Smith Bros. & Wilson Ltd. – Surrey Biofuel Processing Facility

When Smith Bros. & Wilson Ltd. (SBW) takes on a project, it brings the approach of “a true, traditional contractor,” Senior Project Manager Rick Murray says. “We self-perform and do our own concrete work so we have more control over the project.”

The company is bringing that approach to the Surrey Biofuel Processing Facility, which it is building in Surrey, British Columbia. The 14,500-square-metre building, Murray says, will recycle organic waste.

“Organic waste comes in the building, goes through processing and creates biofuel and compost,” he says, noting that this diverts waste from landfills. “It is source separated organics – comprised of food and yard waste.”

SBW is the construction manager on the project for the design/builder, Orgaworld. “They’re in partnership with the City of Surrey,” Murray says. This marks the company’s first project with Orgaworld. 

Built to Last 

Construction started on the biofuel processing facility in April 2015. “We’ve been working on it for a year,” Murray says, noting that the project is set for completion in January 2017. “It’s a robust building.”

SBW is building the facility with a tilt-up, hollow core precast system. What makes this unique is that “it’s not just a perimeter wall system,” he notes.

Instead, numerous tunnels are being constructed with the tilt-up concrete that will be used in the recycling process, Murray says. “It’s how they move the waste through the building,” he describes.

But SBW did not use basic concrete when it came to the project, he notes. Instead, it spent a significant amount of time developing the right mix that would be resistant to sulfates.

“We went through five variations of reviews with consultants,” he recalls. “We also had a third-party testing agency help us with the mix design.”

Although this took quite a bit of time, it was well worth it, Murray asserts. “It works out quite well,” he says, adding that the tilt-up process will shorten the project schedule. “It’s a very quick, efficient and safe way to do construction.”

The remainder of the facility also is designed to be resistant to harsh conditions. “Every piece of structural steel has been galvanized,” Murray says. “It’s been designed to last a long time.”

Building the Stack

SBW is building the facility on a tight project site, Murray says. Although the building itself will be in a vast, open area, its walls take up the majority of the site’s space.

This made the construction of the building’s most prominent feature, a 70-metre exhaust stack, into a large logistical hurdle. “That itself was a year in the making right from the start of the project,” he recalls. “We hired a specific engineer for that, tendered it and procured it right away. “Because of the limited space on site to stand the stack, we had to use extremely large cranes, 3 a.m. deliveries and oversized trailers,” he says, noting that the chimney was fabricated by Bell-Camp Manufacturing in Ontario and transported across Canada during the winter.

Ultimately, the chimney arrived on the site in four pieces, Murray recalls. “Everything went to plan but it took a lot to get it here [and put it together],” he says. “That itself is a feat of engineering.”

A Good Group

SBW has worked well with its subtrades on the project, Murray says. “We have lots of very good contractors in British Columbia and we’ve been able to get a selection of that group,” he says. 

These include underground, plumbing and electrical contractors. “Having those three trades there is extremely key because of the amount of coordination it takes,” he says.

“Ironically, most of this project is underground instead of above ground [with] process piping,” he explains. “It’s quite complicated [and requires] a lot of preplanning and forethought.”

This has required SBW to have daily meetings with its subs, he adds. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without them,” he asserts. “We’ve got a good group.”

A Lot to Lean On

Based in Vancouver, SBW has focused on projects in western Canada. “We’ve been around since 1897, so we have a long history behind us and a lot of experience within the company,” Murray says.

This includes Murray himself, who has 20 years in the industry and joined SBW last year. “There’s [also] guys here that have been with Smith Bros. alone for 20 years,” he says. “We have a lot to lean on.”

The Surrey Biofuel Processing Facility has grown that level of experience, he notes. “[We’re] one of the few [companies] in British Columbia that knows how to build up a 70-metre chimney stack,” he says.

SBW expects to stay busy with more projects, Murray says. “British Columbia is taking off in a boom,” he says. “We’re seeing it and feeling it [as many] out-of-province workers are relocating here. It’s a good place to be.” 

Murray predicts continued success for SBW. “I anticipate they’re going to be around for another 100 years,” he says. “We’re growing at an achievable pace and not overdoing it.” 

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