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The evolution of Northstar Sharp's Foundation Specialists

By Deb Smith

Two of Alberta’s most respected names in deep foundations have amalgamated to form one comprehensive solution to Western Canada’s foundation construction industry: Northstar Sharp’s Foundation Specialists.

For more than 30 years, Sharp’s Construction Services Ltd. operated as a specialized sub-contractor out of Leduc, Alta. They provided foundation solutions across Canada specializing in large-diameter drilling and concrete piles. Meanwhile, established in 2005 in Clairmont, Alta., Northstar Energy Services Inc. focused on driven and helical piling,

serving oil and gas, civil/industrial, commercial and the transmission and distribution industries. Looking at a total of more than 80 years of management and senior operator experience between them, it made sense for the two companies to join forces, and in February 2017, that is what they officially did.

“From the standpoint of synergy and oversight, it made sense for the two companies to join forces,” said Tony Evangelista, director of projects for Northstar Sharp’s. “We can now operate as one company with expertise in all types of foundation piles. Kevin Sharp (the Sharp in Sharp’s Construction) has taken over the helm for both companies as our general manager.”

As with all Canadian entities within the Valard Group of Companies, Northstar Sharp’s is owned by Quanta Services Inc. of Houston, Texas, the parent that provides engineering, procurement and construction services for infrastructure in the electric power and oil and natural gas industries.

 

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"We can now operate as one  company with expertise in all types of foundation piles."

- Tony Evangelista, Northstar Sharp's Foundation Specialists

Providing comprehensive solutions across Western Canada

In April, Northstar Sharp’s moved into its new head office building in Nisku, bringing everyone and everything together under one roof. Clairmont, in Northern Alberta, will remain as the regional office, with other locations in Calgary, Fort St. John, B.C. and Regina, Sask.

“We currently have formal space in Labrador as part of the Muskrat Falls project,” said Evangelista. “Informally, we have space and yards to use in specific areas across Western Canada, made available to us by all our sister companies under the Quanta flag. Working with our Quanta subsidiaries is a huge benefit, and we are now actively completing work in all four western provinces.”

Northstar Sharp’s Foundation Specialists lives up to its name, providing foundation solutions from stamped designs and drawings for design/build requirements for any level of a project to final supply and installation of driven piles, helical piles, drilled cast-in-place (CIP) piles, rock anchoring and direct embedment – all available under one company. The company also has the expertise and equipment to make it happen: 40-ton picker units, 200 and 100-ton crawler cranes along with a fleet of Junttans, Soilmecs and Watsons. As well, Northstar Sharp’s owns and operates its patented EXCA-Drivers, capable of installing both driven and helical piles with the larger EXCA-Driver 1800, able to drive piles up to 30 inches in diameter to 60-foot lengths. These units easily navigate difficult terrain, and are able to switch to operating as an excavator in less than 30 minutes.

Northstar Sharp’s team can install drilled shafts of any shape and size – from 300 mm to 3,000 mm in diameter with end bearing piles up to 3,600 mm and to depths of 50 metres and more. Geotechnical exploration rigs mounted on low ground pressure tracked carriers can get to any site to collect data for the best foundation design.

 

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Building on experience

The expertise of the new Northstar Sharp’s can be seen in just one example of a complex project successfully undertaken by the two original companies.

Working on the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) project, a 488-km utility project across the province involving 1,490 steel lattice transmission towers, Sharp’s Construction Services completed drilled pier construction for almost 1,000 caissons. In addition, the company supplied machinery, engineering and manpower support for the 1,280 augered grillages, designing and developing an efficient method of suspending a grillage into the open shaft before 20 per cent back filling with concrete. This method provided a solid base for the tower foundations with enough weight to prevent structure uplift. In total, the Sharp’s team poured almost 40,000 cubic metres of concrete while dedicated heavy truck haulers shuffled equipment from one end of the project to the other. Even the extreme weather conditions of a typical Alberta year didn’t hold them back, and Sharp’s completed its part in the project within 14 months.

Northstar also provided its expertise for the EATL project that came with diverse ground conditions and challenging environmental obstacles such as archeological sites, sensitive soil conditions, crop protection and so on. Northstar took them all in stride, installing approximately 18,000 piles and 3,400 cap assemblies for 760 structures – 7,000 more piles than in the original scope of work. Despite all these challenges, with over 150 personnel and nine Junttan piling units, Northstar completed the project within the original schedule.

Safety before all else

In every project, safety is always paramount. Kevin Sharp has publicly stated his commitment to making the industry safe.

“The personal health and safety of each employee of Northstar Sharp’s is of primary importance,” he said. “The prevention of occupationally induced injuries and illnesses is of such consequence that it will be given priority over operating productivity where necessary.”

To achieve this priority, the company is dedicated to a Health, Safety and Environmental Program that will not only meet but surpass the best experience of similar operations. Sharp defines this safety goal in simple terms with no compromise: “Zero incidents and injuries.”

Northstar Sharp’s Foundation Specialists brings together the values, skills and dedicated resources of two of the best Western Canadian piling and drilling companies, moving forward in its goal to be a leader in the sector and in the market. 

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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.