By Ted McIntyre
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Innovative construction and community efforts propel Tridel to second straight title
Remember those childhood tug-of-wars where once your team started pulling in unison, the momentum seemingly grew exponentially until your opposition lay at your feet? It’s becoming a little like that for Tridel. Recipient of OHBA’s Ontario Home Builder of the Year honours for the second straight year, Canada’s largest builder of condominium homes was justifiably proud of its two stunning Toronto projects up for Awards of Distinction at this year’s annual conference: Aquabella and Via Bloor.
But the prestigious award is often less about what you build than about the manner in which you conduct business. And Tridel has pretty much written the blueprint on the latter. “I think it’s just the manner in which we approach the entire process, and have done for generations,” suggests Tridel Executive V.P. of Sales and Marketing Jim Ritchie, whose company also won the Builder of Year crown in 2009.
Midhaven Homes is the only other builder to capture OHBA’s top annual honour on back-to-back occasions, having claimed the first two ever handed out in 2005 and 2006. “It’s a mindset—how we approach the community we’re going to build in, how we interact with municipal staff in terms of the approvals process, how we engage the consumer in terms of how the products being developed,” adds Ritchie. “Anywhere there’s a touchpoint in dealing with consumers, it’s Tridel staff at the forefront.That might sound obvious, but it’s our own sales people, our own customer care people and our own construction people doing the most important things.
We’re very, very careful about that process. One thing we’ve heard many times in our industry is that there is not enough communication between the home builder and future homeowner. We make sure our customer is engaged, from the initial point where they buy the home, until they move in and certainly afterward as well. In the condo environment we can take that even further, since we have a sister company that manages the building and maintains the lifestyle we try to put forward. It’s like conducting an orchestra, where you try to have everyone in tune together.”
Beyond its excellence in customer service, Tridel has played a leadership role through provincial stakeholder engagement and piloting various initiatives to push the envelope in resilient buildings. “The greening of our buildings is a process we started some time ago,” notes Ritchie.
“Since 2005, we’ve brought forward about 11 million square feet in LEED-compliant buildings, and we’re now marketing LEED Platinum with both of our new projects in Toronto’s Bayside Community. And we’re currently working on our first Net Zero suite, which is being developed in our Aqualina building, which we’ll be able to demonstrate next April.
“It’s nice to get those (environmental) labels, but what it really means is a better product in terms of how the building itself uses energy, and also how it provides a more comfortable environment for the consumer,” says Ritchie. “We’re doing a good thing in the big picture, but the benefits accrue to the homeowners and the condo corporation in the long term, since their operating expenses are lower.”
Tridel also supports social change through programs such as B.O.L.T. (Building Opportunities for Life Today), which has helped increase participation in the trades—particularly among those without the financial wherewithal to attend college—raising more than $2.8 million and upwards of 240+ scholarships. Tridel’s Bowery Project, meanwhile, continues to turn vacant spaces on its development sites into places to grow food for the YMCA, while its Take Action initiative is an employee-driven (and management-supported) initiative that has ranged from diverting 1,634 batteries from landfill in its first year, to recycling thousands of pounds of e-waste, to building schools in South America and Africa, to raising funds for prostate cancer and Habitat for Humanity builds.
Winner of 10 categories at this 2017 BILD Awards, including Mid/High-Rise Home Builder of the Year and Green Builder of the Year (for the eighth time!), Tridel’s success is ingrained from its initial hirings, explains Ritchie. “There’s a lot of competition for skilled employees, but I think we have a bit of an advantage in that we have a very strong brand, so we leverage that a bit. We have a good program in place to find good talent, but a lot of it is homegrown. We have intern programs at Tridel, whether in construction, project management or sales, where people are hired at an entry-level position with the thought that down the road they’re going to move up in that specific discipline. We tend to hire our management people from our support people.”
It’s all part of creating a culture, says Ritchie. “If you put a team together that’s focused with a single ideal—to provide an experience and product that the consumer will enjoy—then, over time, things will look after themselves.”