Despite some labour challenges, some pandemic delays and a harsh winter, Qulliq Energy Corporations’ new head office in Baker Lake is still targeted for August completion on a $16-million budget, according to the person overseeing the project.

Ten to 25 employees have been needed on site at various stages, said Aaron Doyle, project manager with Kivalliq-based Sanaqatiit Construction Ltd. The workforce has exceeded the target of 20 per cent Inuit labour, according to a statement from Qulliq Energy Corporation (QEC), which added that “Ideally, QEC would like to have a 40 per cent Inuit labour workforce on projects.”

However, finding enough workers overall proved to be difficult because of obstacles posed by Covid-19, Doyle said. Likewise, the pandemic had an effect on the flow of construction supplies.

“We’ve experienced quite a bit of cost increase and lack of availability for materials,” he said, adding that some items had to be flown in after the bulk of supplies were shipped via sealift last fall.

The two-storey, 14,550-square-foot office building was originally proposed in 2019 at a cost of $13 million. The structure will feature a boardroom, multipurpose rooms for training and meetings, a staff common area and kitchenette on each level.

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From a construction standpoint, Doyle said there are a lot of details to the project but it’s not complex in nature, relatively speaking. Based on his tenure with the company over much of its 12-year history, the office building is in line with the scope of contracts that Sanaqatiit Construction tends to take on, he added.

“It’s the type of construction that we do all the time,” he said.

What proved to be one of the greatest hindrances was the winter weather.

“It seems to be very extreme this year. I don’t have the data to back that up. I’m just being told (by local residents) that for Baker Lake that it’s even tougher,” he said of the winter months, noting that construction activity was shut down some days or workers were shuffled to other tasks due to the unforgiving conditions. “When it’s blowing 70-plus (km/h) outside and it’s -70 (C), you just can’t do it.”

For QEC, the head office in Baker Lake will allow close to 45 staff to come together under one roof instead of working out of three different buildings.

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