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Innovation program receives poor response.

Innovation program receives poor response

A program promoting a more efficient and cost-effective home building industry is receiving little if any support in Northern Ontario.

The Job-Site Innovator Awards program was designed to encourage builders in the home construction and renovation industry to share new construction techniques with colleagues across the country. It was initiated two years ago by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA).

The program, it was hoped, "would transmit innovative ideas from one contractor to the building community across Canada," said Sudbury CMHC branch manager Luc Menard. However, response has been poor.

This lack of interest exists even though a $100 bounty is offered by CMHC to encourage tradespeople and builders to submit brief, written descriptions of their innovative ideas for evaluation.

Upon receipt of an idea, CMHC verifies whether or not it is unique and if so, pays a bounty to the originator.

As well, all ideas collected are reviewed and assessed annually to select the best "job-site innovations."

The selected innovators receive travel expenses to attend a Canadian Home Builders' Association conference for the presentation of the Innovator of the Year award.

A job-site innovation is defined by CMHC as "any new construction method or technique which is immediately transferable to others in the building industry, without their having to purchase special equipment or products."

According to the corporation, an innovation is most likely to qualify for an award if it can be employed on-site, if it saves time and money and if it provides an economical solution to an on-site technical problem. The idea must also lend itself to wide general use by builders, renovators and tradespeople.

All ideas are transmitted to the building community through inserts in trade magazines, CMHC/CHBA builders' workshops and through a compendium compiled by the CMHC outlining the job-site innovations.

The lack of momentum for the program, however, is not restricted to Northern Ontario. The problem exists nationwide, according to Norbert Koeck, project manager responsible for the job-site innovator awards program.

From CMHC's national office in Ottawa, Koeck said only 15 applications were received last year from across the country, with the bulk of those originating in British Columbia. Ten of the applications were actually approved.

"It certainly wasn't as much as we had hoped for," said Koeck. "There wasn't enough even to warrant the provincial awards other than in B.C."

North Bay CMHC branch manager, Leon Levasseur said the program has largely gone ignored in his jurisdiction.

Levasseur commented that he has heard little from head office concerning the program in the past two years. He added there are more important things to consider after having described the program as having "no bite."

"You must prioritize the areas where you get action and there hasn't been any response to this program (from the building community)," he insisted.

The three officials agreed that the lack of enthusiasm for the program may have been the result of poor advertising on the part of CMHC.

"There could have been better publicity when the program was initiated. The promotion just wasn't effective," insisted Menard.

Koeck echoed these sentiments stating that the advertising and promotion of the program simply wasn't effective. He said the "promotion of the program could have been greater and that CMHC is currently attempting to solve the problem situation."

However, Koeck maintains the innovator program has strengthened the relationship between CMHC and the home builders' association. From this standpoint, Koeck feels the program has been a great success.

"We play more of an advocacy role now. In the past we (CMHC) were always seen as the heavy, but that has changed because of the job-site innovator awards program."

It is for these reasons that Koeck has recommended that the program be extended past the March 31 deadline for the pilot phase.

"The program has re-opened communications," reported Koeck. "The builders are pleased that innovators at the grass-roots level are being recognized."

Menard agrees. He explained that in the Sudbury area the program can work.

"I think there is an interest there. It just has to be tapped," said Menard.

DOUGLAS MCDOUGALL Staff Writer
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Title Annotation:Construction Report; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Canadian Home Builders Association Job-Site Innovator Awards program
Author:McDougall, Douglas
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:694
Previous Article:Don't be deceived by results for construction by district.
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