The construction is starting in Onoway, Alberta. Pocket House operate as a family, Jody, his children and his partner along with an extended "family" of highly skilled construction professionals worked really hard to get the design and construction plan squared away. They will build a two storey fully functional day spa out of 5 distinct modules in a climate controlled warehouse. We got really excited when we saw images of the first delivery of construction materials as it finally seems like something real is happening. This is still very early in the process though. We even still have some features to finalise but with the engineering calculations all completed, we can start turning these building blocks into the stunning building it will become.
We feel really lucky to have crossed paths with Jody when he was passing through Dawson City on his way North a couple of years ago. He loved what we'd accomplished with Dawson Lodge and loved the way we all worked.
We've had a few questions about our choices for construction method and the team we are using. So, we thought this would be a good opportunity to answer some of those:
Q. Why are you constructing off site?
A. There are a lot of reasons we chose this method. To start with, this gives us a degree of cost and timeline certainty that we have so far been unable to guarantee with local construction. The facility that pocket house will construct the spa building is indoors and climate controlled. For the building structure, this means that things like farming can be done without worries about the impact of changing temperature and humidity levels affecting the way the wood is put together. It is also much less likely that fluctuations in the local labour market will have an impact one the construction timeline. Pocket House are located much closer to a skilled labour market pool. They have all of the construction trades covered by their team members meaning no waiting for plumbers, electricians, HVAC techs, carpenters, flooring techs (the list goes on) and they have their own engineering and architects working closely with the team to be able to problem solve rapidly. Not only this... but if there are any additional labour requirements part way through the project to meet timelines, they have much better access to labour than if the same need occurred in Dawson. Finally, the cost and access to building materials and finishing materials is much better close to Edmonton. We will be shipping the finished structure to Dawson in one go, this reduced the need to have multiple different suppliers shipping materials multiple times. Finally, we don't have the pressure to get the site prepared before the build can commence. This means that the building will be well underway before our groundworks are started in the summer. When you're working with frozen ground, it's pretty useful to wait until the summer to do this.
Q. Why are you constructing in modules?
A. Again, there are a few reasons, but an important one goes back to timelines. By constructing each module separately, we can be sure that any challenges with suppliers and processes don't impact the whole project. The team can move to a different module and come back when the necessary things are in place to continue. Another important reason for us is the environmental impact. Some studies have shown a 90% reduction in waste materials from modular construction vs more standard methods. It gives better inventory control reducing waste to start with. It also gives the ability for the construction team to keep surplus materials properly stored so they can be used on other projects. By reducing the number of deliveries North, we also save on fuel costs and the impact of fuel used for transport. Finally, when the modules are brought together on site, they will already have been tested out. We know everything works, the final piecing together and finishing touches will give us a completely finished weathertight structure with days.
Q. Why aren't you using local labour?
A. The short answer here is that we want to but can't. Sadly, on our previous projects to date, we have had problems coordinating the various trades in Dawson to be able to meet the timelines required for our projects. So much so that we have had to move two of those projects from almost live to their research and development phases. We are enlisting the help of a team who can do 80% of the job from one place in one team. Without the expense and delays of bringing people to Dawson for small aspects of work we estimate significant cost savings that so far are playing out as expected. This means we can deliver the project at a cost that allows our business model to find savings that we can give to our fellow residents.
Q. It has to be more expensive with shipping, you could do it cheaper in town?
A. This one felt like a statement more than a question, but we answered it anyway. It's actually going to work out less expensive in terms of materials and labour. Also, by giving us a much shorter and more reliable construction timeline, we are saving a bunch of money and we will be able to open sooner than if the project was being constructed on site. We've seen a couple of commercial projects with significant overruns in town in recent years and we can't afford the cost associated with that. For every month of additional on -ite construction we would have a month of extra finance repayments to find, potentially to have to pay for people who can't be productive because they are waiting on weather conditions or the people before them to finish their part. We're confident that this will allow us to realise cost savings and test working relationships that we can put to good use on future projects.
While the build is underway, we are able to continue doing what we do here in Dawson City. We're all prepped for a busy summer season at Dawson Lodge. Yukon Spa has a busy summer period coming up with visiting health and aesthetics practitioners providing services from our current location as well as all our usual provision and new things to come from our in-house team too. We can't wait to share these updates, keep an eye on our Instagram and Facebook pages!