BIM in Canada: CanBIM Innovation Spotlight Awards

CanBIM is a non-profit organization focused on advancing the development and adoption of AEC technology in Canada, and as part of its mission, it hosts an annual awards program, the Innovation Spotlight Awards, to highlight the most innovative work that is being done in the industry. The Awards program — now in its seventh year — also helps to benchmark trends and chart the evolution of AEC technology adoption in Canada. I was able to attend the 2021 Awards presentation a couple of weeks ago and came away with a better understanding of what is happening on the AEC technology front in Canada, the cutting-edge work that is being done, the solutions that are being developed and used, and the research work that is being undertaken in the field at Canadian universities. This article captures the highlights of some of the award-winning projects and solutions.

Gordie Howe International Bridge

Named after Canadian ice hockey player Gordie Howe, this is a 6 lane 2.5 km (1.6 m) long cable-stayed international bridge currently under construction across the Detroit River, connecting Detroit in the US and Windsor in Canada (Figure 1). Not only is it the longest cable-stayed bridge in North America, it is also the longest composite deck bridge in the world. Construction on the project, which also includes the ports of entry on both sides of the bridge (Figure 2), is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

The Gordie Howe International Bridge won several CanBIM Awards for the firm AECOM, which was the Design and Engineering Lead for the project. Being a structure spanning two countries, the design had to conform to both Canadian and US standards. The project team included over 500 members collaborating from around the world, from over 40 AECOM offices as well over 50 consultants and subcontractors. Technology highlights of the project include fully BIM/CIM geo-referenced design coordination, a digital first strategy for collaboration and design certainty, and the use of generative design (Figure 3).

Montréal Heart Institute

The Montréal Heart Institute in Montréal, Quebec (Figure 4), is a specialty hospital dedicated to the development of cardiology that is affiliated with the Université de Montréal.  Founded in in 1954, it is considered one of the largest cardiology institutes in the world, the first educational hospital on cardiovascular diseases in Canada, and one of the largest preventive medicine centers in Quebec. It recently underwent a redevelopment project which included the modernization of the intensive care units, a new emergency room, and the consolidation of ambulatory activities. It also included a simulation laboratory and a 220 seats auditorium for students, which would be housed by adding three floors to an existing pavilion currently housing the emergency.

The construction management of this redevelopment project, which won a CanBIM award, was done by Magil Construction, a leading General Contractor across Canada, using a BIM and IDP (Integrated Design Process) approach. While the contractual obligations were limited to the management of the 3D coordination, Magil took the initiative to use several cutting-edge technologies to reduce the risks typical of a complex project with a fast-track schedule (Figure 5). This included extensive use of laser scanning, global baseline 4D simulation, detailed 4D simulation of work sequence, 4D animation of MEP equipment installation, Openspace virtual visits and BIM verifications, BIM in the field with mobile devices, and the use of virtual reality as well as augmented reality in the field.

Calgary Cancer Centre

Currently under construction, the Calgary Cancer Centre (Figure 6) located in southern Alberta is a state-of-the-art facility that will provide cancer treatment services and serve as a hub for cutting edge cancer research. The architectural and structural design of the project was done by the firm DIALOG in collaboration with Stantec. The MEP design and fabrication is being done by the Canadian firm, Modern Niagara, which won a CanBIM Award for this project, specifically for its work in producing a COBie deliverable for digital delivery. COBie (Construction Operations Building Information Exchange) is an international standard used to capture digital information about a building’s assets.

The COBie deliverable for the Calgary Cancer Center is the largest and most complex to date in Canada, with the collection of over 80,000 asset data points. COBie provided the platform for organizations to maintain data continuity through construction, handover, and facility management. Modern Niagara worked through the challenges of defining the scope assets, how the data will be generated, and how it will be captured and formatted into the COBie file (Figure 7). It also worked on integrating CxAlloy, a commissioning capture software into the workflow to capture COBie data fields for an asset's barcode and serial number. Modern Niagara also created an Excel-based asset tracker that compiled the data created in Revit, CxAlloy, and EcoDomus for every COBie asset (Figure 8). This allowed the team to monitor the progress of COBie data collection more easily and intuitively. EcoDomus was the final step of the process as it facilitated the aggregation of data from multiple data sources including Revit and CxALLOY toward the creation of the COBie data file (Figure 9).

Automated BIM Compliance & QA/QC Reporting Tool

EllisDon is a global construction and building services company with an annual revenue of $3.5 billion, and 15 offices around the world. It is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. It has a dedicated Digital + Data Engineering division that also develops technology in addition to championing its adoption, and one of the departments within it is focused on Virtual Design and Construction (VDC). This department won a CanBIM award for an in-house cloud application it has developed to facilitate the compliance check of various BIM models by utilizing automated, data-driven solutions (Figure 10). The application supports BIM assessment for model health check, LOD and LOI compliance, quantity takeoff, coordination status, design change log, 4D simulations, and planned versus as-built comparison (Figure 11). The platform reduced the time of repetitive manual work of the BIM Manager by around 40% and significantly increased the client's BIM involvement throughout the whole project lifecycle.


Having awards in any sector is a great way to highlight the work that is being done on it, and the same was true of the CanBIM Innovation Spotlight Awards. In addition to the projects featured in this article, I learned about some of the key research work on AEC technology being undertaken at Canadian universities including autonomous robotic data collection and creating a model from laser scans, about some of the leading firms in the Canadian building and construction industry such as EllisDon and Magil Construction, and about solution providers such as SolidCAD, Revizto, and PlanIt who were sponsoring the awards. I was impressed to see the level of adoption, examples of advanced implementation, as well as the software that is being developed by Canadian technology companies. Up until now, the developments in Canada have not been very well known internationally, and the annual CanBIM Awards provide an excellent opportunity to redress this.

About the Author

Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at


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