Sitting beneath a crane in Eagle Builders’ yard is a 46-metre-long concrete girder weighing a shade under 100,000 kilograms.
The Blackfalds-based company is only one of two in Alberta certified to create the massive slab of concrete that will form the backbone of a new overpass in Calgary. The girder and several others sitting in Eagle Builders’ huge yard will be loaded on trailers and trucked south soon.
Nearby, rows upon rows of concrete panels are stacked waiting to be transported to Vancouver International Airport for a new 2,400-stall parkade. When finished, it will be Western Canada’s largest pre-cast concrete parkade.
So many truckloads — 3,000 — would have been required to transport all of the concrete panels to Vancouver for the parkade project that Eagle opted to deliver by rail. A special rail trans-loading yard was set up at the edge of Red Deer for the purpose.
Central Alberta family-owned and operated Eagle has managed to weather the economic storms that have hit Alberta in the past few months.
None of its 275 workers have been laid off at its 155,000-square-foot manufacturing plant — the largest in Western Canada, says Jesse Hawiuk, who’s in charge of business development and marketing.
“We can load up to eight to 10 trucks simultaneously. So we can get a lot of product out every single day.”
Diversification has been the key to fuelling company growth, while navigating the ups and downs of Alberta’s economy.
“The big key is we don’t pigeon-hole ourselves into a single industry,” he says, pointing to its long list of commercial, industrial, agricultural and institutional customers.
Those customers are served by the company’s four divisions: agricultural, infrastructure, building products, and design-build and general contracting.
In the Red Deer area, fire stations in Timberlands and Lancaster, St. Joseph High School, Woody’s RV World and a currently under-construction housing complex on Taylor Drive, near 67th Street, are just a few examples of Eagle’s handiwork.
Hundreds of other projects have been built in all four western provinces.
Eagle Builders was started by Dan Haan, who focused on building agricultural buildings using pre-cast concrete panels created in mobile casting beds. Two years later, he leased his first 10,000-square-foot factory in 2002, but passed away the following year.
Sons Craig and Dennis Haan, and Dan’s son-in-law, Kevin Kooiker, took over and have been running the company ever since.
In 2008, the company built its first plant in Aspelund Industrial Park, just west of Blackfalds, and it has been expanded several times.
Hawiuk said with the company’s huge production capacity, it can build every part of a building to design. Walls come with windows openings framed in and pre-wired for electrical. The same tradespeople are used for every project.
“For Eagle Builders, we don’t tender a single thing. What we have done is established a team, a team of sub-trades, that we use on every single project.”
Since Eagle has control over all aspects of construction, it can price to the dime what a building will cost from the start.
In traditional construction, a client may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on designs without knowing exactly how much it may cost to build until it goes to tender. If bids come in high, designs may have to be altered at further cost.
“Because we’re pre-fabricated, we’re able to establish cost and time certainty very early on,” he said. “We take a lot of the risk out of construction.”
Eagle is already looking at ways to stretch itself. The six-storey housing project in Red Deer was its tallest building so far, but they have already set their sights higher.
“We are actively pursuing even taller buildings. We’re starting to look into the mid-rise and higher-rise type buildings.”