Celebrating 70 years of construction clover
By: Leah Kellar
Houle Electric (Houle) is celebrating 70 years of success this year along its journey to build a lasting legacy as a leader in electrical construction in Western Canada. Houle provides core services in electrical construction, automated building controls, data networks, security & life safety systems, power quality & preventative maintenance (integrated and standalone solutions) for the commercial, industrial, government and P3 (Public Private Partnership) sectors.
The British Columbia based company, founded by the late Lionel Houle in 1944, continues to grow in 2014 with a new nation-wide outlook that does not compromise the high quality of service, professionalism, business ethics, and expert craftsmanship built into the fabric of its company culture, which has attributed to its seven decades of success.
Houle’s many award-winning projects stand as a physical testament to that uncompromising culture of integrity and service, beginning with Victoria General Hospital in 1980. This was Houle’s first major construction project valued at $3.3-million electrically, Houle would later do a major fire alarm upgrade for this hospital in 2010 for which it won the VRCA (Vancouver Regional Construction Association) Gold Award of Excellence. The Uptown Shopping Centre in Saanich (Victoria), BC, in 2012, was to be Houle’s first major shopping centre construction project valued greater than $10-million electrically. Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre (owned/operated by Fraser Health) in 2008, was Houle’s first P3 project valued at $355-million ($30+ million electrically).
Partnering with General Contractor PCL Constructors, West Coast and the Plenary Group, Houle not only installed electrical for the building, but also the data networks and security systems as well. This was the first major project that took advantage of the company’s integrated systems capability. This project also won Houle one of its first VRCA Gold Awards as well as a LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) award. In the same year, Houle completed the Nanaimo Regional Hospital and Perinatal Centre project for which it also won VRCA Gold. Houle had proven itself to be an industry leader in the healthcare construction industry. In the years that followed Houle has won many other project awards, notably the VRCA Gold Award for the UBC Dentistry Building (2006), Abbotsford Hospital and Nanaimo Hospital (2008), Victoria General Hospital (2010), BC Hydro Operations Facility in Port Alberni (2011), Thompson Rivers University (2012) and the Canadian Forces Base Fire Hall (2013).The year, 2012, also saw Houle complete its second P3 project, the BC Cancer Centre for the North in Prince George. This project was valued at over $5-million electrically and like the first P3 project in Abbotsford also integrated data and security installations and project management from Houle.
A commitment to its core values of safety, quality, ethics and integrity have seen the company through some of the toughest downturns in the economy to receive nation-wide recognition, such as being named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies in 2012 and re-qualified for this honour again in 2013. As an additional compliment, Houle also saw its employee count go up to a peak of more than 1,000 last year.
While these are much celebrated accomplishments for the company, Current President, Robert Lashin, remains forward-thinking and focused on building the leadership that will ensure continued growth for Houle.
“As we progress into the future, the challenge for Canada and particularly British Columbia’s construction industry, will be the procurement of skilled leaders and mentors for corporate management teams and supervisors and foremen required in the field,” he told Business Elite Canada.
In 1980, Lashin, along with 12 other employees purchased the company and expanded its services from beyond electrical contracting to providing automated building controls, data networks, security and industrial installation services. At the same time the company expanded its electrical services to provide ongoing preventative maintenance services as well as maintaining its 24-hour emergency on-call service for residential and light commercial customers.
And the list of recently completed projects keeps mounting for the company.
“Houle has just completed an electrical instrumentation installation project at Mount Milligan Mine owned by Thompson Creek Metals in Ft. St. James, to date Houle’s largest industrial project employed over 320 electricians, which we are very proud to have facilitated,” said Lashin.
Houle also just completed its third P3 Hospital Project, the brand new Critical Care Tower at Surrey Memorial Hospital, a $512 million dollar eight-storey building expansion under the lead of general contractor, Ellis Don. At Surrey, Houle once again was brought on as an integrated systems contractor combining electrical, data networks and security systems installation and project and construction management. In the start of its new fiscal year and onward Houle looks to capitalize on its experience, safety record, industry reputation and capability toward construction projects in a number of provincial sectors that include the emerging LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) industry, the large commercial expansion of the Lower Mainland’s shopping centres and the ongoing construction in the health care sector and other sectors throughout B.C. Houle has already laid a foundation for these pursuits having won the electrical contract for the new Sea Island Luxury Designer Outlet at Vancouver International Airport.
As a major proving ground in the LNG sector, Houle for the last three years has played a major role as the electrical contractor at the Rio Tinto Alcan Aluminum Smelter (an LNG plant), which is a big part of the Kitimat Modernization Project in Northern B.C. Houle has already finished a number of projects at the site including two new steam plants and compressor stations, a new control building, the site wide fiber and telephone network, new medium voltage substations and fuel stations and much, much more. Houle will be present as a hands-on demonstrator at various BC LNG Conferences in the near future.
Now over three decades since Lashin purchased Houle along with 12 other employees, there is a definite eye towards national expansion. Houle is already seeing major project opportunities emerge in other provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan. Houle has established National Contracts in both Automated Building Controls and Data Networks across Canada.
“As one of Canada’s recognized Best Managed Companies, we are now set to continue our growth not only in British Columbia but nation-wide and it is our goal to do so without compromising on the high quality of service that our customers expect,” Lashin affirms.