Portable housing makes remote site life a pleasure
Working at harsh and unforgiving remote mine sites used to mean living in equally nasty surroundings with few if any conveniences found in urban life.
Lean-tos, tents pitched on outcrops, or canvas-sided cabins built on wooden stilts are more the norm for many people living and working in the field during the early stages of mine development.
Fortunately, however, as the site develops, so too do many of the living conditions. Lean-tos, tents and elevated cabins are replaced with rigid structures, and perhaps most important of all, personal conveniences are moved indoors.
Life in the field becomes almost city like, with facilities located at mines sites today rivaling many living conditions in urban centres. That’s fair to say when not every town has a golf simulator, indoor running track and squash courts.
And that’s the goal of Calgary-based ATCO Structures & Logistics, as it continues to follow a business plans that is based on “making workplace housing enjoyable.”
From its 275,000 square-foot manufacturing facilities in Calgary, the company has been custom building portable structures designed for the mining industry, as well as a host of other commercial and industrial customers, since 1947 when the S.D. Southern & Son team expanded and started renting trailers with Alberta Trailer Hire to the mining and oil industries for use as housing and other storage facilities.
Since then, business has steadily increased, becoming today’s ATCO Structures & Logistics, part of the ATCO Group of Companies, with assets of about $18 billion, and employing more than 9,000 people worldwide.
The company continues to keep pace with industry demands by diversifying from housing and other accommodations to a more robust range of services.
It also provides solutions in structures and logistics to companies engaged in manufacturing, logistics and noise abatement, to providing facilities, operations and maintenance service to military installations.
From fire protection services at a NATO camp in Kosovo, to maintaining the Alaska Radar System, the once-a-trailer-only company is now a truly global operator with wide-ranging capabilities.
But it’s the “accommodations” that the father-and-son team started almost 50 years ago that remain as the company’s main focus and few of its projects serve as a better example of this dedication than the Barge Landing Lodge in Fort McKay, north of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The lodge is a poster child for Aboriginal business partnerships, owned and operated jointly with the local Fort McKay First Nation.
Designed to accommodate almost 1,500 workers from the nearby oil sands surrounding Fort McMurray, the 308,160-square-foot lodge is a massive complex that’s composed of individual dormitory units with Arctic corridors connecting all of the units with a grouping of centre-core buildings including a gourmet kitchen and dining room.
The lodge also features a 12,000-square-foot recreation centre that includes a reception desk, private offices, a convenience store, security centre, a fully equipped gym, and a private internet room.
But it’s far more than a well-equipped facility designed to house workers from the oil sands.
The fame of the lodge’s annual feasts stretches beyond the oil sands and its workers to other communities where residents often travel to the Barge Landing Lodge to celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Canada Day and, of course, the lodge’s birthday with uniquely designed banquets