Constructing the Glacier Skywalk

By Heather Hudson

The best things in life are rarely exactly the way we imagine them. And the breathtaking Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park is no exception.

Back in 2010, Brewster Travel Canada put out an Expression of Interest to three construction firms to create a tourist attraction featuring a “cliff-edge pedestrian walkway” snaking its way along the Canadian Rockies.

Though the initial concepts included cable- supported structures, when Dr. Simon Brown of Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), a consulting engineering firm, and construction manager Scott Updegrave of PCL Construction Management took a trip up the side of the mountain, they were inspired to create a new design.

“After seeing what the site had to offer, we changed our minds based on the spectacular scenery,” said Brown. “We didn’t want anything above the viewing place to obstruct the view and we wanted to maximize the excitement of the glass floor element.”

The tide is turning for women seeking employment in the construction industry

By Lisa Kopochinski

Like many industries across Canada, heavy construction continues to face a looming shortage of skilled workers.

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters predicts that Canada will have 1.3 million vacant skilled labour job positions by 2016, with no one to fill them. Between now and 2020, more than 200,000 construction industry employees are expected to retire. And an estimated one-third of the construction worker shortage is Alberta-based. According to the Government of Alberta, there are nearly 800 major capital projects – those valued at more than $5 million – planned or in progress, valued at a total of more than $220 billion. Meanwhile, Alberta’s unemployment rate sits at 4.7 per cent as of April 2014.

According to the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training 2013 Statistics Report, the top trade choices for women in construction-related apprenticeships are welder (662); electrician (607); parts technician (399); steamfitter/pipefitter (245); and carpenter (209).

Footbridges over otherwise impassable rivers give isolated communities access to health care, education and markets

By Barb Feldman

In 2001, Ken Frantz happened to see a photo in National Geographic of men dangling precariously from ropes that they were using to pull each other across a wide, high gap in a bridge across the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. Frantz, who owned a construction company, knew how to build and believed he could help. He persuaded family, friends and his Rotary club to donate time, money and materials, and within three months the two sides of the centuries-old stone span, which had been deliberately destroyed in World War II to stop the advance of Italian troops, had been reconnected.

The success of this first project inspired Frantz to found Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a non-profit dedicated to building footbridges over otherwise impassable rivers to give isolated communities safer access to health care, education and markets. Both B2P’s basic cable-suspended bridge design and its community-participation and teaching model were inspired by and adapted from programs begun by the Swiss development agency Helvetas (now HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation), which began its own community footbridge-building programs in the 1980s. Since 2008, B2P has also been developing its own safe, replicable and locally viable suspension bridge design alternatives.

Growth in construction sector is a good indicator of a strengthening economy

Supplied by CareerBuilder Canada and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl.

Canada’s construction industry has seen steady growth over the last several years, and new data suggests the expansion will continue throughout 2014. According to CareerBuilder Canada and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI), employment in the construction industry has grown by 12 per cent from 2011 to 2014, adding over 102,000 jobs, outpacing four per cent growth for all jobs.

“The construction industry is often a reliable indicator of an economy’s strength, and right now we’re seeing very encouraging growth,” said Mark Bania, director at CareerBuilder Canada. “Not only has the construction industry added a wide variety of occupations over the past few years, but this growth has stretched across the entire country.”

In order to help workers determine where the opportunities lie within this growing industry, CareerBuilder and EMSI put together a list of the fastest-growing construction occupations. Among occupations that are expected to see the greatest percentage increases in 2014 are:

1) Administrative officersOversee and implement administrative procedures, establish work priorities and co-ordinate the acquisition of administrative services such as office space, supplies and security services.
· Change in construction employment (2013-2014) – 5.1 per cent 
· Median hourly earnings – $21.63

2) Contractors and supervisors, heavy construction equipment crewsIncludes excavating, grading, paving, drilling and blasting contractors who own and operate their own business and contractors who supervise crane operators, drillers and blasters, heavy equipment operators, longshore workers, material handlers, public works maintenance equipment operators, railway track maintenance workers and water well drillers.
· Change in construction employment (2013-2014) – 4.4 per cent 
· Median hourly earnings – $29.85

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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.