Piling Canada

View from the Top

By Miriam Itzeck, Agra Foundations Limited
February 2015

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.


The company’s history commenced in 1956 when Ben Torchinsky, civil engineer and avid entrepreneur, founded Western Boring and Foundations in response to the increasing demand for deep foundation technologies in Saskatchewan. Operated by graduate professional engineers specialized in soil mechanics and foundations engineering, the company rapidly expanded throughout North America, establishing itself as a leader in the design and construction of foundations.

Shortly after the initial headquarters in Saskatoon, a second branch was opened in Regina. The company reached Alberta in 1959 and Manitoba in 1960. Rebranded as Western Caissons Limited in 1966, it expanded to Ontario and Quebec in the mid-‘60s and the United States in the early 1980s. In 1995, Western Caissons became Agra Foundations Limited.

The culture within Agra is keen to take on challenges, both technical and economic.  Many of Agra’s employees have been with the company throughout their entire career, learning the piling trade and enriching the business with a wealth of expertise developed in-house. To promote the growth and success of its people, Agra maintains comprehensive internal training programs and participates with industry-led initiatives to improve the skills of its workforce.    

True to its roots, Agra is in constant pursuit of technological advancements and improved products for its market. Operating out of three branch offices in Vancouver, Calgary and Saskatoon and a head office in Edmonton, Agra’s team of experts and extensive equipment fleet provides client-focused solutions through a full range of piling and shoring services.
Techniques that Agra can perform for its clients include:

  • Drilled cast in place piling
  • Driven Piling
  • Continuous flight auger (CFA) piling
  • Retaining walls and shoring
  • Cut-off walls
  • Diaphragm walls
  • Tiebacks
  • Jet grouting
  • Micropiling
  • Pile testing
  • Design-build


Motivated by being a “solutions provider,” Agra is often engaged at the early stages of projects to assist in the evaluation of the suitability of different foundation types. The company routinely undertakes pre-production pile installation and load testing programs for large-scale projects to optimize final designs. With its experience across Western Canada and beyond, Agra has a strong familiarity with typical ground conditions and maintains a comprehensive database of completed projects for future reference. Agra’s geographical presence and diverse equipment fleet enables them to be competitive in the broad western piling market. Projects range from small urban jobs to large-scale industrial sites.

Recently completed works include several design-build deep foundations packages for commercial distribution complexes using the increasingly popular CFA piling technique, design-build secant pile shoring projects and numerous driven piling projects including both steel (H-pile, pipe) and timber piling.

During the summer of 2014, Agra partnered with its Soletanche Freyssinet-affiliated company, Geopac Inc., to undertake a large ground improvement and deep foundations project in rural Saskatchewan. This project employed both CFA piling and the installation of over 1,200 Controlled Modulus Columns™ (CMCs) to provide adequate bearing conditions for the expansion of a fertilizer plant storage facility. Agra’s affiliation with companies such as Geopac provides the ability to deliver multiple geotechnical and other construction solutions in a seamless commercial agreement with the client.

Agra has worked on numerous major projects for many notable clients. The company maintains a program to achieve excellence in client care, which is supported at all levels and in all aspects of the organization. This program fosters proactive partnering and recognizes the strong link between the organization’s success and that of its clients.

Ensuring a safe worksite is a core value for Agra, which starts with planning as described by the company’s motto, “The Safe Way is the Only Way.” The company has strived for continual improvement in its safety performance and has implemented a safety program that has gained recognition as exemplary within the industry. This program has earned the company Certificates of Recognition (COR) in all western provinces and territories. Agra subscribes to all major vendor prequalification systems that enable them to service a wide range of clients. Chief tenets in Agra’s safety program that have led to their success are honesty, openness and willingness to learn.  Despite having been one of Western Canada’s premier foundation piling contractors for nearly six decades, Agra has learned that there is always an improvement to be gained through the persistent pursuit of excellence. 


From Piling Canada Q4-2014 🍁

Category: Profile

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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.

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