by OLGA SEMENOVYCH

On October 1, 2013, the Building Industry and Land Development (BILD) Association held their Young BILDers Forum, a professional development and networking event for the young members of the industry. That morning, building, development and renovation professionals gathered over breakfast to discuss their industry experiences over the last 10 years and their expectations and hopes for the coming decade. Several spots were reserved for students, so we got a chance to listen in and take part in the conversation.

The forum featured a keynote speech from Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat followed by a panel discussion with key industry representatives – Darren Steedman of Metrus Development, Anthony Romanelli of Brattys LLP, Sandra Baldwin of A Lifetime Contractor, and Stuart Wilson of Altus Group, with facilitation by Steve Deveaux of Tribute Communities.

Photo courtesy of BILD GTA

Ms. Keesmaat’s presentation was enthusiastic about the region’s progress over the past 10 years and optimistic about the future. Reflecting on the past, she noted that there have been important policy changes – including the introduction of the Greenbelt Act and the Places to Grow Plan – that changed how we think about and how we do planning in this region. She said that these policies shifted development patterns in the Greater Toronto Area and the Greater Golden Horseshoe region with a focus on intensification and infill, and had a profound impact on the building and development industry by creating the need for new skills and expertise. She also emphasized that sustainability and concerns for climate change have entered the mainstream and are now at the forefront of development. Speaking about transportation, Ms. Keesmaat remarked that despite the ongoing disagreement, it is worth noting the positives, chiefly that there is now a broad consensus among all players on the importance and the urgency in investing into public transit. This is a major change from 10 year ago.

Looking to the future, Ms. Keesmaat said that Toronto has a lot to look forward to. Over the next decade the city will have new neighbourhoods, including the Pan Am Village, an extensive system of greenroofs, equivalent to about 40 NFL-sized football fields, a more refined skyline with new tall buildings and flood protection infrastructure in the lower Don River area.  She also expressed hope that the city will take action to protect its employment lands and that it will build a world class, integrated transportation system.  She called for ongoing discussion and collaboration among planners and the development industry.

Ms. Keesmaat’s speech set the mood for the follow-up discussion, which was very frank but at the same time reflected the same enthusiasm and the spirit of collaboration. At one point, the audience responded with excitement and applause to one of the panelists’ remarks about how much Toronto has changed and how lucky we are to live and work in such a great city.

During the discussion, panelists reflected on planning regulation and how it affects the experiences of developers as well as individual consumers. One of the speakers recommended that to learn more about how legislation works, young professionals should attend OMB hearings. The discussion also touched upon the impact of technology on the industry, from the actual building and construction, to communication and public engagement.

This event was a great opportunity for learning outside of the classroom. It was very valuable to interact with the young members of the building and land development industry to learn more about their experiences and the issues they deal with in the ‘real world.’ It was also inspiring to hear form Toronto’s Chief Planner, as a leader in the planning profession and also because this is the kind of position we planning students aspire to in our future careers. The Young BILDers events provide a great venue for students to get introduced to the industry. We are looking forward to future events.

Olga is a second year MA candidate in planning and a member of the 2013 AGP Executive. Olga is researching the role of the private sector in sustainability and good city building. For more information follow the link.

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