October 2019

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OCTOBER 2019 | 39 Reinforcing Steel PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY LMS GROUP The reinforcing steel sector faces challenges and opportunities head on by ROBIN BRUNET R einforcing steel has always been a vulnerable sector of the construc- tion industry, as much at the mercy of mercurial politicians as it is of the fluctuations in regional economies – and such is the case in 2019 for a variety of notable rebar suppliers. The degree to which companies can stay busy despite circum- stances beyond their control depends largely on their versatility, and LMS Reinforcing Steel Group (LMS) is a good case in point. LMS is currently working on more than 400 projects throughout B.C., Alberta, and California. High-profile projects include Vancouver House, The Pacific, Brentwood, and Solo District. Ron McNeil, CEO and co-founder of LMS, says, "We continue to experience sound growth and there are several large-scale projects under construction in B.C. Our business volume has grown by approximately 30 percent, and our workforce is now over 1,100 people strong." That's not to say LMS, like other reinforcing steel companies, hasn't faced challenges in 2019. However, LMS has taken an aggressive approach to overcome them. McNeil explains: "Recruitment and training continue to be a priority, and LMS continues to lead the industry in bringing women into the rebar ironworker trade. We are committed to developing long-term careers for all our team mem- bers, and to that end we have spent much time and effort over the past two years developing LMS Academy. This is our in-house apprentice training program that is bolstered by ongoing mentorship of our field team." Other challenges in 2019 require an equal degree of ingenuity and hard work to overcome. "The market continues to be impacted by Canadian and U.S. tariffs," says McNeil. "At times, the prices for steel seem to be a moving target. This is where our long-term experience and capability make a difference for our clients. With the help of our steel procurement manager, Robert James, we are able to source material to meet our demands. The majority of this material is procured in U.S. dollars, and as such, we employ currency hedging to mitigate our risk on a fluctuating dollar." In Alberta, Duane Kotun, VP of Sherwood Steel, says although press coverage portraying the economy of his province as rebounding is exaggerated, his firm has been keeping busy in 2019 with a host of smaller jobs, including commercial renovations and school work. "Other factors we faced this year have been chal- lenging and include absolutely horrendous wet weather in June and July, plus having to endure an overbuilt situation in the multi-family residential sector," he says. A relatively weak market has led to a troubling trend of companies that specialize in small-scale residential projects bidding on – and sometimes winning – large scale jobs they are not experienced enough to fulfill efficiently. "That's our new competition, and it's another reason people in my sector are hoping for a stronger 2020," says Kotun. However, Kotun goes on to say that, "The immediate future looks good. In early August the long-awaited new Calgary Arena was approved for construction, and that will be a huge project in and of itself – but more importantly, it will lead to the construction of new hotels and other facilities." Like his colleagues in the reinforcing steel sector, Kotun was relieved when Washington earlier this year rescinded the levies of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum without imposing quotas to limit the amount Canadian producers can export into the U.S. market; he thinks this move is contributing to the sense of an impending recovery. "We're rebidding on old projects that were halted due to the tariffs, and we've seen some decline in prices. The tariffs created a lot of difficulties: for example, coil and other products took up to eight months to obtain and cost 15 percent more than usual if purchased in the U.S. Yes, we're glad to see the end of the tariffs." Many reinforcing steel suppliers cite close networking with colleagues as one way to stay busy in fluctuating markets – as well as to fulfill the tricky logistical requirements of certain projects. One of Salit Steel's more notable projects of late resulted in the company teaming up with GFL (formerly Anchor Shoring Group) to create some of the biggest caisson cages ever supplied in the Greater Toronto Area, on behalf of The One condominium. The project's obstacles included no room on site to build the cages, as well as the sheer size requirements: each cage would weigh up to 15 metric tonnes, be up to 24-metres long, and be composed of Grade 500 rebar. A cage support system was created in collaboration with StelCrete, SRI Installations, and other firms for the 98 caisson cages required for the project. Three of the largest caissons now support The One, which is the tallest condo in Toronto with a building structure design of structural steel exoskeleton and reinforced concrete. The One also reflected a specific Salit Steel strength: it is made up of an inte- grated network of firms and partners that together provide a full range of steel solutions through its service centre and rebar fabrication divisions (for example, StelCrete manufactures and supplies pre-assembled reinforcing and structural steel components, as well as wire and wire mesh assemblies, to the precast concrete and construction industries across Canada). Martin Gobin, president of Heritage Steel Sales Ltd., helped ensure the resiliency of his family-run company early on by undertaking a large infrastructure expansion after the purchase of an adjacent piece of property. The resulting 24,500-square- foot enclosed plant now houses shear-lines (one of which has the largest production made shears in the world), a conveyor system to transport material from the shear to the table benders, two stirrup/auto coil machines, radius machine, and a spiral machine, plus four wirelessly controlled five-ton overhead cranes. Gobin also stayed abreast of technological advancements by employing computer software designed specifically for reinforcing steel products. The largest shear-line is computer aided and automated, as are the benders and stir- rup machines. WiFi scanners allow real-time tracking, mill/heat assignments to releases, inventory functions, loading/shipping functions, and auto setting of the shear-line and benders. With all these resources at its disposal, Heritage Steel has consistently been able to serve a wide variety of projects. "We recently completed The Kings Crossing project for Cressey Development Group, which consists of three residential towers and one commercial tower, totalling 10,000 tons of rebar," says Gobin. "We're currently working on several high-rise projects along with bridges, tilt-ups, and the new Coquitlam Transfer Station with Stuart Olson Construction." Looking ahead, Gobin sees both opportunities and challenges for the rebar sector. "Although the towers have kept us busy, we are seeing a shift to more infrastructure-type work, especially up north with the LNG and Site C dam project. We will continue to see pressure on the supply of manpower going forward due to these large projects, as they draw people out of the city to these remote areas." A REINFORCEMENTS Bring In The Vancover House jobsite, Vancouver, B.C. 10:39 AM

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