Piling Canada

Experienced Hands

For over 40 years, Waterworks Construction Inc. has been building its toolkit of experience and reliability
Written by Kelly Gray
September 2016

For over 40 years, Waterworks Construction Inc. has been building its toolkit of experience and reliability

When the chips are down and the needs are high, it’s just another day for Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based Waterworks Construction Inc. Since 1975, this Atlantic Canada company has been earning a solid reputation as the go-to guys for all types of piling and unique or challenging heavy civil infrastructure. Today, Waterworks undertakes projects all over the Atlantic Coast including Labrador and Nunavut, as well as the Northwest Territories.

According to project manager Greg Kerr, his father started the business in the ’70s while studying engineering at university.

“Back then, my father [Waterworks Construction’s president, Roderick Kerr] was doing small marine repair jobs and working on recreational docks on the Northwestern Arm, a 3.5-kilometre inlet near Halifax harbour. He established a good name in the trade and the business began to expand when Gordon Spencer [Waterworks’ current vice president] joined the team to help take on increasingly more challenging work,” he said.

Kerr reports that it’s experience that has built the business.

“We go into each job with a solid base of knowledge and then turn to our experience to solve the types of challenges that are a constant in this type of construction,” he said. “We have a good reputation for deep foundation construction, including drilled and rock-socketed piles and sheet piles, with a fair amount of our contracts being marine-based.”

He points to their pile drilling machines as good examples of their solutions-based thinking.

“We modified our crawler cranes into heavy drill equipment,” said Kerr. “We saw there was a problem in our area of work with drill machines not being able to handle long piles or obtain the reach necessary for the site. The company has since made significant investments to turn cranes into drill rigs and this greatly enhanced our capabilities.”

Their jobs show the breadth of their skill sets. For example, Waterworks Construction was awarded a design-build contract for the Woodside Ferry Terminal pontoon replacement. The team analyzed and scrutinized every aspect to ensure the most innovative strategy with respect to construction methods, installation procedure, lifespan of the pontoon, schedule, project cost, maintenance requirements and overall buoyancy, including draft and freeboard.

“The ferry terminal was a tricky undertaking because there was no closure of the service. Everything had to be done in such a way that there was no disruption. People depend on the ferry every day,” said Kerr, noting that the pontoon had to be constructed from concrete. “We built the pontoon and launched it on airbags using a gravel slipway to bring the 1,000-ton structure to the water.”

In another example of the company’s ability to manage large difficult jobs, Kerr points to a project in Northern Labrador where they worked on a water intake system that was 30 feet below grade. Here they had to load everything onto a barge to move it hundreds of miles into northern seas with only one shot at getting to the site before harsh weather set in.

“If you didn’t bring something, the job didn’t get done,” he said. “We had to rely on our management and organizational skills to ensure that everything was prepped for the job and on board before we left the dock.”

According to Kerr, most people know them as the  rm that constructed much of the Halifax boardwalk.

“It’s one of the longest continuous wooden boardwalks in the world, and we are quite proud to have played a role,” he said.

Large, complex projects aside, Waterworks enjoys getting back to basics.

“Even though we have expanded and increased our skillsets to give us what we need for the most complex jobs, we still go back to our roots and build recreational docks,” said Kerr, mentioning that their customers on the Northwest Arm look to them for high quality solutions that give them easy access to the water and their boats. “The customers in this area have been and continue to be very discriminating and demand only the  nest designs and workmanship. For us, this has become something of a creative outlet.”

To get jobs done, Waterworks likes to run crews of just five to six people.

“Our jobs are complicated and require small, flexible crews,” said Kerr. “Our guys are able to perform multiple roles on each project. Rather than a set of workers with separate skillsets, the crews are a unified team where everyone has the necessary knowledge to understand the full breadth of the undertaking and work in a variety of areas. This is good for safety, where crews get the big picture and members know the next steps and can keep an eye on colleagues as the work progresses.”

Indeed, safety is key to any job performance. Kerr says that team members get together to discuss the job at weekly “toolbox” meetings, where risks and hazards are assessed and solutions discussed.

“On the job, any risk that is discovered is taken to the superintendent or a co-worker to see how it can be mitigated,” said Kerr. “For us, safety is number one in our job culture.”

Big effort
According to Kerr, Waterworks is a small company with big capability. For instance, the head office has a team of six staff to manage bids and sales efforts, as well as project administration. In the field, the company gets jobs done with the help of many long-term workers.

“Our superintendents are very experienced, as are our equipment operators. Some of our site personnel have been with the company for over 30 years and have the skillsets to get jobs done on time and on budget,” he said, adding that they have also provided in-house training, such as an intensive course they held to develop new crane operators.

Waterworks also owns and operates three barges. These include a concrete barge with an 80-ton crane and two steel pontoon barges.

“Each vessel is unique, and that allows us to access challenging sites,” said Kerr.

He says that business for them is slow and steady.

“For us, it’s simply one foot in front of the other,” he said.

“We stay well coordinated and execute jobs properly because we don’t take on more work than we can handle. We operate a lean business model and I think that this is a reason for our success in the industry. We do what we say, and say what we do. It’s that simple.”

Indeed, it’s thinking like this that allows them to report that over their more than 40 years in business, they have never had a bankruptcy, a bonding call, a legal suit that went to court or seen a project failure of any sort.

In the end, it’s Waterworks Construction’s reputation that earns new projects. From heavy civil infrastructure, such as the Woodside Ferry Terminal, to recreational docks along Halifax’s beautiful Northwest Arm, to projects in the north and even naval work and fishing harbours, Waterworks has earned its bread and butter by being a reliable project partner that delivers.

“These jobs are complicated and expensive. People have learned that to get it done properly at the outset, you have to go with the team that has the proven track record. We are that team,” said Kerr.

{fastsocialshare} 🍁

Category: Profile

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.

Sign Up

Submit your email to receive our e-newsletter.