Portable buildings put communities on the move… Literally | Smart Shift | Executive | Financial Post
Issue: Energy and mining companies often create homes and infrastructure in previously uninhabited areas only to leave them abandoned once operations cease.
Shift: New processes let companies quickly set up, tear down and move buildings whenever they need to, creating a more sustainable and cost-effective approach to infrastructure.
If you build it, they might come. But what happens when they leave? That’s the dilemma facing many thriving oil and gas, energy and mining operations that have set their sights on development in remote communities throughout northern Canada.
With the rebound in the resource industries, the sectors are surging ahead with projects that will instantly grow existing communities or instantly create new ones. But past booms and busts have shown that building a community infrastructure isn’t that simple — especially when the production life cycle will peter out within 20 to 25 years.
The questions being asked around the planning table are different from days gone by: How do we get it up and running as quickly as possible? How can we do it in an environmentally sustainable way? And what do we do with it all once the boom is over?
There is a lot of overseas mining activity in the Yukon, for example, that will demand infrastructure building in what were once virgin territories, notes John Berg, architect and senior associate for engineering firm Stantec in Whitehorse, Yukon. “The biggest obstacle for these people coming in is dealing with the environmental impact and delivering an infrastructure that they have to have up and running in a matter of months.
“That includes electrical, mechanical, structural and architectural planning.”
Infrastructure and life cycle planners need only look at the fallout of aggressive post-war development to know what not to do. When the market faltered, many communities were virtually abandoned after operations closed.
But as Scott Weston, mining sector leader for Hemmera in Vancouver, which specializes in environmental management and infrastructure design, notes, today’s planning exercises are far more future-focused.
“You need to build in a way that the smallest footprint of land is disturbed. You have to design taking into account the potential impact on human health, socio-economic and socio-community factors. And you have to consider the entire life cycle of a community and plan for closure in 10 or 20 years’ time. What’s the cost of clean-up when you’re done?”
Strange Random Building Quote:
“In Los Angeles, by the time you’re 35, you’re older than most of the buildings.” – Delia Ephron
- Yukon rejects oil exploration in Whitehorse Trough (cbc.ca)
- National agencies tackle unsustainable water infrastructure (quenchonline.com)
- Feds pledge $350K for Yukon airports (cbc.ca)
- Regulated cost of capital for airports (citizeneconomists.com)
- Stantec-designed terminal opens at Edmonton International Airport (seattlepi.com)
Posted on April 26, 2012, in Article and tagged Canada, Delia Ephron, Infrastructure, John Berg, Northern Canada, Stantec, Whitehorse, Yukon, Yukon Whitehorse. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.