Pioneering the Future of Land Development: Minto Communities' Success with TraceAir

Discover how Minto Communities optimized their land development approach and improved their operations with TraceAir’s advanced site intelligence platform.
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Minto Communities (“Minto”) has been a trusted name in home construction for over 65 years, providing over 95,000 buyers with their dream homes. As a recognized leader in the real estate industry, Minto is known for their top-notch construction of high-quality, innovative, and environmentally sustainable homes and communities across the US and Canada. Their commitment to excellence has garnered them a remarkable collection of awards and accolades, including Ottawa's 2023 Builder of the Year for an impressive fourth time since 2016.

The Challenge

Minto's commitment to maintaining high standards while ensuring affordability for homebuyers requires a strong focus on operational efficiency, schedule adherence, and minimizing costly rework and delays. In addition, managing multiple projects simultaneously and competing in a fluctuating housing market presents several challenges for Minto, including:

  • Monitoring dirt movement to achieve a balanced site
  • Ensuring everyone on the project is on the same page
  • Avoiding schedule delays, rework, and cost overruns
  • Make optimal use of time and money
  • Validating work completed for billing accuracy

The Solution

To stay at the forefront of industry innovation, Minto continuously seeks new ways to enhance its processes. In 2020, Minto was introduced to TraceAir and was immediately impressed by the technology. Jean-Michel Le Blanc, Director of Land Development at Minto's Ottawa division, expressed their excitement, stating, "We are always looking for ways to make better, faster decisions. The team was intrigued by the efficiencies offered by TraceAir,  so we decided to give it a try.”

Trusted by top homebuilders and land developers, TraceAir was particularly appealing to Minto for several reasons:

  • Ease of implementation: Using TraceAir’s licensed drone pilots and data processing eliminates the need and hassle of purchasing drones, hiring pilots, or processing any data to receive topographic scans. Implementing TraceAir is fast and easy.
  • Fast turnaround times: TraceAir eliminates the traditional multi-day lag time between surveying a site and receiving the data by processing scans overnight, so they are ready within 24 hours.
  • Support: TraceAir assigns a dedicated Customer Success Manager to each project, helping guide users through the setup process and providing them with white glove service throughout their project.
  • Collaboration: TraceAir provides users unlimited licenses at no extra charge, so they can provide access to their entire project team, contractors, and stakeholders, enabling seamless collaboration.
  • Easy to Use: TraceAir was designed to be used by the entire team, even the least tech-savvy. Most tasks can be completed with a few simple clicks.
  • Remote accessibility: Users can access project data, conduct measurements, and track progress from anywhere using TraceAir’s cloud-based software, no downloads needed.

The Results

After several years of successful use, TraceAir has proven to be a valuable tool for the Minto team in Ottawa. With TraceAir’s ability to easily track progress and monitor dirt movement, the team has been able to stay within schedule and achieve site balance, leading to increased profit margins. Additionally, TraceAir's collaborative features have allowed the project team to work seamlessly together.

According to Le Blanc, using TraceAir to keep everyone on the same page has been very beneficial. Being able to use TraceAir anywhere, anytime empowers the team to make fast and confident decisions backed by data, minimizing the risk of rework, and maximizing efficiency. Minto plans to use TraceAir on several upcoming projects.

Implementing TraceAir has improved aspects of our operations and helped with more efficient communication. Without a doubt, we’ve seen a return on investment in terms of cost and time savings. TraceAir is user-friendly, and the support we’ve received is unbeatable.” — Jean-Michel Le Blanc, Director of Land Development, Minto Communities - Ottawa

Better Dirt Management

TraceAir makes it easy to not only see dirt movement throughout the site, but also quantify it and keep a historical record of when dirt was moved and how much. For Minto, this is especially important because of Ontario’s Excess Soil Registry, which requires registration and filing of how dirt is reused and disposed of. This regulation can require dirt to be tested before import or export, costing developers millions.

From the start of a project, Minto uses TraceAir to create a plan for how to best achieve site balance and reduce the need to import or export dirt. Twice a month, they receive a new 3D topographic scan of their project from TraceAir, showing how dirt quantities have changed from the previous week. “The tools we use the most within TraceAir are Cut/Fill Balance, Elevations, and Stockpiles. These tools help quantify progress and ensure we’re on schedule”, shared Le Blanc.

With one click to turn on the cut/fill balance tool, TraceAir creates a heat map analyzing all the dirt on the project against the design grade. Project plans and drawings can be easily overlaid, making it easy to see exactly which areas have a shortage or excess of dirt. To achieve design grade, areas in red must be cut and areas in blue filled. Areas in white meet design grade plus or minus 0.4 feet.

A time-lapse of dirt movement on Minto’s project. Cut/fill heat maps within TraceAir make it easy to compare current dirt columns to design grade.

Improved Communication and Transparency

In the fast-paced realm of land development, where multiple stakeholders simultaneously work on different aspects of the project, effective communication plays a pivotal role in project success. Small mistakes or setbacks can quickly eat away at profit margins. With TraceAir, the Minto team in Ottawa has found a solution to keep everyone on the same page and create transparency.  

By providing unlimited licenses at no extra cost, TraceAir ensures all team members have access to the same data, empowering them to make confident decisions swiftly. The intuitive markup tools offered by TraceAir facilitate seamless collaboration, enabling the easy addition of notes and drawings, and promoting efficient communication among team members. By using TraceAir, Minto’s Ottawa team can stay informed, on schedule, and work together more efficiently than ever before.

