Case Study: Furniture Installation In the High Arctic
Consolidated Office Installation Services (COIS) was trusted with a very challenging task – to safely get the furnishings for ten residences from the manufacturer’s plants in the Toronto area to the final destination in the high arctic, installed per the designer’s plan with all waste removed & cleaned to be ready for move-in.
Cambridge Bay is located north of the Canadian mainland on Victoria island in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region, almost 500km north of the arctic circle. It is a two and a half hour flight north of Yellowknife, NWT.
This is the site of a scientific community studying geology, biology, climate and the effects of change with an emphasis on indigenous knowledge. It officially opened in 2019, and features a mix of local researchers and from across Canada. The non-local scientists were to be housed in ten townhomes our customer sold the furnishings for; seating, tables, desks, sofas, lounge chairs, dressers, wardrobes, beds, mattresses and floor / table lamps.
The project took careful planning. “Cam Bay” as it is locally known, is not only geographically remote, but prone to rapid weather changes, flight bumps (supplies critical to the survival of the community take obvious priority) and site delays / interruptions. These hazards combined with the immovable budget constraints and a moving target ‘site ready’ date meant several contingencies were required.
We utilized the transportation network of our sister company and United Van Lines Canada affiliate, Capital Movers & Storage in Kingston, where they received at their warehouse the required inventory from three separate manufacturers. The first challenge was to combine all the furniture to fit into two 53’ trailers for the 55-hour, 5,000+ kilometer journey by road to Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife. Our most experienced truck loaders’ careful planning and physical “3D Tetris” meant every cubic inch of space needed to be used to avoid a third truck – and more expense.
Long before the trip – at the time of estimate preparation, Consolidated Office reached out to several members of our cross-country installation network and found a suitable partner in Cambridge Bay to tap local labour assistance. This win-win-win allowed us to employ locals in a region encumbered with a higher-than-average unemployment rate, Helped us keep our costs competitive in reducing travel expenses, and helped our customer win the furniture sale tender with full points using local, indigenous workers. As a result we were able to send a lean team of two from our Ottawa branch.
Upon arrival in Yellowknife, our team met the trailers and assisted with the offload; at every transfer, inventory needed to be taken and inspections for damage completed. Claims for missing or damaged goods were not acceptable given the enormous expense of transporting anything of substance to the arctic.
Consolidated Office Installation Services chartered two flights from Buffalo Airways based on the known volume of the product. Once again the loading would be a close call; but by air, weight was the more critical factor. Our team of two split up, one per flight load, aboard a 1957 Lockheed L-188 Electra making two trips. At the destination airport, our local partner met us with a huge loader and tractor trailer for the final haul to site.
The crew wasted no time, getting to work staging the inventory out front of each unit, taking advantage of the fine weather. Over the course of three days, each unit received complete furnishings, and many items required assembly. It was discovered that the plans in the crew’s possession did not match the final build, leading to a series of creative discussions with the designer. No problem, our team’s lead sketched a new drawing out that was signed off to, and worked from. Further, a specification error required a custom modification on the desk in each unit’s study. Again, no problem. The COIS crew had the tools and expertise to respond to the challenge.
The job was completed to the satisfaction of the customer’s interior designer, who was on site for the duration of the project. While there were several deficiencies, they were minor (malfunctioning light switch on a lamp, missing foot on lounge chair, rub marks from packaging on table legs, scratches on drawer pulls). While most deficiencies were manufacturer-related, the sheer amount of handling to get the inventory to site meant a few signs of handling appeared.
In advance of departure, our crew obtained sample chits of each laminate, trim, chrome, metal, paint and wood finish of all furniture, in order to obtain touch-up crayons and paint, graining markers, melt-in kits and epoxies to mitigate any potential handling issues. These issues were solved on site, avoiding any full replacement claims which would have been extremely costly, both for COIS and our customer.
Not long after the project, Consolidated Office was contacted by another furniture dealership customer (who had heard of our success with the residences) to plan and execute their furniture build (40 Haworth Stations, seating, tables & storage) for the office and laboratory in Cam Bay. This was successfully completed six months later, again with very few deficiencies.
Since the project, COIS has earned a reputation for proficiency in the Arctic, not only with the installations, but the careful handling and competitive pricing in transporting inventory there. Additional projects in the north include Haworth stations for Indigenous Affairs in Rankin Inlet, Global stations for the Legislative Assembly in Iqaluit, and Teknion stations for the OPP branch in Moosonee.