Recent Alberta power projects show signs of greener grid on the way

Coal is the backbone of Alberta’s electricity generation market. At nearly 6,300 megawatts, the fuel accounts for over 40 per cent of the province’s installed generation capacity. More importantly, as the major source of baseload power supply in Alberta, coal provided 67 per cent of the electricity used in the province in 2014.

Replacing all of that electricity is a daunting task, to be sure. But that is precisely what the Alberta government proposes to do in a plan announced last November. By 2030, coal will be phased out, replaced by cleaner fuel sources like natural gas and renewables. The entire power system is supposed to consist of 30 per cent renewable energy.

“I would call it a once-in-a-lifetime unique opportunity for the investment and construction side of this industry to essentially rebuild a generation fleet,” says Mike Law, vice-president of market services at the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO).

Biophilic design takes root in Alberta

In our overwrought, digitally plugged-in lives, many of us feel disconnected from nature. When we do unplug, leave our electronic devices behind and take a walk through a park and hear the breeze through the trees and feel sun on our skin, we feel reinvigorated.

Credited with coining the term, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm writes about biophilia in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, and evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson later popularized the concept. In his book, Biophilia, Wilson argues that human beings have an innate love of nature—a genetic hardwiring to seek interaction with nature. A famous Wilson quote succinctly captures his view: “Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”

Remediation efforts clear way for Edmonton's Blatchford development

As the first licensed airfield in Canada, Edmonton City Centre Airport was a point of pride for the city when it opened in 1929. By the time it officially closed for good in 2013, it had become a political nightmare. 

For years, the underused and aging site had been an anchor on the city’s downtown ambitions because of the height restrictions it imposed on buildings in the area. Yet the facility still held some value for smaller aircraft, including medevac services that took advantage of the airstrip’s close proximity to the Royal Alexandria Hospital. After years of debate, a brief stint as a race track, and much speculation on potential uses for this valuable plot of land, the airport was finally shut down and the way cleared for a massive sustainable community development: Blatchford.

Edmonton overhauls its approach to infrastructure construction

Everyone talks about the project that goes wrong. The City of Edmonton has certainly learned that lesson in the past year after seeing delays on high-profile infrastructure projects like the Metro LRT Line, the 102nd Avenue Bridge and the Walterdale Bridge.

But 90 per cent of city projects stick to their budgets and over 85 per cent come in on time, notes Adam Laughlin. As the acting general manager of the city’s new integrated infrastructure services department, Laughlin’s job is to ensure those percentages keep moving in the right direction. With Edmonton’s capital budget set at $4.3 billion for 2015-18 and major projects like the Valley LRT on the horizon, this will be no small task.

Engineering ingenuity underlies new Calgary Central Library

When the City of Calgary, Calgary Public Library and Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) started talking about building a new central library, they shared a common objective—a strong civic library for Calgary that was connected to the city. They also knew they’d need to take a team approach to designing and building the facility.

“We selected the architect and prime design team by evaluating them to see if they’d fit within a team structure,” says Kate Thompson, vice-president of projects for CMLC. “We did the same when choosing the construction manager, and we chose them all at the same time so we had everyone around the table asking, ‘How do we build over a train?’”

Five innovations for the modular fabrication industry

Didier Lhuillier believes the module industry is at a crossroads.

The chief executive officer of modular construction company Cofely Fabricom Canada has seen project costs over the past 15 years double world-wide while tripling in Alberta. Declining productivity levels may have been masked by oil prices that topped $100 per barrel in the past, but the province’s capital costs look much different in the harsh light of $30 oil. Now is the time for Alberta to prove it can offer high rates of return and low risk in a capital-constrained environment, and modularization will be a key tool in facing that challenge.

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