By Barb Feldman

GEMTEC was formed in 1986 in New Brunswick as a geotechnical engineering, materials testing and hydrogeology firm by three geotechnical engineers. Today, the Canadian-owned-and-operated consulting company has a combined team of more than 120 engineers, scientists, technical personnel and support staff, including one of its original founders, Daryl DeMerchant, who continues to work as a specialist consultant.

“GEMTEC stands for ‘Ground Engineering and Materials TEChnology,’” said engineer Dave Purdue, GEMTEC’s manager of geotechnical engineering. “We have particular expertise in driveability assessments and Pile Driving Analyzer (PDA) testing related to driven foundations.”

The company has offices and laboratories in Fredericton, Moncton, Bathurst, Grand Falls and Saint John, New Brunswick. They specialize in site investigations, foundation design, pile driving analysis and inspection, slope stability assessments, excavation and earthworks, dams and retaining structures and have evaluated foundation conditions for commercial and industrial buildings, dams, pipelines, highway bridges, railways, power plants, industrial plants, mines and waste facilities. GEMTEC subsidiary Houle Chevrier Engineering Ltd., with offices in Montreal and Ottawa, provides specialist services in geotechnical engineering, materials testing and inspection, hydrogeology and environmental engineering.

GEMTEC has been involved in projects in the U.S., the Caribbean and the EU, but the majority of its work has been for the design of deep foundations throughout Atlantic Canada and from Newfoundland to NWT, says Purdue, who notes that most piling in Canada is driven, particularly in Eastern Canada.



By Miriam Itzeck, Agra Foundations Limited

As Agra Foundations Limited approaches its 60-year anniversary, the company looks back on its history of being one of the top foundation contractors in Western Canada, and charts its future as part of one of the largest and most diversified construction companies in the world.

Four years ago, when Agra was acquired by Soletanche Bachy, a world leader in geotechnical engineering and construction, it ultimately became part of the VINCI construction group. While Agra continues to operate as an autonomous company providing geotechnical and deep foundation solutions to its clients throughout Western Canada, it can now rely on international partners to combine resources and provide the highest value solutions to local markets.

“Building on Agra’s history and access to diverse technical strength is what really enables us to provide superior service to our clients,” said Jonathan Hazenberg, P.Eng, who was promoted to the role of Agra’s president in July 2014. Hazenberg joined Agra in early 2014 and brings a strong background in foundations, construction management, business development and leadership. With a refreshed management team, Agra is further leveraging the benefit of the relationship with Soletanche Bachy to bring global expertise to its local market.



Strategies for addressing and alleviating employee anxiety

By Barbara J. Bowes, Legacy Bowes Group

Although Canadians appear to be fairly far away from any potential of encountering the Ebola virus, after reading and hearing the daily news, I can easily envision the heightened fear that’s beginning to occur amongst workers, especially those that travel to foreign countries. Not only are general citizens in the targeted countries becoming ill, doctors, nurses and other health care workers are also becoming patients.

Then, as fear spreads, we are seeing some health care workers refusing to work, causing a shortage of staff to help curb the disease. Similarly, cabin cleaners at New York’s LaGuardia Airport recently walked off the job to protest what they perceived as insufficient protection from potential exposure to the Ebola virus. They raised concerns about the lack of proper protective equipment, as well as the quality. The one-day strike forced airline crews to clean planes themselves, which in turn creates additional health hazards. And in countries such as West Africa, there are already tremendous economic impacts as schools and businesses are closed.

We are also experiencing challenges within our own workforces. On one hand, we are hearing announcements of new job growth opportunities while on the other we are learning of significant budget cuts and employee layoffs. As well, provincial and federal governments appear to be in a belt-tightening mode. Regardless of whether these efforts are legitimate or not, these types of incidents and/or issues cause significant anxiety amongst employee groups.



By Richard Armstrong
This article was originally published by Pile Buck magazine.

The Panama Canal was first opened in 1914 as a bridge between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. By allowing ships to skip the long, treacherous trip rounding Cape Horn, it cut shipping times down exponentially. But a century later, much has changed in both shipping and canal construction. As it was originally built, the canal isn’t big enough to take many of today’s vessels. To stay viable amid tight competition from quicker and cheaper alternative routes, the canal has been undergoing a major upgrade since 2007. The Panama Canal Expansion project will take eight years and cost over $5 billion before it is completed in 2015. As of April 2014, the project is 79 per cent complete, though due to delays there are concerns it won’t be finished until 2016.

The project aims to improve the canal in a number of ways. The navigation channels will be dredged on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, as will the channels in Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake. This will enable the canal to accommodate vessels with deeper drafts than it can presently take. New, larger Post-Panamax locks will be built on both entrances to the canal. These are the so-called “Third Set of Locks.” A completely new channel will be excavated on the Pacific side, north of the Third Set of Locks, which will connect the new locks to Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake. And finally, the canal’s water supply and draft dependability is going to be increased.



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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.