Steel Structures Made to Work & Made to Last

D.A. Building Systems Ltd.
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

In 1980, Doug Grenier and Del Allen founded D.A. Building Systems Ltd., and from the start the Alberta company was in demand from the oilfield sector. No one else was doing what they were doing: erecting steel structures, including compressor and electrical buildings.

Some larger buildings measuring 20 by 30 feet (7 by 9 meters) or 30 by 40 feet (9 by 12 meters) were erected on steel perimeter skids, while others rested on concrete pads or even timbers in the case of smaller structures meant to be relocated. From purchasing steel packages at the start, the company soon moved into its own manufacturing.

“A lot of those first buildings are there to this day,” says company owner Doug Atwood. Maintaining its oilfield clients and expanding into agricultural and commercial projects over the years, D.A. Building Systems is a locally owned steel-building manufacturer with design, fabrication, and construction capabilities, and the first choice for many local businesses.

For over two years, COVID-19 has caused material shortages and disrupted the supply chains of many construction companies, yet D.A. Building Systems has been relatively unaffected.

“The pandemic made us a little more creative in how we build projects, do the ordering, and things like that,” says previous owner Scott Grenier, who still assists the company.

“One of the things we’ve seen is that some of our competitors – who don’t manufacture their buildings – are having a harder time getting a building from a large supplier, whereas we just need the raw steel and then we can build our own buildings.”

Known for being “Canadian-Made with Alberta Pride,” D.A. Building Systems is the only Southern Alberta business sourcing local materials, fabricating in its own facility, and constructing with its own crews. To date, the company’s staff of 33 has grown to include journeyman welders, draftsmen, metal-systems building erectors/ironworkers, and certified carpenters.

“We’re a steel building contractor, but if somebody needs a full project, we will get them set up with a general contractor,” comments Grenier. “We are not a general contractor, but we are definitely a one-stop building shop.”

Erecting the steel portion of a building project, the company works with trusted general contractors who provide the additional work, such as electrical, plumbing, concrete, wood framing, or drywall.

Working in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia – and parts of the United States in the past – D.A. Building Systems can manufacture steel structures that meet the needs of the biggest clients in the oil and gas, agriculture, and commercial sectors.

As a leader in agriculture/rural steel buildings, the company has taken on everything from potato storage sheds to dairy barns, hay barns, heavy equipment shops, and custom farm/Hutterite colony buildings. Its work for its many commercial clients includes factories, auto dealerships, aircraft hangars, and other custom buildings.

Getting its start erecting steel buildings for the oil and gas sector, the company has built structures including a 1,000-foot long (304 m) building for trains in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan, and a variety of others including well-head buildings, very small structures, and even pipe insulation.

Sometimes a pipe that extends from a storage tank or a load line needs to be protected from the elements. “We’ve gone as small as 2 feet by 2 feet (0.60 m by 0.60 m) for a structure, with a little door in the front enabling it to not freeze, the little spout they need to load trucks with,” says Rick Caruso, who handles sales. “We’ve done quite a few of those.”

Like all structures made by the company, these are completely customized to whatever size the client requires.

About 15 years ago, D.A. Building Systems gained CSA-A660 Quality Certification for Steel Building Systems (SBS). Mandatory for all steel building system manufacturers supplying buildings in Canada, CSA-A660 ensures buyers receive quality, certified buildings. This certification also assists code enforcement officials review SBS permit submissions.

“One of the reasons it’s important is because you cannot manufacture without being certified,” says Grenier.

According to the CSA, “This Standard requires that the manufacturer’s production facilities, staff, and quality assurance systems be capable of reliably producing acceptable steel buildings. To ensure that these design and production capabilities are met and maintained, the Standard requires a manufacturing facility to be certified by a certification agency.”

Dependable, fire-resistant, cost-effective, and built to last, steel holds many benefits over other types of construction, including wood.

Widely used in the past, wood had its place; but as buildings became bigger and bigger, these structures weren’t able to withstand the sometimes brutal weather western Canada threw at them.

One of the biggest checkmarks in steel’s favour is the ability to make enormous structures requiring clear spans. And with lumber prices reaching record highs during the pandemic, the benefits of steel compared to wood have become even more apparent.

“Wood was always a good thing if you were building small buildings,” says Caruso, “but when you get bigger, not so much. We can clear-span easily; wood can’t do that. The trusses get so big and so clumsy that you need truckloads and truckloads of lumber to keep them up, so wood is not very cost-effective anymore. You can do a much bigger clear span building with steel.”

This is especially true in the agricultural sector, with potato buildings and hog and dairy barns, which are all affected by high humidity. Unlike wood, steel can be galvanized, adding to its longevity.

“It’s just a better system all around. At the end of the day, customers might pay a few percentage points more for our steel building, but they’ve got an asset and not a liability – wood becomes a liability the day it’s built.” Another advantage: outside panels of steel structures can be replaced or re-skinned, and look brand new again.

In line with surging demand, D.A. Building Systems is investing in the company.

This includes a new building under construction, which will be ready by May. Once completed, it will see the company install a beam cut system, which will take care of much of its fabrication of wide flange and tubing. Also, in the coming months, the company plans to purchase a shot blaster to clean steel, making the process faster and more efficient than doing it by hand.

The place to go for pre-engineered steel structures, D.A. Building Systems Ltd. continues to serve the buoyant agricultural sector and is seeing growth in the oil industry, too.

“We’ve seen some growth here in the last year, and we see that there is more growth yet to be had, specifically in southern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan,” says Atwood. “There is planned irrigation expansion in both locations, and we feel we are very well poised to be a big part of that market.”



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