Graham Construction

Graham Construction is careful to stay on schedule and meet stringent milestones while upgrading Calgary, Alberta’s largest wastewater treatment plant to avoid delaying the project an entire year. “We have a willingness to get things done with minimal complications and work through situations to get the job done,” Project Manager Andrew Buchner says. 

The Alberta, Canada-based company prides itself on being North America’s premier integrated construction solutions partner. Graham Construction was first known as P.W. Graham & Sons Construction in 1926 and began building railway stations for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. After the Great Depression, the company began working on government construction projects followed by power stations and alternative energy facilities in the 1950s.

Graham Construction expanded its operations in the 1970s to include offices in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Ron Graham became president and annual revenues grew to about $100 million. Ten years later, the company moved its headquarters from Moose Jaw to Calgary, and Graham Construction employees purchased the company and become shareholders. Four operational divisions were established at that time, which included commercial, industrial, infrastructure and masonry, and Graham Construction began setting up shared corporate services. 

Today, Graham Construction is a growing and diversified employee-owned organization that has the resources of a big company, small town roots and a family culture. 

“Our mission is to provide superior integrated construction solutions throughout North America while offering our employees a challenging and rewarding career within a safe work environment, and our unit holders a competitive return,” the company says.

Graham Construction performs everything from small building renovations to complex $500 million design/build projects. The company provides a wide range of services for commercial, industrial, infrastructure, and earthworks and underground projects. “Our vision is to be North America’s premier integrated construction solutions partner,” the company says.

Graham Construction’s services range from design/build to construction management and are customizable based on specific client needs. Graham Construction can perform one or two phases of the project lifecycle or end-to-end solutions. “Our mission is to provide superior integrated construction solutions throughout North America while offering our employees a challenging and rewarding career within a safe work environment, and our unitholders a competitive return,” the company says.

Facility Upgrades

Graham Construction was awarded the 19,300-square-foot headworks upgrade project at Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant in January 2012.  Wastewater treatment plants provide a key service in communities we live in by cleaning the water. Graham Construction has delivered numerous wastewater treatment plants throughout North America that provide communities with innovative technology for treating water more efficiently and delivering high-quality standards expected in terms of water quality and environmental management.

“Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant has the highest level of treatment in North America and is a well-known treatment plant,” Buchner says. “The headworks is the main point of influent entry into the plant and we were charged with constructing the new facility complete with the installation of state-of-the-art technology that will increase capacity.”

The Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant serves about 900,000 people and treats about 700 megaliters per day at peak flows. Graham Construction installed new screens and grit removal technology that result in greater efficiency and nearly doubles its capacity. “The grit removal technology decreases the load on the downstream plant because we are removing more solids up front,” Buchner explains. “It removes rocks, sand and things that come downstream from the road, for example.” 

The headworks project began on time and has stayed on schedule despite significant flooding to the facility that delayed work for six months. The Bow and Elbow rivers inundated Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant with floodwater for two days in June 2013 and as the water level rose, parts of the plant were shut down to prevent a catastrophic failure. 

“The difference between this flood and the one in 2005 is we got it from both sides of the plant,” Calgary Manager of Wastewater Treatment Kevin Colbran says. “The river backed up into the plant from the outfall and when the downtown core flooded, the sanitary system was inundated.”

To ensure the project stayed on track, Graham Construction kept a close watch on its productivity and collaborated with the city of Calgary, plant operators and subcontractors. “The big issue with that flood was that we had stringent milestone dates to hit, so we reconfigured sequences and focused on the critical path and had significant work acceleration from all parties,” Buchner says. “Our milestones were based on seasonal flows and plant capacity, so if we missed a milestone by a few days we had to wait a year to complete the work.” 

Plant Expansion

Graham Construction developed a close relationship with the city of Calgary after completing the plant’s headworks upgrade on schedule. Because of its proven ability, the company was awarded additional upgrade projects to the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Graham Construction will be building new clarifiers and upgrading systems in the clarifiers for the secondary treatment plant. 

Graham Construction began excavation and pouring concrete at the end of February in the secondary treatment plant  at the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant and is using the same subcontractors and vendors it used to complete the headworks project. Choosing to work with the same team was a strategic move by the construction company because it has to operate on another strict schedule during the four-year project. 

To ensure it maintains good working relationships with its suppliers and subcontractors, Graham Construction pays on time and provides future work incentives. “The majority of our main subcontractors have remained the same and that gives us a significant advantage and leverage to get the additional projects,” Buchner says. “The additional upgrades are similar to the headworks because we have strict deadlines.”

A significant amount of work must be completed within a two-month time period because it is the only time the secondary treatment plant can be shut down. The window runs from April 1 through May 31. 

To ensure the work will be completed on time, Graham Construction procured a majority of the equipment it will need before the project started.

“Supply chain management is huge on this project,” Buchner says. “We have to have our suppliers onboard, making sure we have everything we need – it’s procured and onsite.”  

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