TraceAir provides instant visuals and quick verifications. We reference it in meetings, and now everyone is speaking the same language and looking at the same information. The team highly values TraceAir and the ability to have so much information at their fingertips.” — Jean-Michel Le Blanc, Director of Land Development, Minto Communities - Ottawa

Seamless Progress Tracking and Billing Verification

TraceAir provides Minto with a comprehensive overview of their entire project, allowing them to easily track progress and visually compare changes between different scans. "TraceAir makes it easy for us to do a full comparison of the whole site. We can look at where we were two months ago, where we are now, and how far we have to go. This information is critical to our team to stay on schedule and budget", explained Le Blanc.

Additionally, combining the progress tracking tools with TraceAir’s measurement tools allows for easy verification of contractor bills by doing a quick as-built takeoff. “TraceAir has made the entire process of verifying bills much easier”, added Le Blanc. “What once was a lengthy, complicated process is now much simpler and efficient with TraceAir.”

Reduced Rework

Rework is a common challenge faced by almost every land development project, often leading to cost overruns and schedule delays. However, by utilizing specific tools and strategies tailored for proactive measures, such as TraceAir's innovative solutions, the probability of rework can be significantly reduced.

"TraceAir’s Overlay tool was a game-changer for us," explained Le Blanc. "It gave us peace of mind that everything was in the right place and aligned correctly, which saved us time and money in potential rework. We hadn’t leveraged anything like this before, and it made a huge impact on our project."

Using TraceAir’s overlay tool to compare project plans to the current status of the project to ensure everything is aligned.

Get Started

By harnessing the power of TraceAir, Minto has optimized their operations — streamlining workflows and enhancing collaboration among teams. TraceAir empowers users to take control of their projects, gain valuable insights, and stay on schedule.

Industry leaders like Minto save hours, even weeks, on key tasks and notably lower their land development costs by utilizing TraceAir for more efficient workflows. To experience it for yourself, schedule a demo today and discover how your team can benefit from TraceAir.

If you’re considering TraceAir, I encourage you to see a demo and give it a try. The technology is ahead of its time.” — Jean-Michel Le Blanc, Director of Land Development, Minto Communities - Ottawa
I’m mesmerized by the engineering complexity and beauty of the process of converting the designs into functional spaces. A powerful blend of people’s creative ideas, brutal economics rules, laws of physics, and construction people’s skills and expertise makes this industry so unique. It’s incredibly cool to be a part of this process and contribute to empowering people in it.”

Maria Khokhlova, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer

Construction marketing has always been a challenging and highly rewarding career path. Now that I’m in construction technology, I enjoy communicating how adopting new solutions can drastically increase efficiency for construction teams.”

Samantha Burns, Head of Marketing

I really enjoy being a part of the construction tech industry. It’s exciting to see ideas such as drones and automation that once were very futuristic now be an everyday reality that helps people and businesses. As a creative person, I find it empowering to work in a space that embraces out of the box thinking and going against the grain.”

Katie Larrimore, Marketing Specialist

My favorite part about working in the construction industry is listening to customer stories and being able to provide tech solutions to make their job easier. No two divisions are the same, and it’s rewarding to be able to connect and help clients solve their unique challenges here at TraceAir! I am eager to hear new challenges and look forward to the tech solutions down the road that TraceAir will create based on the needs of our clients.”

Jordan Wojtowecz, Account Executive

The construction technology industry is constantly changing and I love being a part of that evolution. I get to speak with a diverse group of land developers and acquisitioners who are integral parts of the home building machine; making their lives easier is so rewarding.”

Lauren Schaefer, Business Development Representative

I find it thrilling to be part of an industry with so much room for innovation and growth. Every day I am given the opportunity to speak with and learn from best-in-class homebuilders. At TraceAir, it’s incredibly rewarding to watch great minds come together to make construction a more collaborative and effective industry.” 

Kyra Ketch, Market Development Representative

Built environment impacts our lives on so many levels and the significance of what we do as an industry inspires me every single day. Our shared responsibility for the fragile nature we transform keeps me laser-focused on innovating sustainably. And I am beyond grateful to do so alongside the many amazing women leaders and professionals of TraceAir!” 

Alena Petrova, Product Manager

I've always been fascinated by how so many construction projects are so unique and individual, though the construction processes are the same for all of them. It is awesome to be a part of and to see how choosing to use sustainable materials, taking into account environmental factors, applying innovative engineering ideas and using digital technology make construction better, smarter and faster.” 

Olga Rollins, Operations Manager

I enjoy seeing the projects come together, each project is so different and presents a multitude of challenges that take real teamwork and collaboration to overcome. I love working with my clients in the construction industry and helping them utilize powerful tech tools to help their projects run smoothly.” 

Isabella Knori, Customer Success Manager

I’m particularly interested in the ever-evolving use of spatial data to inform decision making at all stages of construction. The increase in innovation and application, of both vector and raster data products, is really fascinating.” 

Cari Ruffino, Operations Manager

I worked at construction sites for 9 years and I can tell you that it’s so inspiring to see how your efforts grow into real objects. I was a surveyor and I saw all construction processes with my own eyes. The construction industry adapts to the technical progress so slowly, Traceair makes this process better and faster. It's why I like our company - it drives construction to the next level. We are on the way which turns the dreams of our clients into reality, and our dreams too.”

Olga Razina, GIS Specialist & Customer Success Engineer

Throughout the past  5 years in cartography & GIS, I have observed how technologies and automatization are making the industry better and faster. I find inspiring bringing this into construction to make the industry even greater! Humans are everywhere, everybody needs place, construction grows. TraceAir shows that we are able to reach our designs faster with drones help and to enjoy the process using platform, maps, tools, etc. Join us!”

Vera Lugovskaya, GIS Specialist

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