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The new and exciting world of electrical contracting

Behind the scenes of light rail, microgrids and virtual design

By Sherri Haigh
Joint Electrical Promotion Plan

Advanced technologies are redefining our world, and the construction industry is not about to be left behind. It’s a new era in construction for leading contractors like Alltrade.

Whether it’s utilizing 4D drawings for a processing plant, applying Building Information Modelling (BIM) for a light rail transit system or introducing a Micro Grid Energy Storage project in the far north, Bob Ritzmann, President of Alltrade Industrial Contractors Inc., says advances in technology have had a profound impact on the business and been of significant benefit to clients.

“Technology has brought us light years ahead of where the industry used to be when it comes to electrical contracting services,“ says Ritzmann, President of Alltrade Industrial Contractors and a member of the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario.

Leveraging new technologies not only makes the job more exciting for Ritzmann and the team at Alltrade, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) electricians and other skilled trades, but it also gives way to unparalleled efficiency and transparency, particularly in complex areas of construction.

To better understand the benefits, Ritzmann refers to a current project that involves the construction of a new processing line for a manufacturing plant here in Ontario.

“This project is unique because of the proximity of overhead 44kV power lines on one side and on the other side of the existing plant with an access driveway between the plant and the work area,” he says.

As Alltrade is performing crane lifts to assemble/erect buildings, install structural supports for the conveyors and equipment, it is critical that all engaged in these activities are aware of the limits of approach to the high voltage (HV) power lines.

By leveraging Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) with 4D drawings, the Alltrade team can better prepare and deliver services safely and effectively.  VDC technology, which allows for the creation of digital models of buildings and project sites, has been in existence for many years but, it’s refinement and application has evolved, to now help electrical contractors.

“Not only does this technology provide us with a detailed view of the entire project from hydro lines to other pre-existing infrastructure but it maps out every wall, plumbing and all other details to allow us to identify, escalate and resolve conflicts much more efficiently, as well as collaborate better with other trades across the project,” he explains.

Alltrade’s use of BIM technology has played a key role in their Light Rail Transit work including the Laird and Leaside Station project. This highly collaborative process allows multiple stakeholders (architects engineers and contractors) to achieve strong cooperation at all stages of the project from planning and design, all the way to construction and close-out documentation.

“BIM provides us with the ability to verify and provide accurate estimates, confirm and monitor project schedules, simulate design and construction and minimize field driven change orders,” said Ritzmann.

As a leader in the renewable energy sector in Canada, Alltrade was also excited to be a part of an Ontario Power Generation (OPG) project that brought the first fully integrated solar energy-storage microgrid system to a remote First National community in Gull Bay, Ontario (also known as Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA).

Located about 200-kilomeres from Thunder Bay, the community has relied on diesel as its only energy source. This new approach uses solar power, battery storage, and automated-control technology to provide much-needed electricity to the community. Combining natural weather resources with energy storage has been a significant and welcome move for a community that values their connection with the land and nature. This initiative allows 130,000 litres of diesel fuel to be replaced each year with clean solar power.

There were numerous challenges working in such a remote community including extreme temperatures -45C, limited communications ability and distance from major vendors but they addressed them by utilizing satellite internet and leveraging prefabricated PV wire harnesses and combiners as well as offsite prefabrication for weather station, transformers and string inverters.

“We integrated equipment systems such a Hydro One’s remote diesel generators, Ground Mount Solar PV and the Battery Energy Storage System with the ABB Microgrid Controller to tie it all together,” said Ritzmann.

Alltrade, along with OPG, ensured there was active collaboration and partnership with the Gull Bay community, including town halls, and job fairs. Twenty-five per cent of on-site work hours were completed by a community member or affiliated partners.

It’s invigorating to see industrial contractors like Alltrade embracing the technology revolution that is transforming all industries.

To learn more about the exciting work and capabilities of ECAO contractors visit