite robust now and it's, I mean, there's a lot of data, there's a lot of data, there's a lot of calls every day on the API.

Speaker 2:

There's like I mean it's when you are a critical tool for a company at this day and age, you have to adopt technology or else I don't know how successful you're going to be. You can be somewhat successful, but you're not going to be fully successful if you don't adopt some sort of platforms for project management and data management, accounting management. I mean you guys do a great job of filling in the project, project management and site management. Yeah, exactly Us. Personally, we weren't super keen on trying to get one software platform to manage our finances and project management, because you already have an accounting software and the accounting software is, these days, do a decent job of they do I mean the one behind us, right here.

Speaker 2:

I mean Sage is yeah, and they're A fantastic company, yeah they're getting.

Speaker 1:

I mean, we're a Sage partner with them and we've got a lot of things that we're doing coming up.

Speaker 2:

Oh really Okay that's very interesting yeah.

Speaker 1:

No, she's good. No, it's all good.

Speaker 2:

So we Are you going to create a? Is it like some, like the API, change orders management.

Speaker 1:

Well we're dealing with. We're looking at what you basically call end points, what end points we're sending backwards and forwards. So it's evolving and evolving and evolving. So we're going to look up where we can really focus our attention on those project management pieces. And also there's other things that are. Time is another one, how time goes into the system as well. There's that for a lot of our customers Time cards and then the POs as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the time cards function is great. We're using it. Yeah, you know we're with Spectrum. They're great and we've had a lot of success with integrating time card function and it's been a big relief. We used to do paper time cards. Yeah, I mean everybody's happier it's interesting.

Speaker 1:

So there's a shout out to Anderson. There's a guy from Power Shockrate, a customer of ours. I went to the VRCA's Christmas luncheon. I was there and basically whoever we see and we come across it are customers of ours. I always go to take them to the bar and get some drinks and we're there.

Speaker 2:

No, I didn't make it. No, I've been for a while. He would have had a drink if you had a. Oh yeah, you would have seen me there. Yeah, I would have.

Speaker 1:

But I came up and he's not in the leadership team, he's in the technology team and a younger guy and he came up to me and he goes. He goes Sightmax oh my God, he goes. It's so good to meet you. He goes. I got to tell you, harold used to take me an hour and a half and now it takes me 15 minutes for Sightmax. Yeah, and he's like I can't tell you I love this, like I've just dialed this thing in, so like to hear things like that that you are. Yeah, of course there's efficiencies everyone's trying to get. Sometimes it's just the same thing, but digital and it still takes a long time.

Speaker 1:

Safety is that way because you can't really get around it. You want actually everyone to read sentences and check boxes that are they're actually taking responsibility. Yeah, it's not just like going down the list. I've seen this list every day for the past 300 days and I'm just it's like they're zoning it out. They're like I've never checked. No to that one, so I just let go. No every time. This kind of stuff, the efficiencies, you're never going to. The minute that safety becomes too efficient is the time that an accident happens. So there's some things that are designed and should be arduous, because it means that you're being careful, whereas when it comes to time cards, when it comes to other stuff like that, you can rip and replace and get through things like that and create wicked automations, because the outcome is really not someone dying, it's just the speed of someone adopting stuff quickly on site. So there's a lot of opportunities on our side, on anything but safety, to really really dial in speed.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the user base that you guys have. You have the non-paid user base, which is great because everybody has access to that information safety manual.

Speaker 1:

Yeah well, the other thing. I mean, you don't know that this is coming yet, but SiteFlow, we're just launching that right now.

Speaker 1:

So, SiteFlow and then SMX Connect, which allows everybody to go and log in and they don't have to use a, they could just log in with their phone number, that's it. Don't have to download the app, don't have to do anything. So all subs can basically go in there and you can give them, you can scan a QR code at site and you can go through an entire process that you guys set up. Siteflow says do this, do this watch this video, read this, do this. And it tells you where they are on that stage and that step. Oh, cool, yeah. And they sign it at the end and say they've done it so and that's unbelievable. So you can build those workflows in SiteFlow.

Speaker 2:

Oh, that'd be great. Yeah, I'm super excited about that, and maybe you guys just send an email to your clients.

