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MilleFloreImages/Photos.comDeep foundation construction in our great nation

By Lisa Kopochinski

Although the piling industry in Canada is relatively young, the history of piling as a technique can actually be traced back to the fourth century B.C., when Herodotus, the Greek writer and traveler, recorded how the Paeonians lived in dwellings erected on lofty piles driven into a lake bed.

Other references to ancient piling include lake dwellers in Switzerland, who approximately 6,000 years ago were thought to have built structures on piled foundations to elevate dwellings to protect the occupants against attack. Not to be outdone, Greek and Roman engineers used piles along the Mediterranean coast. Early records show that piles were formed by using timber branches that were trimmed down with a small diameter at the bottom. They were driven into the soil as deep as the ground would allow.

The industry has come a long way. And while piling today is largely steel and concrete, the one thing that remains constant is that piles continue to be used as deep foundations to support many types of structures and in many types of ground conditions.

Piling Canada set out to learn more about the industry today and recently sat down with a number of Canadian piling and deep foundation contractors (from both small and large companies) to get their take on the industry, how it has changed, where it is going and much more.

A special thanks goes to the individuals who took time out of their hectic schedules to offer their insights in our roundtable discussion: Tony Evangelista, business development manager with Northstar Inc., which has offices in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan; Stan Higgins, owner of Postech Winnipeg; Wolf Kraft, president of Wayne’s Backhoe Service in Victoria Beach, Man.; Roger Mann, owner of Breakaway Drilling and Blasting in Yellowknife, N.W.T.; and Mike Nightingale, vice president of West Shore Constructors Limited in Vancouver.

PC: How is Canada’s piling industry faring today as compared to the past five to 10 years? How has the industry changed?

Evangelista: Competition is very healthy. It’s more competitive than it’s ever been. For us, it has been a very busy year. Bidding is tight and margins are tight. The way we estimate bids is really close. I think a lot of this is the pace. You have just enough time to get a project finished and you’re looking at the next one. To stay competitive and to stay on everyone’s radar to receive opportunities, it’s very competitive. Piling contractors now are no longer focusing on just one type of pile installation or foundation that they specialize in.

Mann: Today there are bigger sized diameter piles. There are more six-inch and eight-inch piles when it used to be four- and five-inch piles. I think this has to do with getting fewer piles, but of a bigger size. The industry is also more competitive because there is new technology, which makes it easier.

Higgins: It is difficult to answer this question as we have only been active in the industry in the past couple years. I can testify that more and more engineers and building officials seem to appreciate the return on investment that deep foundations offer.

Nightingale: We have been fortunate in the fact that the government has invested heavily in infrastructure since 2008, while the private sector has been quite slow.


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About Us

Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.