Case Study: Building in the Great White North
The Nunavut Research Institute’s research lab, Igloolik, Nunavut.
In the Canadian Arctic, resources are limited, weather is a challenge and community is key, especially when it comes to building.
Through its joint-venture partnership with Tangmaarvik, Carillion was contracted by the Government of Nunavut to build modular structures in four communities: Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay, Igloolik and Arviat.
These modular structures were made to support the Nunavut Research Institute’s health, natural and social science programs. Carillion was contracted for the design, build, transport and install of the structures, followed by a one-year in-service warranty period. The materials and tools needed for the project were shipped late summer 2010, with installation completed by November the same year. The team at Tangmaarvik worked with local Inuit contractors in each of the four communities.
“Partnering with local Inuit contractors is the only way to operate in Nunavut,” say Tim Flye, operations manager on the project. “Most large scale projects or government tenders stipulate Inuit involvement in their request for proposals. Because we couldn’t coordinate available workforce through local agencies and businesses ahead of time, I literally had to knock on doors to track down local trades people and skilled labour for the build.” As a result, Tim ended up being the only person on the project not hired directly from the four communities.
Tangmaarvik is an Inuit-owned company based in Baker Lake, Nunavut. They support local economic development by providing local employment and supporting community initiatives throughout the Territory. This was the first project they delivered outside the mining sector in Nunavut.
“Tangmaarvik and our Baker Lake office were set up early to grow our business into the Canadian Arctic, as we needed a home base and it made perfect sense to have a physical space from which to run projects with our Inuit partners,” says Flye.
Of course, a project of this type in the Canadian Arctic comes with unique logistical challenges. Our teams needed to ensure they had all the required tools and materials in each of the locations to do the job. Everything had to be shipped by sea, up the east and west coast into the Arctic and there was only one chance to make sure everything the team needed was on the boat.
“Not having the right tools or supplies once the ships reached port would have had dramatic impact on our success,” says Flye. “We spent the spring packing tools and materials for each site and going back to our lists if there was a last-minute change to the fabrication of the modules back in our factory.”
Ultimately, we and Tangmaarvik were a good fit for this project because, while it comes with its own unique challenges, we have the right suppliers and experience to deliver where other companies may have faltered. The timing was also right, since at the time, the mining sector in Nunavut had slowed down, which means that taking on this project was a benefit for our Inuit partners.
“We stand by our commitment to employ, train, build capacity and engage local resources, time and time again,” says Flye. “Taking the time to share knowledge or to mentor new workers is key. This mindset changes the way you look at a project. It is no longer simply about building a structure, but becomes a living legacy as our workers take new skills and experiences on their life path.”