A leader in commercial, industrial and institutional construction spanning three decades
By Leah Kellar
“Anything is possible” defines the spirit behind “Les Constructions Béland & Lapointe Inc.” (B&L) — a leader in commercial, industrial and institutional construction since 1983. Delivering general contracting service of superior quality is the cornerstone of the Quebec-based company that holds a track record of completing more than 860 demanding projects in its tool belt from all four corners of the province.
A commitment to developing long-term relationships and co-operation based on transparency between project participants, a constant quest to find and implement innovative solutions, and the ability to maintain an excellent reputation for honouring project deadlines and budgets, all factor into the 32-year-long success of this company. It’s also attributable to developing knowledgeable expertise in various fields of construction from the ground up. Pierre Boisvert and Jean Ouellet, who both got a chance to talk with Business Elite Canada recently about the company’s growth and challenges in a competitive market.
Ouellet started as an estimator and project manager with the company 20 years ago, and now, takes care of business development. He can attest to the changes in the company over the years that saw its team of shareholders increase to six passionate team members that were on board during the critical stages of the company’s expansion.
Pierre Boisvert, a co-owner and construction director, plays a central role in the company’s growth to ensure client satisfaction. “The company grew quickly. That is in thanks to having great references from our clients. We try to serve our clients to the same level that we would expect to get if we were the clients. For us, that’s a big part of what it means to be a leader,” he said.
What Béland & Lapointe expects is the result of planned effort at each stage of the building process that takes the ideas of clients and professionals into account. That expectation has led the company to deliver some impressive results such as 20 major renovations over the past 25 years to the 220-year-old Château Frontenac, a grand hotel in Old Quebec owned by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. Built in 1893 along the St. Lawrence River, the imposing castle-like structure with a 20-storey central tower, 18-floors and 70,000-square metres, features five brick and stone wings that B&L has completed work in over the years—renovating some rooms two and three times! Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980, Château Frontenac is one of the most photographed hotels in the world.
“It is a great compliment that they have, right from the beginning, put all of their trust in B&L to do their construction,” said Ouellet. “We’ve been there every year. It is a real honour to have this kind of recurring business from our clients. That is really our goal. It’s about how we manage our construction to serve the clients; that’s what’s required, but it’s what they deserve.” For example, Béland & Lapointe is currently working with ATOKA Cranberries Inc., a client located just west of Quebec City. B&L has worked with this particular client for 10 years to complete more than 10 major projects: a new production line, a 80,000 sf freezer, and a water line of more than 4 kilometres that is required by the production.
With more than 860 projects completed for commercial, industrial and institutional sectors, among the most memorable Ouellet recalls the undertaking of an underground parking lot at the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Quebec City. The construction work required a very high degree of expertise to put in 550 parking spaces throughout 18 half-floors in 30 metres of rock. A 50-metre pedestrian tunnel that links the parking lot to the main hospital entrance was also installed without ever affecting automotive traffic traveling underneath.
Also in the arena of institutional projects are several museums that B&L has been pivotal in constructing. One of them, La Cité de l’énergie de Shawinigan is a 1,700 square-metre museum with a daringly bold architectural design. The project included the construction of a 120-metre high observation tower, which overhangs the site. It is certainly a very unique structure and tourist attraction in the Quebec province, with an exterior panoramic elevator, which runs 12 months a year. Inside, B&L also installed a multimedia projection room equipped with a seating system, which rotates 360 degrees. In 1986, the Imax de Québec movie theatre was constructed and equipped with the largest big screen in Canada. It was Béland & Lapointe’s first management seed-funded project. Judging from the looks of its 32-year project portfolio, innovation is certainly the key to the company’s market endurance.
International Standards Organization (ISO) certification also stands behind B&L since 1999— ISO is the highest level of certification possible. Last year B&L also acquired Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification that is the benchmark in the construction industry to uphold the principles of sustainable development. LEED certification ensures the following standards in project development: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and resources, indoor air quality, and concept innovation. B&L is already in the accreditation process for two LEED certified projects: first, a $9-million project to build a new ferry stop along the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and the city of Lévis slated for completion in January of 2015, and for Maheu Maheu, a commercial project built with a wooden structure.
As another part of the development, B&L has just put 2-million square feet of land on 20 highway, exit 305, that is located just ahead of the Pierre Laporte Bridge, which is the main access to Québec City. These fields will be ready for the building phase very soon. More development lands and buildings are also available throughout the province.
Over the years B&L has received a number of recognitions for its outstanding construction projects and service. This includes a mention from the City of Quebec for the renovation of a historical church that kept its historical façade, while transforming it into condos with a view of the St. Lawrence River. The company has received recognitions for its wood construction from the City of Quebec and the Association of Wood Building. The use of wood is integral in the construction of many of B&L’s sustainable projects built to endure.
The company has consistently proved it’s commitment to sustainable development with some creative conceptual building projects, one of which was the expansion and integration of a building situated within the Pavillon Charles-De Koninck courtyard at the University of Laval. This LEED project has appeared in many architectural magazines for its exemplary beauty and achievement in green garden and terrace space roofing.
“We really try to stay accurate according to what’s new on the market and how we can do it better,” said Boisvert.
Another one of these innovations on the technical front is the addition of Building Monitoring Systems (BMS) for some of Béland & Lapointe’s constructed buildings going forward. BMS is new intelligent technology that consists of computer-based software and hardware control system installed in buildings that controls and monitors the building’s mechanical and electronic equipment such as ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire systems and security systems. This new technology goes a long way toward ensuring building sustainability and safety.
Let alone innovation in technology, Ouellet says B&L really concentrates on people by putting a lot of effort into networking and building loyal business contacts. It also engages with local communities by funding local sports teams and participating in community fundraisers, including initiating a fundraiser for breast cancer research after the wife of one of the company’s shareholders was diagnosed.
“Community is really important to us in terms of giving something back,” said Ouellet.
One of the founders of the company, Jean Lapointe, has also cycled across Canada (over 8000Km) recently to raise funds to fight Parkinson’s disease.
Among the company’s achievements, challenges continue in terms of acquiring skilled labour.
“It’s the same in Quebec as most other provinces; the labour is getting older. But we have a great reputation and recommendations here going to the young carpenters who want to work with us. We try to keep them as long as possible,” said Ouellet.
B&L works with a technology school for engineers and a professional school for carpenters and labourers in the region to do its recruiting. But it is in competition with many other contracting companies waiting for them just outside the door. Ouellet admits the biggest of B&L’s challenges, however, is in the documentation process necessary to obtain a lease under LEED certification. Accordingly he asserts the process is really about demonstrating clean standards, engagement, and believing in the values behind the process to get the certification by taking a leadership initiative, which is very important to Béland & Lapointe.
The company has also worked extensively with long-time client, Canadian Tire, on more than 20 buildings in Québec province over an eight-year period, approximately six to eight times per year. Béland & Lapointe is also looking forward to bid in other provinces for Canadian Tire and other major corporations too.
Moving ahead after three-decades of growth, the company will continue its holistic approach to the building process that incorporates partner and/or client ideas, B&L’s own building expertise, and respect for sustainable development together with LEED standards and pioneering innovation technologies.
“We want to be there principally for our clients. Our expertise is known to our clients, and even among the banks. It’s important to us to respect our word about what we say initially concerning budget and, in the end the value the client can expect to get for their money. It’s a part of our trade mark!”