Bird Construction has captured 100 years of building in Canada through the pages of a commemorative book highlighting significant projects over the company’s colourful history.
“It highlights 100 projects over the 100 years as well as different anecdotes and stories of our history including lots of pictures and historical records,” Rachel Pattimore, director of strategic development and communications for Bird, told the Daily Commercial News.
Bird founder Hubert John Bird left England in 1905, immigrating to Canada when he was 15 years old. He settled in Saskatchewan in 1908. Prior to the First World War, Bird worked as a timekeeper at the Navin Brothers Construction Firm in Moose Jaw, Sask.
When he returned from the war in 1920 after serving as a captain in the Canadian Engineers, he purchased the company from Navin Brothers Construction Company and partnered with George Woodall and James Simpson.
“When the war was over, he went back to Navin Brothers and one of the brothers had passed away so he bought the company out including all the stock. That was the first iteration of Bird Construction,” explained Lara De Klerk, a documentation specialist at Bird Construction.
The company began its first job on March 29, 1920.
In 1934 Bird bought out the interest of his partners and the company name was changed to Bird Construction Company Ltd.
Over the years Bird has constructed projects in the commercial, institutional, retail, multi-tenant residential, industrial, mining, water and wastewater, energy, renewables, nuclear and civil sectors in all provinces across the country.
Some of Bird’s most notable projects include the C.P.R. Depot in Regina (the first $1 million project secured by the company); the bridge over the Saskatchewan River (1936); Wildwood Park Residential Community in Winnipeg (1946); Stampede Corral in Calgary (1950); Red River Floodway Gates near Winnipeg (1968); Edmonton Space Sciences Centre (1984); Expo 86 Ontario and Russia Pavilions in Vancouver (1986); Enbridge Line 3 Replacement in Saskatchewan; and the modernization of 27 Ontario Provincial Police sites across the province.
“In recent years we’ve expanded significantly in our industrial division and we also have a heavy civil division in addition to our commercial/institutional division and we have a lot of other operations happening across the country,” said Pattimore.
The company has been through a lot in the last century including times of war, economic downturns, natural disasters and health crises. Despite the difficult times, Bird has managed to make it through.
“We’ve been through the Great Depression, war times and everything that came along with that. We’ve been through periods of just general economic ups and downs and a period where there was a number of strategic acquisitions which lead to the expansion of Bird across Canada,” explained Pattimore.
“Then just after World War II, Bird, besides doing the largest volume of war-related construction and doing half of all the air training facility construction in western Canada, the company also became the biggest home builder in Canada in the mid-1940s building homes for returning veterans,” added De Klerk.
Bird acquired a number of companies in the past few years, expanding its business and offerings. The decision to purchase Rideau Construction was made in 2007. Bird acquired H.J. O’Connell Ltd. in 2011. Then in 2013, the company acquired Nason Contracting Group Ltd. and in September 2017, it acquired 50 per cent of the shares of Stack Modular Structures Ltd. and 50 per cent of Stack Modular Structures Hong Kong Limited.
One thing that has not changed over the company’s 100-year history is its “people-centric” culture.
“There is a story going around the company that Hubert Bird found a way to get people to drive buses when there was no work so he didn’t have to lay anyone off during the Great Depression,” De Klerk noted.
A 25 Year Club was established in 1956 to recognize employees who stayed with the company during the challenging early years. By the end of this year, the club will grow to include 220 members, with three 50 Year Club members.
“One of the things Bird is really proud of is the 25 Year Club which I think is a rarity in the construction industry,” said De Klerk. “I think that certainly shows that the company really does live up to its reputation.”
Going forward, the company plans to remain focused on growing the business, recognizing its people as well as safety and technology.
“One of the things that is a big focus right now is continuing with our diverse offering across the country, that has been key, especially in the last few years and really maintaining the culture of the people-first and the dedication of our employees and recognizing that,” Pattimore said. “As a construction company, safety is a priority and we want to keep that as a number one focus. Technology and advances in innovation is also huge for us.”
The 100 year book can be found at www.bird.ca.
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