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Annual Report

Revolutionizing the construction industry

(L-R) Dr. Eddy Campbell, former President and Vice-Chancellor, UNB; Hans O. Klohn, President, OSCO Construction Group; Dr. Jeff Rankin, Chair of Civil Engineering, UNB; Dr. Chris Diduch, Dean of Engineering, UNB; John K.F. Irving, Chairman and CEO of OSCO Construction Group and President of Ocean Capital Holdings Limited; Bob Skillen, Vice-President (Advancement), UNB.

OSCO Construction Group announced a $2 million investment for the University of New Brunswick in September 2018. The funds established a new Centre for Off-site Construction and a new OSCO Chair in Off-site Construction.

Off-site construction consists of planning, designing and fabricating building elements in a factory-controlled environment for rapid assembly in a "plug-and-play" fashion at the jobsite rather than the conventional "stick-built" construction at a jobsite.

This method of construction reduces waste, promotes sustainability, compresses time schedules and overall, results in better quality products.

"The University of New Brunswick and OSCO Construction Group share a vision to make New Brunswick a global leader in modular manufacturing and off-site construction," said UNB’s then-President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Eddy Campbell.

"This partnership will bring UNB to the forefront of innovation in the world and increase product export opportunities for New Brunswick manufacturing companies. We are grateful for OSCO's leadership and contribution to advancing research in this area."

Hans Klohn, president of OSCO Construction Group, believes that the investment in research at UNB will build critical capacity in this emerging area of construction. "Contractors are moving to a technology-driven approach which utilizes standardized, factory-made elements that can be rapidly assembled into a customizable, attractive structure, much like the aerospace, car and shipbuilding industries. UNB is building innovative, applied research capacity in this area and we are pleased to partner with the university on this initiative."

New research chair

(L-R) Dr. David Magee, Vice President Research, UNB; Dr. Laura Richard, Director of Research, NBIF; Hans Klohn, President, OSCO Construction Group; Dr. Zhen Lei, OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction; Karen Ludwig, Member of Parliament for New Brunswick Southwest and Dr. Paul Mazerolle, President and Vice-Chancellor, UNB. Credit: Jeff Crawford/Photo UNB.

Dr. Zhen Lei took up the OSCO Research Chair in Off-site Construction position in April 2019 with funding support from Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

ACOA invested $634,434 through the Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program. When combined with $344,000 from OSCO’s contribution of $2 million in 2018, OSCO and ACOA have provided more than $978,000 funding to operationalize the OCRC at UNB.

Research conducted by Dr. Lei will build upon the UNB faculty of engineering’s strength in civil engineering and related pre-manufacturing technology that is leading the way to create strong ties between researchers and the construction and manufacturing industry.

His main research areas include construction process simulation and optimization, Building Information Modeling (BIM) and emerging digital technologies, and work process improvement in off-site construction.

“Funding support from OSCO Construction Group and ACOA will allow OCRC to continue to grow our team and build capacity of industry partnership with academia,” said Lei. “I am excited to build on UNB’s leading research capabilities and leverage emerging technologies that are changing construction and manufacturing industries globally.”

In addition to his research work, Dr. Lei is also an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering.

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