In this session of PLE partners, we talked to Ian Gray of Actis Projects. We really gel well with his team of young, talented individuals. Ian brings fresh ideas, innovation and an enthusiasm for every project that is unique in the industry.
About Activs Projects
Actis Projects is a full-service Vancouver-based construction company. They provide a wide array of construction services including home renovations and additions, home building, condo and strata renovations, commercial projects, and remote access work. With a diverse range of experience and a reputation for timely, clear communication, Actis consistently delivers the best possible product.
How did you get started in general contracting?
Ian: I walked across the alley from my home for a summer job and joined a crew working on a house. That’s how I started. It was a summer job and then part time during university. I found myself keep going back to it, gained experience and skills. I was one of the guys on site who would try and find solutions instead of just throwing their hands in the air and be like, “I can’t do this.”
I then worked my way up because it was more money and more fun. And then eventually I hit the top of the ladder and then you say; “what’s beyond the ladder and you’re like, well, I build my own ladder. I’m going to start my own company.” That’s kind of how it happened.
What do you like best about your job?
Ian: I like working with a great team of people to actually produce something cool and it is something people get to use for 30 plus years, whether it’s a house or something commercial.
I like bringing a plan to fruition, navigating the ups and downs of any construction job, leading the clients through that. I’ve been through it all. I make the journey as enjoyable as possible and the design aspect is really cool.
I also like the management side, coupled with the hands-on construction part. There’s a lot of planning that goes into construction, such as spreadsheets, plans, coordination, but then the result of that are very tangible. You get to see the fruits of your labour.
What is your biggest challenge on the job?
Ian: I’d say the biggest challenge is just being clear on what everyone’s expectations are, whether that’s finding out exactly what the client’s looking for or what their priorities are. If I’m really clear on what their priorities are then I can design and plan something really well.
If their ideas are less clear, then it becomes more difficult. We make every effort to make communication as clear as possible. I think we do a decent job, but I’d say if we know what people expect and what the subtrades need then that’s like 80% of it.
What is one thing that people don’t generally know about your trait?
Ian: We are the centrepiece in the wheel that brings the house together. We need to know quite a bit about every single subtrade.
Although we are not plumbers, we need to know 70% of what plumbers do, electricians, roofers etc. The trades bring professional opinions and their expertise, but we need to have a pretty good handle on their skills and be aware of their scopes.
We need to frame things with their jobs in mind. We need to know what they are talking about so we can plan and build accordingly.
What’s your favourite project that you worked on?
Ian: The list is so long. I would say one of my favourite projects would be this four-unit heritage home I did in Kitsilano. It was an earlier project I have done and it was a pretty large, lifted house. We moved it seven feet and laid new foundations and all heritage elements had to be intact. That was kind of early on in my career too so it was pretty formative as far as like: ‘Hey, can we do this?’ And then we discovered yes. So that was really exciting. I drive by it frequently and it still looks good. It’s holding up great. The people are taking care of it. There are a lot of cool things we’ve done. That was one that probably sticks out right now as one of my favourite ones.
But you know, we’ve done lots of the first high-performance homes too.
I’ve also done some remote access jobs which are pretty cool too. We had the guys over on Keats Island. That was the coolest day I’ve ever had in construction. It was the day that we helicopter-installed a bunkhouse onto some foundations down a crazy slope. That was very exciting and awesome.
That brings slightly different construction challenges because you’re running into what makes financial sense which starts to change as the cost of people being there increases so that you focus more on large material deliveries which necessitate more planning. Coordination becomes super important because you can’t just go to the supplier for something so it just presents a few other challenges. It’s not something everyone has the appetite for so some of those jobs could be pretty cool as well.
What do you like best about working with PLE?
Ian: One of my favourite things is just the communication. I’ve always got four or five jobs going on at the same time and they’re all at different phases and I’m all over the place. I’m getting new jobs, running jobs, and their communication is great. They let me know, basically every day, what the status is, where they’re at, and what they need for me to continue to do their job well.
It’s always very clear, concise communication. My other favourite thing is quality, great value, and trusted people as well. I like have no equivocations leaving them completely alone on a job site. Even members of the crew, even those who I haven’t met yet, or are meeting for the first time, are great.
We can chat about the job real quick and then I know it’s going to be taken care of. With some other painting crews maybe the salesman communicates well but the people actually on the job don’t, and that can create issues and headaches that I just don’t have time for.
How does PLE make your job easier?
Ian: They make my job easier by quoting accurately as well, not giving the best-case scenario price but giving me the price that is not going to change. That helps a lot.
When they say they’re going to be there, they’re going to be there. That makes a big difference as well. The professionalism of their crew speaks a lot to the types of people that we work with and our other trades and just gives everyone peace of mind.
And if everyone is at ease, than I am at ease because one of my primary jobs is to make sure that the trades are comfortable with the whole situation.
Experience is key. As you’re working on someone’s house and, depending what you’re doing, it could be a significant expenditure for the client and probably the biggest one of their lives. And if one of the trades has never done a large construction job before, it can be problematic. I need to feel comfortable with the people working on the client’s house. That is super important. PLE brings the experience to every sing job so I don’t have to worry.