• Building History

    July 6, 2017

    Building History

    Construction is vital to the health of any economy. It enables delivery of the growth and opportunity that sustains societies. Today, these contributions include better infrastructure, public spaces, commercial development, and a skilled workforce that represents 9% of the province’s total employment.
    The construction industry in Saskatchewan is the third largest employer behind only healthcare and retail services. This makes it the second largest private sector employer and, because construction pays better wages than retail on average, a significant share of the provincial tax base and consumer spending.
    The notion that construction is a fallback career or less dignified than other professions is outright nonsense. Some of the most stable and successful companies in Saskatchewan are construction businesses – from general contracting, mechanical and electrical companies to flooring, roofing and contracting supply businesses. The fact is, construction facilitates every success we have as people; from children’s hospitals to restaurant renovations and from new homes to manufacturing facilities – construction is always the first step in changing the world.
    This has always been true. It was true when Canada built a railway across the nation and it was true when the Panama Canal was built. Major projects say something about those with the will and determination to undertake them. They often say things that neighbouring cultures and communities take note of. Sometimes history itself takes notice.
    This has always been true. In the hills of southern Anatolia, in modern Turkey, 12,000 years ago a group of people came together and undertook humanity’s first major construction project. With crude stone and wood tools, they built a 300-meter series of circles out of massive stone pillars up to 6 meters high and weighing up to 40 tons each. They decorated the place with pictograms of animals and mythical creatures. History has long forgotten these people and we don’t know why they built the place, but they did. And I’m writing about it 12,000 years later.
    About 5,000 years later Stonehenge was constructed. Around this time cultures we recognize today would begin to emerge in the Indus Valley, Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and China. Progress was slow but steady with the Great Pyramids at Giza and many South American pyramids constructed over the next 2,500 years.
    In the next 2,000 years the Bronze Age came and went. The Greek city states built the Acropolis and other monuments. A thousand years later Rome would become ascendant and build infrastructure unparalleled before or for hundreds of years afterwards – including roadways, aqueducts and the Colosseum.
    In Medieval times civilizations competed to build larger domes, cathedrals and other monuments to demonstrate their superior engineering and craftsmanship. By the beginning of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution construction projects were meant to celebrate civilizations and deliver infrastructure previously unimaginable. These projects ranged from iconic like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Elysee in Paris to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam in America.
    These things have always mattered, even if only as symbols. One way or another, what we build defines who we are as a people.
    With so many Saskatchewan citizens making a living in construction it makes sense to pause for a moment and reflect on what they actually do. You likely know someone who works in the field – even if you don’t think of the business owner or the skilled tradesperson as a “construction worker.” I assure you they are. And they should be proud of it.
    These people built the Empire State Building. They built the CN Tower. They built an unnamed monument in southern Anatolia 12,000 years ago. Seven thousand years later they built the Great Pyramids. They built cathedrals and domes in the middle ages. And they are still building the world today. They build our stadiums, bridges, homes and workplaces. Their contribution to our economy and quality of life is critical.
    We owe them a debt of gratitude for that and for the contribution they make to our economy and our lives every single day.

    John Lax, MA

    Saskatchewan Construction Association