Speaker 1:

We do when it does come out yeah, so actually the Karina and Marge that right now they've shown me their, they've got a video of how it all works and I've got a little release on it that SiteFlow is coming out and SMX Connect, so yeah, pretty exciting stuff for us. I mean, the main thing that we want to always do is we do understand that you know, as a developer or the general contractor, you know as someone responsible for the project, you can't not every sub is going to want to use your system. They just they've got their own stuff, but you have to need to make it as quick and easy as possible for them so that they don't have to like remember what their password was from some app. That you because they go to lots of sites right, and that you want it to be the grease in the wheels and grease in the gears, to make it easy for you guys at your site.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

That's our main thing is getting rid of the barriers.

Speaker 2:

Well, you mentioned that. It's funny. One of the reasons I did like SiteMax when we initially switched is the less found that some of the other softwares were a bit spammy in terms of follow ups and it was hard to disable those options. Your guys' product I find a little less.

Speaker 1:

Like less garbage coming in the air.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, there's less garbage, less reminders like forced reminders, which is nice because you know guys don't need to remind it every second day that they haven't done it efficiently.

Speaker 1:

I see.

Speaker 2:

So that customizability was great.

Speaker 1:

So, in terms of you know some of the things that you're using, some of the successes you found, like, what are some of the parts in SiteMax that you're like oh, that's just awesome the way that works.

Speaker 2:

I'd say, you know, the punch list is definitely heavily used. It's probably the main. You know the features that we like Time cards has been the best I know and I'm going to and it's going to be and you're working on that as well, right.

Speaker 1:

We are because one of our customers' town line. We've been working very closely with them on requirements for closeout so we got some. The locations has been way updated so you can make your locations ahead in advance but more detailed, another level as well, because I don't think we only had three levels of locations and we have more than that. So that's really good. So you can go into. You go, for instance, if you have a multi-tower project, you can be. You know this tower, this floor, this unit, this room, this area within the.

Speaker 2:

So that's pretty amazing and it's automated based on your location.

Speaker 1:

It's not automated, but it is just the areas you can set up with way more ease than you were before, with more detail.

Speaker 2:

Okay, that's great yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so it's going to be really, really cool. So we've been working hard on that to make Punchlist really dialed in, because I don't want to name names of other competitors, but there was a company that a lot of developers were using that has deprecated their product, so they're just not doing it anymore. They're now into resource management. So that was one of the requests we had from the customer was like look, we were using this before and it's just not going to be there for us anymore. So there's these things that we kind of need within your Punchlist module to work. So it's there now.

Speaker 2:

Great. Yeah, honestly though it's funny I didn't expect this to be the best feature, or was it time cards? Yeah, yeah, the time cards were great. The accounting loves it. Just as you explained the amount of time it takes to do your payrolls like down significantly.

Speaker 1:

It's tough to do. It's tough to do especially with our customers in the States. We've got all of these conditions and all the stuff of like you know how, you know different union rates and like, yeah, tagging and all that. It's got a lot of scuffs, got to be very, very complex, so it's hard to do. Well, yeah, it's a basic time card.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and you guys fine-tuned the drawing management. That's a super important feature. It really is because you know, like having all your drawings updated not only updated but also being able to go back and see, like, say, you're looking at drawing 825.3 and you can see revision, you know, you can even go back to the tender version of that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly.

Speaker 2:

And you know when you're debating with a subcontractor on site, you know whether it was part of the IFTs or you know. You just scroll back in the conversation short rather than like, oh, I got to go back to my office.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's cool. Yeah, well it's. This has been awesome. I really appreciate you coming on and getting to meet you.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, pleasure to meet you. Thank you very much.

Speaker 1:

And you know always, you know we're not far away. Fridays we always have, are you downtown often, yeah, the odd time, yeah, okay, well, we've got a beer, beer on tap in the office. You always come by, you're always welcome at SiteMax. Sure, yeah, and everyone else has that open invite. But you know it's well, it's like to be very, you know, close to our customers. Anyway, we can be in deep in relationship. So, thank you Great, thank you for having me. Okay, great Thanks, mike. Well, that does it for another episode of the Site Business. Thank you for listening. Be sure to stay connected with us by following our social accounts on Instagram and YouTube. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter at sitemaxsystemscom slash, the site visit, where you'll get industry insights, pro tips and everything you need to know about the Site Visit podcast and SiteMax, the job site and construction management tool of choice for thousands of contractors in North America and beyond. Sitemax is also the engine that powers this podcast. All right, let's get back to building.

Spire Development and Construction Interview
SiteMax Project Management Software Discussion
SiteMax Building Relationships With Customers