Sask. company finds new uses for province’s old grain elevators


Entering one of many three grain elevators that stand like giants over Kenaston, Sask., is like strolling right into a museum.

Old-growth wooden homes equipment from one other period and rickety lifts with a dusty rope result in the highest of the 30-metre-tall tower.

Rural landmarks like this one are on monitor to be practically wiped from Saskatchewan’s map. They fall into disrepair — and subsequently fall sufferer to fireplace — or develop into costlier to take care of than they’re price, main house owners to topple them.

But Alvin Herman appears at every weathered board as having potential past the landfill.

“I simply discovered myself allergic to demolition and burning and polluting the atmosphere,” the 75-year-old retired farmer and self-proclaimed workaholic mentioned.

This 111-year-old elevator in Milden, Sask., was ‘previous its best-before-date,’ says Alvin Herman, and had develop into a legal responsibility to the city and his youngsters. (Nathan Jones)

His first challenge was dismantling a 111-year-old elevator he owned himself in Milden, Sask., a village about 90 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon.

Herman mentioned the elevator was “previous its best-before-date” and had develop into a legal responsibility to the city and his youngsters, for its potential questions of safety and as a breeding floor for pests.

But Herman, 75, wasn’t prepared to surrender the hundreds of ft of lumber that made up the elevator.

That thought ballooned into ABMT Wood Solutions: a crew on a mission to deconstruct grain elevators and repurpose their wooden into development supplies and inexpensive housing.

“We provide them a salvation that is not burning,” mentioned Herman.

The crew is now choosing aside two of the three elevators in Kenaston, 85 kilometres east of Milden.

Three grain elevators overlooking prairie landscape
Two of the three grain elevators in Kenaston, Sask., are set to be demolished and their wooden repurposed. Mayor Dallas Lowdermilk thinks it is a guilt they’re coming down.  (Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada)

Herman mentioned ABMT Wood Solutions has about 10 extra individuals on their docket wanting their elevators deconstructed.

Environmentally pleasant, inexpensive housing

ABMT says the overwhelming majority of the wooden salvaged from the deconstructed towers is reusable and could be became something from a dance ground to ornamental furnishings to completely new houses.

Old-growth wooden, which was used to construct the elevators, is tough to acquire. British Columbia, for occasion, is deferring the logging of old progress throughout about 1.7 million hectares of forest. 

Two men work in front of a grain elevator that has been stripped of its siding, exposing the wood underneath. They are piling the planks in front of it.
ABMT Wood Solutions says the overwhelming majority of the wooden salvaged from the deconstructed towers is reusable. Much of it’s old-growth wooden, too, which is tough to acquire. (Nathan Jones)

By repurposing the timber, the company can preserve a low-carbon footprint, mentioned Ian Loughran, a guide for ABMT who works for Vereco Smart Green Homes, a house design company that touts its power environment friendly builds.

“If these elevators had been simply demolished, they might be partially landfilled and in any other case lit on hearth,” he mentioned. That would emit carbon.

AMBT’s strategy has the potential to supply net-zero power houses — a objective the federal authorities hopes provinces will undertake for their constructing codes by 2030.

That contains utilizing mechanically laminated timber panels inside which can be, in keeping with the crew, structurally stronger than typical wooden body development.

ABMT is engaged on a residential three-bedroom present house utilizing these panels.

Piles of wood and box-like structures made of planks of wood sit organized in rows next to a grain elevator that is partially demolished.
ABMT Wood Solutions says the grain elevators are being repurposed for all the things from dance flooring to ornamental furnishings to completely new houses. (Nathan Jones)

Standing contained in the Kenaston elevator, Loughran motioned to a big wall behind him fabricated from the nail-laminated timber. He mentioned sections like that may very well be padded with insulation, which may be comprised of recycled wooden, and be put up “type of like a Lego equipment.” He mentioned the skeleton of a home could be assembled in a pair weeks.

Loughran mentioned it is one solution to create inexpensive housing throughout the nation at a time when the nation is going through housing shortages, particularly in First Nation communities.

Losing landmarks

The three giants that stand guard over Kenaston’s couple of hundred of residents are seen from miles away. The city mayor, Dallas Lowdermilk, referred to as them a serious landmark and mentioned it is a guilt they’re coming down. 

“Depending in your age, you have mainly seen them your complete life,” he mentioned. “If I had been to win the lottery tomorrow I might purchase them and they’d keep there.”

A fire ladder truck is parked in front of a grain elevator that is in the process of having its siding removed.
This elevator owned by Oli Remmen in Kenaston, Sask., is the primary of two ABMT Wood Solutions is dismantling within the city. (Dayne Patterson/CBC)

Ali Piwowar, an Ottawa-based architect initially from Regina, wrote her grasp’s thesis on the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of picket grain elevators in Saskatchewan. She famous how on the flat Prairies, the tall elevators acted as map pins on the horizon.

“Historically there was one at every city — this vertical construction — and that turned this icon that there have been individuals, there was a neighborhood,” she mentioned.

But as farmers moved to concrete inland terminals, then to metal silos, picket elevators on land leased from rail corporations turned out of date and costly to take care of.

Oli Remmen, the co-owner of the elevator that’s at present being deconstructed in Kenaston, mentioned it price about $5,000 to $6,000 yearly sitting unused. 

The National Trust for Canada, a nationwide charity with objectives to save lots of heritage locations, has listed picket grain elevators as a nationally endangered place. Piwowar estimates about 20 elevators are misplaced annually to demolition, fires or pure disasters. 

WATCH | Drone captures demolition of Sask. city’s grain elevator:

Drone captures Saskatchewan grain elevator demolition

Trevor Scherman caught the top of an period within the tiny city of Rockhaven, Sask.

Preserving landmarks

There are 11 grain elevators listed as heritage properties in Saskatchewan, although one burned down in 2010, in keeping with the provincial Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport. Piwowar mentioned it is tough to register them as heritage websites if farmers don’t need them designated.

Brent Guy, the proprietor of the second elevator in Kenaston to be deconstructed, mentioned he thought-about that possibility however by no means heard again from his MLA about it. He appears again fondly on internet hosting household reunions on the town and letting youngsters go up the carry to get a view of the encompassing space.

“It’s one of many few communities in Saskatchewan with this sort of backdrop. Unfortunately, it comes all the way down to funds,” he mentioned.

Piwowar checked out preserving the elevators by adapting them into neighborhood areas, one thing that is been tried in some Saskatchewan communities and in Alberta. But she additionally appreciates ABMT’s objective of giving individuals the chance to carry onto a bit of Saskatchewan historical past otherwise.

Five men in work clothing stand in front of a wooden grain elevator and ladder trucks.
About 10 different grain elevator house owners have contacted ABMT Wood Solutions about their demolition companies. (Nathan Jones)

As Herman walked by way of the elevator, he ran his hand alongside one part of wooden, indicating it was the bucket elevator leg. Over a long time of use, the friction from the grain had sculpted and polished the wooden into a novel wave.

“It’s heritage wooden. It’s by no means going to occur once more; you are not going to seek out this wooden anyplace else on the planet. If individuals wish to protect a few of the historical past, that is type of the final ditch effort to protect the old sentinels that dotted Saskatchewan,” mentioned Herman.

“I’m hoping that our course of really permits individuals to purchase a bit or personal a bit of Saskatchewan’s heritage.”


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