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Bradford Becomes Home to Innovative Concrete Firm

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Three successful and long-tenured anchors of the southern Ontario construction industry have combined their resources and expertise to create a new firm which brings an innovative approach to building construction to the province.

And this new venture will be headquartered in Bradford West Gwillimbury.

Modular Precast Systems, which is currently constructing its 110,000 square foot factory/warehouse at 306 Stirling Crescent just off Highway 88 in the Highway 400 Employment Lands, was formed by York Marble, Avenue Building Corporation and State Windows Corp. to “create synergies in building envelope installation,” according to their website.

“Those three companies are all quite prominent players in the Ontario construction business, primarily in the GTA market, with each one having their own areas of expertise. They decided to collectively enter the precast market. Precast is basically making concrete products in a controlled factory environment,” said Steven Campbell spokesperson for Modular.

“It’s a process that goes way back hundreds of years or more. Practically speaking, these processes have been used in Europe for a long time, primarily because Europe has always struggled with other products but has an abundance of the materials to make cement, whereas over here a lot of our structures are wood based, except for high rises. It has a lot more application in Asia and Europe right now and is becoming more popular in the U.S. I wouldn’t say it’s in its infancy up here in Canada because there have been precast buildings going up back into the 1980s, but it hasn’t been as well known of a solution.”

Modular Precast Systems is expected to have the factory complete by March, with the sophisticated equipment necessary for the creation of everything from wall pieces, prestressed floor slabs, and columns/beams coming from Europe shortly thereafter. If everything goes to plan, production should start in July 2022.

And it’s this technology that is key. Developed by the Milan, Italy-based Structurama, who have partnered with Modular to bring the equipment over and help train staff, it will add not only efficiency to the construction process but is also more sustainable in terms of limited noise and air pollution on the job sites themselves, since the use of cement trucks will be minimal.

“There are going to be two basic product lines. One of which is a structural solution for mid-rise buildings. The second is an architectural or an exterior panel for buildings. They are all produced with the same techniques in that you make a steel mold of the shape and then fill that mold with concrete reinforced with steel. And depending on the job there could be dozens or hundreds of these mass-produced in the factory and then shipped to the construction site,” Campbell explained.

“It’s building a building in a different way because we’re using pieces sort of like a big Lego set, rather than in the traditional way which has been creating a poured-in-place concrete foundation and then a poured-in-place structure, which means the forms are created and the concrete poured at the site. We have the capability to adapt our equipment to the customer’s needs and are able to produce multiple identical items. The steel structure ensures a higher quality finish and the factory itself is climate controlled, so the concrete is cured more accurately and consistently than if you’re doing something outside.”

As Campbell said, the company is targeting a certain segment of the market – the mid-rise project, which can be industrial, commercial or even residential.

“We’re not in the single-family home business. We’re looking to do mostly between three to 20-storey buildings. In Toronto, every developer wants to build 70 storey towers but that’s not appropriate everywhere. In some cases municipalities want to have some mid-rise buildings for commercial and residential developments on larger tracts of land. That’s really our bread and butter because that’s where our solutions would fit best. In Ontario there’s tremendous demand for affordable housing so we can apply this technology to residential apartments – so there are a lot of little niches we can explore.”

Although they are best categorized as being part of the construction industry, with the amount of product that is going to be stored on site and shipped out consistently from the factory, Modular Precast Systems also has a significant impact on local warehousing and transportation. The close proximity to Highway 400 is crucial to ensure the prefabricated products get to their designated job sites throughout southern Ontario efficiently.

“It’s such a good location. It’s just north of Toronto, it’s right on the 400 and because we feel the majority of our business is going down to the GTA, getting an affordable piece of land, with lots of room for expansion and outdoor storage, was key. And the location is good because it gives us access to a large workforce of people who may currently be commuting down to Toronto, or out to Oshawa or Mississauga and want to work closer to home. So, overall it’s a good location that fits the needs of the business,” Campbell said, adding that in the initial stages of production, which will see staff trained and gaining expertise on the imported equipment, 35 people will he hired, which he believes will rise to about 50 when the processes are streamlined and at peak efficiency.

“And if you think of it, we can draw from the Barrie market too. We can send product up there, but we also might be able to draw labour from there as well. We’re about 30 minutes from Barrie to the north and about 30 minutes to Toronto, so we think being in a good central location like Bradford West Gwillimbury will help us in both aspects – shipping and potential employees.”

He also said that working alongside the staff of the BWG Economic Development Department has also been of benefit to the company throughout the planning and now the construction process.

“I know for a year before I came on the scene this past February, they worked with us on land acquisition and on all the issues that go along with that. And it’s been a good experience. They have been supportive of us, and we have started talking about things we can do when we get closer to opening. Everything’s been going well,” he said.

“From the perspective of our business, I am excited when I look at their long-term planning for the area. I think there is going to be a lot of opportunity for other businesses to move into the area, with the possibility of it becoming a hub of construction related businesses like ours, which will be good for other business like the trucking and warehousing companies too.”

For more information, visit https://modularprecastsystems.com.

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