Vancouver Soaring

Lafarge Canada’s Vancouver Harbour facility was fully commissioned in January 2010, just weeks before the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in

Steven Prokopy

Lafarge Canada’s Vancouver Harbour facility was fully commissioned in January 2010, just weeks before the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in mid-February. While the company’s already operational Kent Ave. plant was a major concrete supplier to Vancouver’s Olympics-driven construction boom, the hope for the Harbour operation was that many of the city’s other large-scale construction projects that were put on hold during Olympics building would come back to life.

George Wagner, project manager for the new plant, explains, With the Habour Plant, we are close to downtown and to East Vancouver, two areas where we see an increase in future construction activity occurring. East Vancouver is where we expect the next wave of commercial and residential work to happen.

Wagner says that the company’s Kent Ave. plant, situated a distance from the city’s downtown area, as well as Lafarge Canada division Kask Brothers in nearby Burnaby, British Columbia, were made extremely busy from Olympic-related work. That being said, the post-Olympics demand is less than we’d anticipated, but over time Vancouver is still growing and our position is still solid with this new location, Wagner adds.


The less-than-three-acre Vancouver Harbour plant is a culmination of work that started in another, more easterly site in Vancouver Harbour. The original location was deemed unsuitable due to its close proximity to a neighborhood park, says Wagner.

An environmental appraisal was completed by Lafarge under a process established by Port Metro Vancouver, which leases the land to Lafarge. Port Metro Vancouver was the lead agency in a multi-agency review. Once again, the locals spoke up, this time challenging the permitting process. The seven-year battle, which progressed through the British Columbia courts and the Supreme Court of Canada, resulted in a 2007 decision affirming the Port’s right and ability to designate the use of property. Soon after the ruling, Lafarge updated its environmental appraisal documents, and by December 2008 was ready to proceed.

Although not a direct replacement, the Vancouver Harbour plant was meant to reclaim business from a Lafarge ready mixed site shut down in the mid-1980s so that the land could be used as part of the Expo 86 (Vancouver’s World’s Fair). Historically, Lafarge has had a downtown plant for decades. By the time all permits were updated and cleared, the harbor-front site was essentially bare ground and trees, one of which contained an active eagle’s nest [see Sidebar below], which was protected by environmental laws whether it was occupied or not.

The permit included 19 mandatory conditions, as well as 27 environmental requirements, largely pertaining to construction, e.g., restrictions on noise, dust, signage, and even what color the buildings had to be. Additionally, an ambient air-quality and meteorological monitoring program was in effect six months prior to the plant opening and one year after, with a provision to continue the program depending on initial results. Permitting also covered shoreline activity, stormwater and runoff collection and treatment, as well as landscaping.

By December 2008, most of the engineering was completed, with all construction and early commissioning happening by the end of 2009. With the space limitations, it forced us to be creative with design in terms of where we placed equipment and other plant elements, explains Wagner.


Aside from some raw material piles in the Vancouver Harbour plant’s yard, nearly the entire ready mixed production portion of the operation (rated at 2,600 yd./day, but typically producing about 1,050 yd./day) is enclosed, including all aggregate bins, the loading bay, cement silos, scales, and most of the conveyors.

Much of the aggregates (from Lafarge’s Earle Creek facility on the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver) are brought in by 5,000-metric ton barges, which meant the company had to install an unloading system and conveyors from the barge-berthing area. With the 36-in.-wide x 575-ft.-long conveyor, the system can off load at a rate of about 1,000 metric tons/hour. Aggregate goes to a transfer tower and hits a tripper conveyor, which deposits the material to one of four aggregate bunkers (three of which hold 5,400 metric tons each, while the fourth holds 2,000). Three other, smaller bunkers were constructed for specialty aggregates.

From the bunkers, aggregate is delivered by a wheel loader to a 20-metric-ton-capacity feed hopper. The material makes its way to a shuttle conveyor that takes the aggregate to one of eight bins (four hold 75 metric tons; four hold 37.5). The bins discharge from the bottom to the aggregate scale and are finally taken to the mixer feed belt.

