REALtalk – with Geoff Smith & Kieran Hawe (EllisDon)



On this episode of REALtalk, EllisDon CEO Geoff Smith and COO Kieran Hawe join REALPAC CEO Michael Brooks to talk about the current challenges in and the evolution of the construction industry in Canada. People, technology, sustainability, and managing the business in a difficult environment are all discussed.

The episode covers:

  • The state of the construction industry generally – problems and issues
  • Top of mind issues in constructing buildings for the commercial real estate industry in Canada today
  • People in construction: shortage of labour, barriers to entry into the profession (immigration drop, racism, training, perception), margins, scheduling
  • EllisDon’s response and opportunities for technology adoption and other innovations in CRE construction to address these issues
  • Current themes on the owner side of real estate; sustainability, innovation and PropTech, adaptive reuse, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and the response from the construction industry
  • How clients’ needs have changed around building sustainable buildings and demand for skills
  • How general contractors are managing pricing and risk in construction and what’s the way forward
  • What will change in construction moving forward, and what will remain the same

Geoff Smith is the President & Chief Executive Officer of EllisDon, an employee-owned, $5 billion-a-year construction services and technology company that has grown exponentially beyond its modest origins in London, Ontario. With over 5,000 salaried and hourly employees across fifteen national and international offices, EllisDon has become a leader in every facet of the construction industry. Geoff earned his law degree from the University of Toronto and was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1981. After joining EllisDon in 1983, he quickly gained experience across various management positions, including Field Operations, Legal and Labour Relations and Executive Leadership.

In 1996, at the height of a trying time at EllisDon, Geoff was named President and CEO. Through a redefinition of its construction offering, Geoff reinvented EllisDon as a ‘Cradle to Grave’ services provider with guaranteed performance outcomes through its Capital Services, Facilities Management, and Sustainable Building Divisions. EllisDon is determined to lead the coming disruption in the construction sector, having recently created pioneering initiatives in Energy Management, Smart Buildings Software and Data Analytics.

Kieran Hawe is the Chief Operating Officer & Executive Vice President, Construction. Kieran joined EllisDon in 2000 and has over 30 years of experience in commercial, institutional and residential construction on major projects in Canada, the United States, Germany, Ireland and Asia. He came up through the mechanical/electrical field and quickly advanced to Project and Construction Manager roles. As a construction professional, his first-hand experience includes in-depth knowledge about diverse project delivery methods, critical input during all project stages and continuous learning and innovation to ensure projects are delivered on-time, on-budget, and to the quality specifications.

Kieran was appointed as Toronto Area Vice President in 2013, and then to Senior Vice President and Area Manager of Central Canada where he helped build a $3 billion, 800-employee operation, with a focus on procurement, construction operations and client relationships across the Greater Toronto Area.

Most recently, Kieran was promoted to Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President in 2019. In this role, he plays an instrumental role in leading and overseeing all of EllisDon’s
construction operations including the Buildings, Civil, Industrial and Modular divisions across Canada with revenues of approximately $4.5 billion.