Fort McMurray's construction community prepares for daunting task of rebuilding

How do you put a number on a tragedy of this historic level? Try $3.58 billion. That’s the estimate of the insured property damage in Fort McMurray due to the wildfires that forced the mass evacuation of over 80,000 people from the city on May 3.

The estimate was released by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) on July 7. The damage done by the Beast, as the wildfire has been dubbed, has been “by far the costliest insured natural disaster in Canadian history.... This is more than twice the amount of the previous costliest natural disaster on record—the 2013 southern Alberta flood, which cost $1.7 billion in insurance claims,” according to the IBC’s report.

Ravaging nearly 600,000 hectares of forest, an area bigger than Prince Edward Island, the fire destroyed about 2,400 homes and buildings as it moved east toward the Saskatchewan border. Re-entry only began on June 1 and the cleanup process will take months as crews clear away debris and contaminants. Rebuilding is not a task being taken lightly by the local construction industry.

Sun exposure during outdoor work can be unavoidable, but sun safety shouldn't be.

Construction workers are an integral part of Alberta’s economy. They build our cities, the communities within them, and the roads and crucial infrastructure that connect them all. But working outside means construction workers are exposed to about six to eight times more ultraviolet radiation (UVR) than an indoor worker. This means that outdoor workers are 2.5 to 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancers. Because sun exposure can be an unavoidable element of outdoor work, precautions should be taken to protect these workers.

Downtown Calgary's glut of office space dims prospects for future projects

Over the last decade, cranes and construction sites have been seemingly permanent fixtures in Calgary’s growing core. Millions of square feet of office space have been constructed, keeping the cash rolling in and builders busy. But that’s all changing, and even though no one can say for sure, it looks like it could be a while before any new projects get off the ground.

Sturgeon Refinery's construction approach is all about avoiding megaproject perils

Few other projects in Alberta can even compare in scale to the Sturgeon Refinery, currently under construction on a site 45 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. In June, there were 5,200 workers on site as the $8.5-billion project inches toward peak construction, which it will hit at some point in the third quarter of this year. Of every other project currently being built in Alberta, only Suncor Energy’s $13.5-billion Fort Hills oilsands mine boasts a higher price tag and comparably sizable workforce.

Ian MacGregor helps lead the charge on expanding Alberta's resource manufacturing industries

For years, Alberta premiers have been speaking about the importance of diversification in helping decrease the province’s heavy reliance on oil and gas royalties. The concept has become so often repeated it might as well be incorporated into their oath of office.

Yet progress on the file has remained slow. For one thing, building a billion-dollar petrochemical plant is particularly challenging when oilsands megaprojects are sucking up most of the province’s skilled trades and fabrication capacity. For another, there are already large industrial complexes much closer to tidewater—the U.S. Gulf Coast, for example—that tend to attract investment dollars far more readily than landlocked Alberta.

Now, with low oil prices forcing a time-out on the oilsands industry, the time is ripe for a new expansion push by the province’s resource manufacturing sector. Earlier this year, many of the key players in the local industry—including NOVA Chemicals, Williams Energy Canada and NW Refining—banded together as the Resource Diversification Council (RDC) to identify potential areas where the province could add value to its energy products. The group has also brought to the table labour organizations like the Building Trades of Alberta and Construction Labour Relations—Alberta, as well as consultants like Stantec.

Crews rebuild burned Mayerthorpe trestle bridge in 20 days

Local firefighters and helicopters were already on the scene when Jim McLeod, chief engineer of design and construction at the Canadian National Railway Company (CN), learned the company’s 1,200-foot wooden trestle bridge in Mayerthorpe, Alta., was on fire on April 26, 2016.

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