The plant has four, 200-metric ton cement silos Û three single-compartment, and one double-compartment (or 100 tons per side), which holds additional cementitious materials such as blended cement, fly ash and lime fines. Cement for the Vancouver Harbour operation is trucked in from Lafarge’s nearby Richmond, B.C., cement facility. To abate any potential noise issues, blowers were installed at the plant to help unload bulk cement. Powder is sent via screw conveyors from the silos to one of two cement scales. A stainless steel water scale was designed to use recycled water in addition to city water.

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Custom designed by BMH Systems, the low-profile central mix batch plant contains a 14-yd. RollMaster variable-speed, reversing drum mixer, with four individual electric drive systems. The design capacity is about 300 yd./hour. Command Alkon supplied both the control system (Commandbatch) and dispatching software.

To assist in aggregate and water reclamation, Lafarge used an EnviroPort system with a 17,000-gal. agitation tank and 2,000-gal. slurry tank.

The Vancouver Harbour plant does not maintain its own mixer truck fleet. Instead, it acts as a depot for the Kask Brothers and Kent Ave. operations’ combined 50 trucks. Vehicles pull into the secure harbor Û drivers use a swipecard system to enter the port area Û and load up for delivery, and either return to the port for additional loads or head back to their home plant.

Due to its proximity to a nearby condo complex and other residential developments, the facility had to take certain steps to reduce noise. In addition to enclosing the plant in an engineered building, the plant loader and telehandler use low-frequency back-up alarms. A traffic-management plan had to be presented to the Port as well prior to receiving permits. We are able to respond to night pours or 24-hour pours, but we probably won’t do that very often, says Wagner. The port is planning to make road modifications to adjust for the increased Port-related traffic, which will happen over the next three years and improve access from the plant to downtown.

Being located next to water, the company had to add rip-rap to stabilize the foreshore, and above that, landscaping with trees and shrubs was done. Additional planting occurred on the roadside of the aggregate bunkers near the entrance.

All mixer truck loading is done using a single alley, enclosed loading bay. When trucks return to the Harbour Plant, they washout with waste water being discharged into the EnviroPort. The mixer trucks then line up to replenish water and admixtures on their side tanks at the two water islands, and then head into the plant for loading. The tandem mixer trucks hauling from the Harbour Plant have 13.5-yd. capacity.


At the end of the winter 2009, the pair of bald eagles that reside in a nest in a cottonwood tree at the north side of the Lafarge Vancouver Harbour ready mixed plant site had three eggs, all of which hatched. While we were constructing the plant, says George Wagner, project manager for the new facility, it became interesting to watch the eaglets grow and learn to fly. Eventually, the parents kicked them out of the nest, and they went out on their own. The parents disappear from the nest from about September to January, explains Wagner, but by March 2010, three new eggs appeared in the nest and should hatch in April or May.

The eagle pair has become an extremely important part of both the East Vancouver community and Lafarge Canada, which made a decision early on to design and construct the new operation in a way as to not take down or even disturb the nest. Since bald eagles are not an endangered species in Canada Û nor are they in the United States, since they were taken off the endangered list in 2007 Û Lafarge was under no obligation to keep the nest in place. But, that didn’t stop the company from protecting the tree by building barricades around it and doing some landscaping around exposed roots at its base in an effort to save and prolong the life of the tree.

Lafarge also hired a biologist to advise the site workers how to coexist with the eagles. In case the tree became damaged Û by natural or man-made causes Û the company also built an artificial nesting pole next to the existing nest. If anything did happen to the tree, the hope would be that the eagles would simply move over and use the artificial nest, says Wagner. Currently, the male eagle uses the artificial nest frame as a perch to keep an eye on family activities in the natural nest.

The efforts seem to be paying off, and the eagles don’t seem especially disturbed by all of the new activity in their neighborhood. We did pile driving about 50 feet from them, with a total of 80 timber piles needed to support our conveyor transfer tower last winter, and it didn’t seem to bother them at all, he says. Lafarge also has formed a partnership with the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, local eagle experts that have several webcams around the area tracking eagles’ nests. According to Wagner, the Vancouver Harbour eagles are being added to the Hancock portfolio of nests under view.