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Heartland 101 November 2016: Building Mega Projects with Modules

photo_heartland_101_201611You may have helped an ambitious eight year old assemble all 658 pieces of a new LEGO Ninjago set. Piece by tiny piece, step by step, it eventually all fits together, days or even weeks later.

The process of building an industrial facility – like a refinery – is actually very similar. However, there are thousands more steps and millions more pieces. If these millions of pieces came individually like in a brand new box of LEGO, the efficiency and cost of construction would be a major challenge.

Modules to the Rescue

Mega projects in Alberta’s Industrial Heartland most often use modular construction for a large portion of the facility. Parts and pieces are sourced from all over the world. But instead of all the individual pieces arriving on site and assembled in order, many of those pieces are sent to offsite module fabrication yards or shops.

The module yards build smaller, independent components of the mega facility at their shops simultaneously. This allows for far greater construction efficiency. Many sizable sections of the facility are completed at the same time instead of working through a ground-up sequence.

From Module Yard to Construction Site

Some of the modules are as small as a minivan, while others are larger than your house. Regardless of size, they must be transported to site once completed, according to a pre-determined schedule.

The modules are transported via truck. It’s likely you’ve seen a wide-load module travelling down the highway with pilot trucks ahead and behind, destined for an industrial construction project. Transporting pre-assembled modules reduces regional traffic, as one module contains thousands of parts that would have otherwise arrived in shipments smaller in size but greater in numbers.

After safely arriving on site, the modules are assembled according to their design sequence and connected together. Other individual parts making up the rest of the facility are assembled as required.

Building a Heartland Refinery

The biggest construction project currently underway in the Heartland – the Sturgeon Refinery – is using modular construction for their project.

Over 1,000 modules were built in nine different module yards in the region, employing over 3,000 people just for module construction. Modules make up over 60% of the total facility, which is scheduled to be operational at the end of 2017.

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