Congratulations to Weatherhaven Resources, #2 in 2013's Most Innovative Companies in B.C.
With an economy built on extracting resources from remote terrain, it’s only natural that B.C. has developed expertise in supplying portable field camps to resource industries. But one company has continually innovated on the basic prefab model, to the point where it is now supplying not only mining and forestry companies with bunk houses, but militaries around the world with pop-up field hospitals and satellite ground stations.
Burnaby-based Weatherhaven got its start in 1981 supplying remote mining operations with prefab offices and bunk houses. The initial units, like tents in the shape of Quonset huts, were reusable, easily transported and quick to set up and take down.
The first milestone innovation came about 20 years ago, when the Canadian military asked for a self-contained unit complete with plumbing, electrical systems, furniture and specialty equipment. Weatherhaven’s response was its patented Mobile Expandable Container Configuration, or MECC: a standard shipping container whose walls come down to triple the floor space; soft fabric walls pop out and inside are all the fixtures and equipment. Outside are standard connections for water and electricity. “It’s plug and play,” says CEO Ray Castelli, adding that units are fully operational within a half-hour of delivery.
Weatherhaven initially sold about 200 of these units to the Canadian military, and went on to sell 2,500 to armed forces around the world. The company has configured the units as surgical operating theatres, satellite ground stations, vehicle repair centres and offices.
The U.S. military liked the idea, but wanted hard walls. Weatherhaven’s response was the HERcon, or hard-wall expandable redeployable container. The company secured a U.S. patent for the innovation in 2012 and in that year licensed the technology to AAR Corp., a Fortune 1000 company that supplies the U.S. military.
Today about half of Weatherhaven’s business comes from military clients; 30 to 40 per cent comes from commercial clients, including mining companies; and about 10 per cent of its business comes from supplying field hospitals and disaster relief operations.