In an exclusive preview of 2018’s edition, Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review spoke to James Delano, General Manager of ATCO Mexico, about the company’s development of modular structures for developing infrastructure.
Q: What opportunities have you identified in Mexico?
A: ATCO is a company that can build a city due to all the infrastructure assets we can put together and the experience we have in gas, water, energy generation and distribution and building infrastructure. The latter is a sector that is just beginning to develop in Mexico. ATCO has developed modular structures for worksites, especially in the Alberta oil sands, as first of all a place to work and then a place to live. This is very important in Canada for developing industries like oil and mining due to the remoteness of the locations.
In the last few years, ATCO has been working on workforce housing camps, where we can house up to 35,000 people with all services included. It is almost a hotel in the mountains, with all the necessary amenities. In 1960, when building our modular structures business, ATCO was building hospitals, schools, hotels, homes and medical centers with these modular structures. Each module is built in a factory-controlled environment and can be assembled onsite very quickly and accurately, causing less waste. It is interesting how people become accustomed to the materials they live with. In Canada, where there is a great deal of wood, customers like their houses to be built from this material. In Mexico, the preferred material is cement. We can incorporate these elements into the design but the backbone of the building is a steel structure, which is strong and extremely convenient.
Q: How would you evaluate the reception to these types of structures in Mexico?
A: This is becoming more and more popular. This is a trend we have seen previously in Canada and the US. The modular business is more accepted in the US than anywhere else due to its practicality and durability and our buildings are often more sturdy than traditional buildings in Mexico.
In Mexico, it is becoming more and more accepted, especially with the entry of international companies that are familiar with the benefits of the construction. ATCO can build multistory hotels that do not have the slightest appearance of being a modular building. Retail centers like 7-Elevens and Oxxos can be built by putting two or three modules together and operations can commence within one month. This solution can cut down on build times and therefore save companies considerable time and money. We have also built gasoline stations and supermarkets, demonstrating our flexibility and our ability to adapt to customer needs.
A: Our buildings have less waste because they are tailored more to the specific needs of each project. When building traditionally, waste can contribute around 30 percent to sustainability since materials are not always pre-cut. In a factory, everything is so pre-planned that waste is not a problem. In terms of labor hours, our team is working specifically on certain parts of the project and there is no time wasted in pouring cement, meaning there is far less lost time. Especially for a commercial project, this is extremely valuable to the client because the operation can be started much faster. The planning period and foundations would take the same amount of time for each project. But with a prefabricated building, the construction is being built in the factory simultaneously while the foundations are poured. This eliminates a great deal of lost time.
Q: In Mexico, how are you positioning yourself to become the partner of choice for developers?
A: At the moment, we are at the beginning. We are defining the markets we will be looking at, and these will be dependent on the markets we have experience working in and those in which we have found success in other parts of the world. Our focus in the last two years has been on the projects for which we have won bids: the pipeline project with Altura Energy and PEMEX’s cogeneration plant. Those projects have been a little slower to develop and we have been successful in finding other commercial projects. We are looking toward private infrastructure projects.
This is an exclusive preview of the 2018 edition of Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review. If you want to get all the information, plus other relevant insights regarding this industry, pre-order your copy of Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Review or download our digital edition.