Govan Brown

Leaders in construction management

Headquartered in Toronto, GovanBrown Construction Managers has established itself as a leader in the construction management industry, completing about $140-million worth of corporate office interior and base-building projects annually. As a company that helped develop the industry itself, GovanBrown is well recognized for its efficiency in navigating complex projects.

The founding partners Ralph Govan and John Brown started the business in 1994 with an idea to reinvent the status quo. “We both graduated from Ryerson University with Architecture degree in the early 1980s and gravitated towards the construction sector,” recalls Govan, president. “We decided to start our own business because we felt we had the right construction management tools, which was a relatively new process for delivering construction projects, at the time. We had some ideas as to how we could do things differently, such empowering site managers with tools and training to become a part of the management team.”

As it turned out, their ideas translated very well. It wasn’t long after GovanBrown opened that it became a household name in the industry. “We became quite successful right out of the box,” says Govan. “It didn’t take us years to become well known and established as a leading provider of construction services.”

The company’s success has moved itself across the country. Now with offices in Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Ottawa, GovanBrown has approximately 120 field and office staff—one of whom is Jon Taylor, who joined as the third partner in 2003.

“While construction management has become commonplace, we feel we really brought it to the Canadian market,” Govan says. “As such, our field personnel are well trained and can be likened to onsite project managers (minus the financial aspect).”

Projects to be proud of

When asked about his favourite project to date, Govan hesitated to name one, as GovanBrown has completed thousands since 1994. “At this point in our history, we have a lot of great projects under our belt,” he assures, pondering the question a little more. “Oddly enough, probably the most important project for us was the first one. It was a high-profile project in the financial sector for Gluskin Sheff, the investment firm. We worked with one of Canada’s top architects, KPMB. Given that we were brand new, the success of that project helped launch our profile in the market.”

These days, GovanBrown’s profile is filled with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects. As supporters of organizations such as the Canada Green Building Council, the company has been an active participant in the green building movement for the past few years. In fact, GovanBrown is now the most active interiors construction manager in building out LEED CI space in Canada.

To stay ahead, GovanBrown is building a strong team of LEED experts on staff. “We probably have about eight LEED Accredited Professionals in our company right now, and counting,” says Govan. “We really support our people in getting certified, so we pay for their training and allow staff the time to do course work.”

Still leading the pack

GovanBrown already brought construction management to the forefront, but the company remains an industry leader in the realm of technology. “One of the recent things we have done, with Jon Taylor joining us, is implement a powerful project management software system called CMiC,” Govan says. “CMiC integrates project management and accounting programs, allowing us to set up jobs and related sub-jobs within the system.” The software is also helpful in tracking all aspects of a project wherever there is a web connection. Clients also have access to the site, so they can be a part of the process too. With a secure web log-in, clients can access up-to-the-minute details on all aspects of their project.

GovanBrown is the first contractor in Canada to use CMiC, so it has an exclusive ability to track all aspects of a project wherever there is an internet connection available. “This type of software wasn’t available when we started the business,” he adds. “It’s an elaborate tool that has helped us establish a nationwide network between all of our offices. They are seamlessly integrated because of the program.”

Beyond its own business, GovanBrown also sets itself apart by giving back to the communities in which it works. Whether it’s donating time to Habitat for Humanity or money to various charities, the company feels a strong conviction to pay it forward. For example, in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood—a low-income area—the team has taken a local school under its wing. “We help with donations of money, books and clothes,” says Govan. “Our staff also visit the school and assist in reading programs. We feel it’s important to reach out and think outside of our own operations.”

Future growth

What does the future hold for the GovanBrown Construction Managers? “We don’t have external growth goals at the moment,” concludes Govan. “We are consolidating our Canadian marketplace among the five offices. With respect to staff, our goals are to bring more people up through the company to management and decision making levels. Continual training and staff retention is really key for us.”  

With consistent and dependable quality of service on every project, it is no wonder GovanBrown shows no signs of slowing down. Poised for continued success, the industry will have to keep an eye on these leaders, because this is a team that will lead the way.