Experience Makes the Difference!
By: Pamela Knight
This year is shaping up to be a big one for Matrix Management Corp. of Toronto, Ontario. Not only is the firm celebrating its tenth anniversary, but it has also completed its most significant project since inception. Matrix offers an extensive portfolio of experience in managing commercial and institutional interior, building and development projects, and is headed by Marvin Finkel, a certified Project Management Professional with over twenty-five years professional experience. Finkel brings a host of skills to the table, ranging from a degree in environmental studies and experience as an engineering technologist, to training as an architect and the attainment of a PMP certification from the well respected Project Management Institute. His skill and experience are a perfect mix for the expansive range of projects Matrix is asked to challenge.
By taking overall responsibility for the management of every aspect of a project on behalf of their clients, Matrix can oversee each element right from the point of conception. “Having us involved right from the beginning means we’re often able to assist in optimizing strategy, identify areas for improvement as well as opportunities, make beneficial recommendations and spot potential problem areas before they arise,” notes Finkel. “From there forward, we carry the project through budgeting, development, design, contract administration, construction, closeout and commissioning.
Throughout the entire process there’s one common thread and that’s to ensure the client is wellrepresented and aptly protected from any pitfalls that may occur.” Finkel gained exposure to project management through a series of projects during a career that spans decades, including some spent with CIBC Development Corporation. As it is with most entrepreneurs, he recognized that opportunities are always afoot and felt the need to pursue them. He made the move to form his own company, and founded Matrix Management Corp. in 1995. Over the last decade he has taken it from a fledgling business to a maturing company that regularly assumes responsibility for projects ranging from 5 to 20-million dollars. Matrix has undertaken retrofit and interior renovation projects for existing buildings, overseen the development of new branches, data centres, and office buildings for some of Canada’s major banking institutions, managed tenant improvement projects in existing multi-building and high- rise complexes and provided full-scope project management services in the development of new buildings and main banking branches throughout the Caribbean. Many of these projects involved services ranging from feasibility studies and project planning, to budgeting, estimating, scheduling, tendering, design and construction coordination. “Experience is the key to effectiveness” continues Finkel. “The professionals I choose for each project are hand-picked for their depth of knowledge, their expertise and their professionalism.”
It takes that level of skill and education to ensure that clients are getting the service they deserve and the guidance they need. It’s something I’m committed to personally. We’re not just doing a job; we’re solving problems and working on our client’s team.” A project Finkel encountered during his career clearly demonstrates his dedication to that belief. The job at hand involved substantial base building upgrades and a major mechanical system retrofit to an older courthouse in Newmarket, Ontario. “To complicate matters, we also needed to undertake mold remediation throughout the entire building”, says Finkel. “It meant vacating an entire 4-storey public building. Court and other functions were initially relocated to a number of trailer facilities and a temporary pod building that was constructed in the parking lot. Then several temporary facilities were designed and fitted out quickly, while the main building project was underway. The entire thing had to be undertaken on a fast-track basis, however the end result was a very successful project and one that delivered a virtually new courthouse building when it was completed.”
With each project it undertakes, Matrix uses a methodology established by PMI, that allows Finkel and his group to ensure that the processes used to implement projects are totally analytical and logical. “We recognize that every project has its own unique set of characteristics and complexities” he notes. “We undertake detailed investigations and then establish the most appropriate way to handle all aspects. We prepare documentation that sets out a framework for implementation and provide a detailed approach to the process.” Risk management is another critical area the firm addresses as part of its methodology. At the outset, a risk management plan is established to identify potential threats, constraints, assumptions and contingencies.
“At that stage, we qualify and quantify risks and set out plans, responses and controls to deal with them” continues Finkel. “And certainly, we monitor throughout the process and report back to the client on a regular and ongoing basis.” It may have been that kind of knowledge and commitment that helped Matrix to secure its most noteworthy project to date – the recently completed Regional Municipality of York’s Transportation and Works Regional Operations Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario. The company’s bid was selected over competitors who are often viewed as major players in the industry, thereby establishing Matrix as a viable choice in large-budget projects. “This was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate our ability to undertake program management involving the project management of a number of projects within a portfolio” notes Finkel. The venture meant supplying full-scope project management services for more than one phase of the development of a 130-acre/ 55 hectare subdivision, including storm water management, roads, landscaping and all utilities. As well it meant management for the implementation of a new 2-storey, 94,000 sq. ft. Regional Operations Centre to accommodate a fleet of police vehicles, road maintenance vehicle repair facilities, an office area for design and construction and road maintenance staff. All were services that were previously housed at various facilities around the region which have now come together in this new location. A notable feature of the development was the addition of an on-site sewage treatment plant, built with the capability of handling the requirements of more than one thousand people which will allow for future buildings to be added to the subdivision. The inclusion of a dedicated plant into the overall development scheme was a move Finkel applauds, as it helped to keep the timing of the project within the extremely tight schedule allotted for completion. “One of the most interesting aspects of the project was the fact the land was totally undeveloped” notes Finkel. “It had previously been a sod farm and as such we were virtually starting with a clean slate – no sewers, no roads, no services whatsoever. That may seem to be a gift in some ways but quite honestly, to bring a project of this size in on time with no underlying infrastructure at the beginning is a tall order. Without the addition of a stand-alone sewage treatment plant that would service the subdivision, the project would inevitably have taken much longer.”
Leading edge building systems and a storm water management pond for the complex were also designed to reflect a green approach to energy efficiency and make a solid statement of environmental virtue. A computerized energy management system allows individual users within the building to adjust settings from their personal computers to a comfortable level of illumination within their own work space. The system will turn off lights entirely when an individual has left the area for an extended period of time. Additional features include a series of sensors to guage exterior light, then adjust interior levels of illumination to suit. “These are state-of-the-art systems” says Finkel. “And like other systems and every other innovation throughout the complex, they all needed to be coordinated on behalf of the client to achieve better operational efficiency and life-cycle cost benefits. As well as the traditional general contractor, we also had to orchestrate the requirements, planning and progress of the environmental systems, communications, electronics and several other specialty contractors. It was a large number of diverse groups who all came together in one facility. We needed to draw on our abilities to provide strategic advice and implementation planning to a challenging and somewhat complicated project, then manage the implementation to a successful completion. At times it’s a test to have all those different interests share their needs and bring them to agreement.
But that’s exactly what we’re hired to do and it’s the reason why I believe so strongly that it takes seasoned professionals to ensure it comes off without a hitch”. Indeed that was exactly the outcome. Not only did Matrix bring the project in on time, the firm also achieved it substantially under budget. What’s in the future? That question inevitably causes a thoughtful glance from the Matrix executive. “We’ve seen the size and scope of our contracts grow each year and the projects we’re involved in are always changing” Finkel notes. “It has taken time and hard work, but we’ve established a solid reputation. We have a significant portfolio of good work behind us and we’ve proven that our commitment is always to our client. Put them all together and we’re now positioned to compete with larger players in project management. In short, we’ll build on our successes.”