Houses on Hillsides
/ Author: Lisa Pranger 1891 Rate this article:
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Houses on Hillsides

As Kelowna outgrows its valley basin, builders are carving out new subdivisions in the surrounding hills. Local 68 members are busy preparing the ground for the new homes

The City of Kelowna lies in a picturesque valley beside Okanagan Lake in BC. But standing on one of the surrounding hillsides, I could see the growing sprawl of houses across the valley. 
As Kelowna’s population continues to grow, houses have begun to creep up the hillsides to the top of the plateaus. And with spectacular vistas of the valley, who wouldn’t want to own a home here?
 
One of the premier developments, Wilden Estates, has 12 subdivisions on the northwest corner of Kelowna overlooking Okanagan Lake. CLAC Local 68 members employed by Hall Constructors Corp. carved over 100 lots out of the hillsides and created winding road beds for two subdivisions—Rocky Point (near the top of the plateau) and Forest Edge (closer to the base). They then laid the groundwork and utilities needed to build and maintain the new homes. 

The Rocky Point subdivision was particularly challenging, requiring a lot of blasting and grading close to the edge of the cliff. And members working on the Forest Edge subdivision had to deal with encroaching ground water, which threatened to compromise retaining walls. But they took these challenges in stride—it’s all in a day’s work.

While Hall has been on the job for two years, many of the members had worked on several of the Wilden subdivisions for another employer prior to joining Hall. Over the past five years, these members have watched as the empty, level lots that they created have been gradually transformed into landscaped yards with large family homes. 

Last summer,  I spoke with a number of Local 68 members working to create houses on Kelowna’s hillsides about the challenges and highlights of working on this unique project.

Shaun Robertson
General foreman
Time on project: 2.5 years

“On Rocky point, the material we had to work with was challenging. There was so much blasting of solid rock. The highlight of the Forest Edge project is seeing what it looks like when you start—just topsoil and trees—to when you finish and everything is completed and paved.”

 

Brian Kalmakoff
Equipment operator
Time on project: 2 years

“I mostly operate an excavator. It’s my favourite piece of equipment. Maybe because it’s what I’m used to and it’s easier on the body than a lot of the other equipment. And it’s essentially an extension of your arm, so it’s all about how creative you can be to get to an end product. 

“The main challenge on the Forest Edge site was ground water. When we first showed up, the whole bank was pouring water. So we had to put in drains four metres down so it wouldn’t destabilize the bank. 
“I was up on the Rocky Point site last year. It was a little tougher. It’s all rock—lots of blasting, lots of rock hammering. Everywhere you turn you’re hitting rock. 

“The highlights are the weather—it’s always nice for the most part. And we work with a great bunch of guys. Everyone’s on the same page to get things done. And in all honesty, that’s what makes or breaks the job.”

 

Lucinda Christow
Lead shallows pipe hand
Time on project: 5 years

“I’ve been with Hall for two or three years, but almost all of us on this crew were with another contractor before, working on the Upper Canyon Road and Union Road areas of this subdivision.  

“The last few jobs [with Hall] I’ve been given more responsibility. On this job, we’ve done a lot of underground utilities that presented a ton of challenges, so we’ve learned a lot, which is nice. I’ve worked with most of these guys for four or five years now, so it’s great to see everyone learning and moving ahead and gaining stature in the company. And we became part of CLAC, so we have benefits now, which is super great! 

“The main challenge on the Forest Edge site is the heat. There isn’t a lick of shade anywhere on our job site. We usually have lunch by the trucks to find shade.”

 

Brody Simpson
Labourer
Time on project: 1.5 years

“On a typical day, I shovel, or do whatever someone else needs—I’m here to help. The main challenge on this site has been all the ground water—that and all the walking.”

 

Gerry Gardner
Senior pipe layer
Time on project: 2 years

“I’ve been a pipe layer since 1991, and with Hall since 2011. On this site, I’m laying sanitary, storm, and waterlines. Plus manholes, catch basins—all the stuff that requires pipe. One of the main challenges we had to deal with on Forest Edge was water coming down the hills onto the site. 

“The highlight of a project is the end of the line—when I know that my pipe has passed and they’ve inspected it, camera’d it, and everything else to make sure it doesn’t leak. 

“As far as I’m concerned, these projects are all the same to me. I’ve got a job to do, I do my job, and I move onto the next one and do the same thing. It’s like getting out of bed. You put your left leg into your pants before you put your right leg in. It’s the same thing every day. Unless I find a new job, or a new pair of pants that doesn’t have a left leg.”

 

Dennis Frederick
Lead pipe hand
Time on project: 1.5 years

“I take care of everything to do with pipe work for the crew that I’m assigned to. I mostly deal with the deeper pipe—sanitary, storm, and water. Our biggest challenge here on the Forest Edge site was the grade. There are minimum percentages that you can have for water flow. We have a couple of runs on this site that are at the bare minimum. So we had these super flat runs where we had to make sure that all the pipes were perfectly round and none of them had any bows in them.”

 

Jamie Matheson
General foreman
Time on project: 6 months

“I direct the guys—make sure they’re doing what their supposed to be doing according to the work plan. There weren’t a lot of challenges on the Forest Edge site—it’s pretty straightforward. We’ve all done this before, so we’re seasoned you could say. The highlight is that we have a bunch of great guys here. It’s good to come to work every day.”

 


Dana Fearnley
Equipment operator
Time on project: 1.5 years

“I’ve been an equipment operator for 20 years. I was an ironworker before this, working on the oil rigs in Alberta in the ’80s. I became an operator because I broke my foot so I needed to be retrained. I make just as much money doing this as I did out there. Plus, I’m only 30 kilometres from home. The heights on Rocky Point didn’t bother me—I guess I’m used to them from my time as an ironworker.”

 

Project Stats

  • 178,000 cubic metres of earthwork—enough to fill over 71 Olympic swimming pools
  • 4,085 metres of sanitary, storm, and water-main pipes
  • 3,000 square metres of retaining wall
  • 450 cubic metres of concrete for sidewalks and curbs
  • 2,890 tonnes of asphalt for roads
  • 3,200 metres of hydro/telephone/cable
  • 10,000 tonnes of gravel
  • 13,500 Hall person hours
  • 6,500 Hall machine hours
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