Empowering Indigenous Communities

Our mission to put the power back in the hands of First Nations


The Problem with Foundations

Northern Communities have used shallow foundation solutions for too long. Shallow foundations rest on top of soils near grade where frost and changes in moisture result in swelling, shrinking and heaving.

Structures built on shallow foundations often experience differential movement. The soils directly supporting foundations swell, shrink and heave with Canada’s extreme climates.

These movements in the soil are not always uniform and, sections of the foundation move differently. This movement stresses structures, causing doors to stick, windows to jam and walls to crack. In the worst cases, support beams drop, and walls separate from sagging floors.

Structures that experience settling deteriorate faster. It’s common to see homes in Canada’s Indigenous communities that have sticking doors, or no doors at all, cracked windows, and mold problems.

 

The Solution

The solution? Build homes on a deep piled foundation.

Many cities across Canada have made it a requirement to build new structures on piles. Why? Because anchoring a structure in soil that varies very little (or not at all) means a greatly reduced risk of structural failure or repairs due to movement.

Unfortunately, traditional deep pile foundations in a remote Northern community are expensive. Of course, it would be best to build homes on deep foundations that don’t move. But, the cost of bringing in pre-cast concrete piles, bags of cements, and long timber or steel piles is a massive challenge. Plus, the specialized equipment required to install traditional foundation piles is expensive, large, and awkward.

A Better Foundation for Indigenous Communities

Helical screw piles were invented by an engineer in the 1830’s, as a foundation solution for marine applications like boat moorings and lighthouses. For over 160 years, screw piles have been used as a deep foundation solution in remote locations with difficult soils.

Unfortunately, before modern equipment was invented, screw piles were labor-intensive to install. So, they were only used under commercial structures.

That is, until hydraulics were invented in the 1950’s.

The hydraulic motor could be used to install screw piles, leaving behind the old way of using an army of workers to turn them in by hand.

Since then, screw piles have enjoyed a growing revival as an easy, reliable, and affordable foundation.

Over the past 25 years, Canada has started to utilize screw piles for residential and commercial structures. Gone are the days where you would be hard-pressed to find an engineer with experience and confidence designing foundations on helical screw piles.

 

A Better Foundation for Indigenous Communities

Helical screw piles were invented by an engineer in the 1830’s, as a foundation solution for marine applications like boat moorings and lighthouses. For over 160 years, screw piles have been used as a deep foundation solution in remote locations with difficult soils.

Unfortunately, before modern equipment was invented, screw piles were labor-intensive to install. So, they were only used under commercial structures.

That is, until hydraulics were invented in the 1950’s.

The hydraulic motor could be used to install screw piles, leaving behind the old way of using an army of workers to turn them in by hand.

Since then, screw piles have enjoyed a growing revival as an easy, reliable, and affordable foundation.

Over the past 25 years, Canada has started to utilize screw piles for residential and commercial structures. Gone are the days where you would be hard-pressed to find an engineer with experience and confidence designing foundations on helical screw piles.

 

What’s the Advantage of Screw Piles?

There’s a long list of advantages to screw piles, but here’s just a few:

  • Installation by versatile, relatively common, and light weight equipment
  • Relationship between installation torque and weight capacity verifies the ability for the pile to support design loads
  • Lightweight foundation that’s easily transported and can be stored indefinitely without spoiling
  • Ability to be uninstalled for easy site remediation, or for reinstallation or recycling

Screw piles are the foundation solution for remote communities who need deep foundations, but also need to adhere to construction budgets.

VersaPile is Created

It was with this realization that Stan Higgins left Higgins Executive Search and the country’s premiere executive recruitment firm for Indigenous professionals, communities and businesses – to create VersaPile Inc. Stan is married to a First Nations RCMP officer who has lived in various First Nations throughout Manitoba’s north. After seeing both old and new houses that lacked doors, had cracked walls, and struggled with mold, Stan saw the need for better, healthier homes.

Indigenous leaders have been working diligently for decades to bridge the housing gap. This APTN Investigates episode shows their efforts in remote communities.

In his previous career, Stan worked with communities and their economic development corporations. The strategies for Ec. Dev. Corps. across the country varied, but a common theme was a desire to create opportunity for Indigenous citizens. Economic opportunities, such a housing development on reserve, do present themselves. Unfortunately, the money spent often leaves the community. And, outside third parties offer little opportunity for First Nations participation.

When you avoid third party contractors, you can reduce (or eliminate) inefficiencies like:

  • Accommodations
  • Out of town allowances
  • Mobilization of crews and equipment
  • Down days due to weather or other unforeseen delays

By reducing inefficiencies, your community can compete on your own projects and have a significant advantage.

VersaPile: Creating Economic Opportunity in Your Community

Versapile Inc. combines an affordable and reliable engineered deep foundation solution, with meaningful economic opportunities for First Nations. This equips communities to realize a vision of First Nations building and living in their own healthy, sustainable homes.

The first part of VersaPile’s business is installing high-quality foundations that will not heave, shift, or sink. That means no more homes without doors and structures that suffer from mold.

The second part is called First Foundations, a program that trains Indigenous contractors to install quality screw pile foundations in their community and beyond.

First Foundations helps communities create economic development right at home. Not only can local contractors help their community save money on high-quality foundations, they can sell their foundation services to neighboring communities, governments and industry.

For decades First Nations peoples have been stuck building on shallow foundations that shift and move, while paying exorbitant prices to third party contractors.

VersaPile is putting the power back in the hands of First Nations, by equipping Indigenous Communities with strong foundations that will last for generations.

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