Blast Away

BRT Structures
Written by Claire Suttles

BRT Structures makes dangerous worksites safe. The Alberta based company designs, engineers, and manufactures blast resistant modular buildings that protect against virtually any disaster, from explosions and ballistics to chemical releases and projectiles – making them a must for Western Canada’s petrochemical and oil industries, or any high risk environment.
President Brian Smit, P.Eng, launched BRT Structures in 2010 to meet the growing demand for blast resistant buildings. A structural engineer with over two decades of experience in engineering, design and fabrication, Mr. Smit has spent years perfecting blast resistant modular buildings. His background created a solid foundation for the startup, which utilizes a unique patented design for its structures.

Two more industry insiders partnered with Mr. Smit soon after BRT Structures was founded. Vice President Philip Sommerville, P.Eng, has over thirty years’ experience in the steel fabrication industry, so it was a natural fit for him to come on board to oversee the fabrication process. Mr. Sommerville draws on his expertise to ensure that BRT Structures produces the highest quality product – on time and on budget. GM/Controller Linda Reimer boasts over thirty years’ experience project managing in the structural steel industry, making her an ideal candidate to manage the finishing of BRT Structures’ buildings.

The partners have managed to create a blast structure unlike any other on the market. “We are known for executive class [buildings], fine finishings, and quality products,” Ms. Reimer explains. “Our blast buildings don’t look like normal blast buildings,” Mr. Sommerville adds. “It is a different feeling when you walk into one of our buildings than when you walk into one of our competitors’. With other blast buildings you feel like you are in a bomb shelter, whereas when you go in our buildings you feel like you are in an office; you don’t realize that behind the siding are quarter inch plates reinforced and bolted to the top and bottom skids.”

To be sure, creating a relaxed and pleasant environment is important for workplace morale. “If you are doing a job where you are spending a lot of time in a blast building, you want your employees to feel like they are in a normal building – not in a bomb shelter.”

Of course, safety is BRT Structures’ number one concern and every blast building is built to the highest standard to ensure that it will protect occupants from workplace hazards. This attention to safety is core to BRT Structures’ culture, extending to the company’s own employees as well as to a building’s future occupants. “We are very safety conscious about not only the people who are using our products, but also the people who are making it,” Mr. Sommerville insists. “Not only do we work safely, we work to a certain international standard of quality,” Mr. Sommerville summarizes. BRT Structures has gone the extra mile, achieving ISO 9001:2008 certification and thereby proving that the company consistently provides product that meets customer and regulatory requirements. The team also works hard to stay abreast of the latest technological breakthroughs in order to provide the absolute safest product possible. “We are constantly striving to enhance the technology to be able to deliver a top quality product and [protect] our clients in their extreme situations,” Ms. Reimer reports.

BRT Structures boasts a large number of modular designs, all of which are rated for 8.0 psi. These pre-engineered modular plans range from 12’x40′ or 12’x60′ single unit designs to larger 3-unit, 6-unit or 10-unit complex designs. The designs can be used to create virtually any type of building a customer could need, from lunchrooms, lavatories, and office buildings to tool cribs, control buildings, multi-unit complexes, and shelter in place buildings.

While BRT Structures has developed a series of standard blast resistant buildings that suit a majority of customer requirements, the company’s patented design can easily be adapted to create a custom solution. Whether drawing from a standard design or creating a custom solution, the team maintains a close relationship with the customer to ensure satisfaction. “We will listen to them and cater to their needs,” Ms. Reimer says. Mr. Smit put it this way: “I would like to think our motivation is to provide each client with a level of personal attention to understand their needs on site and to design / build that need rather than to follow the industry norm of supplying a group of available ‘BRM boxes’ for the client to make work or fit their needs.”

After determining exactly what the customer is looking for, Mr. Smit creates a design to suit and then the partners personally oversee the entire production process. “The three of us are involved every step of the way,” Mr. Sommerville explains. “We don’t have a sales force; we don’t have other people. It is a very lean manufacturing system that we have. Because of this, we are able to do a very hands-on job and keep our customers in touch with what we are doing at all times.” Ms. Reimer is “constantly in contact with our steel shop” throughout the manufacturing process, ensuring that production goes smoothly. “I am able to keep everything on schedule and answer any questions that come along,” she explains.

Committed to transparency, the team encourages customers to visit the plant while their product is being manufactured. “We continuously invite customers to come and tour our facility,” says Ms. Reimer. Many clients take the company up on this offer to get a firsthand look at production and stay abreast of their building’s progress.

Because BRT Structures is a local company, any unexpected issues can be quickly solved before they become a problem. “The fact that we are an Alberta based company [means that] our response time for any issues is a day,” Ms. Reimer reports. “That is extremely important to the oil and gas companies because they need to be able to keep their people safe while they are continuing to work.” Every minute an oil and gas operation stands idle is money lost, so the team pulls out all the stops to deliver a quality product as quickly as possible.

Deeply rooted in the community, the team makes sure that they do their part to support local business. “We always believe in supporting small businesses in Alberta where and when we can,” Ms. Reimer shares. “That is something that we have done right from the inception of our company.” The team is proud to offer a truly Canadian product. In fact, this commitment to going local is core to the company culture. “Everything that we can buy in Canada we do,” Mr. Sommerville states. “Every time we can utilize an Alberta tradesman or company we will do that. [Ours] is truly the only blast building on the market designed, fabricated and manufactured completely by Albertans.”

From electricians, welders, and pipe fitters to plumbers and carpenters, the company’s skilled journeymen almost all hail from Alberta. And, these journeymen stick around for the long haul. “We have a lot of staff who have been with us for long periods of time, which I think speaks volumes for a company,” Ms. Reimer remarks. The team’s close focus on relationships with local staff and suppliers is a win-win. “We have incredible loyalty toward us,” Ms. Reimer explains. “When we are in a need of something, they will go above and beyond to try and meet the schedules that we need to meet.”

For clients who simply can’t wait for the production process to be completed, BRT Structures maintains a stock of buildings with standard floor plans that are available for immediate rent or sale. Sales remain strong, but the demand for rentals has been increasing, so the team has manufactured 120 rental buildings pre-emptively to ensure that customers can get their hands on the right rental as soon as they need it.

BRT Structures has been growing steadily since its inception, so the team aims to continue along the same path that has already brought substantial success. “We plan on carrying on the way we have as far as running the company and [maintaining] lean manufacturing,” Mr. Sommerville says of the future. The team is also committed to maintaining customer satisfaction. “We will continue to respond to what our customers require.” The team is confident that, with word of mouth referrals growing every day, BRT Structures will continue to expand at an exciting rate – and continue to provide high quality, locally made product to the Alberta market.



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