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#CalgaryStrong: Bringing Overdue Innovation to the Construction Industry

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With live plants weaving between the open-concept desk design where employees sit on ergonomic exercise balls, and a small dog that curiously greets you at the door, the Falkbuilt factory in southeast Calgary is far from conventional. The clean white factory, divided into four areas of production all constructed around the ongoing Falknest project at the centre, is a picture of efficiency and innovation. Teams of architects and designers examine project plans within fully furnished glass cubicles – “Falkicles” – while several orders waiting to ship internationally line up beside a miniature, fully functioning red fire truck.


The Falknest

The latest business venture for 72-year-old Calgary entrepreneur Mogens Smed, previously of Smed International and DIRTT Environmental Solutions, Falkbuilt is a cutting edge offsite digital component construction company servicing healthcare, education and commercial industries worldwide.
With more than 4 decades in interior construction, Smed has developed a reputation as an industry titan who more than lives up to his status as an unstoppable force. 

“Lots of people call themselves entrepreneurs,” says Jennifer Allford of Falkbuilt HQ, “but the reason Mogens is so unstoppable is because he actually does see where the puck is going.”

Established in September 2018, Falkbuilt is bringing long overdue innovation to the construction industry with technological upgrades that utilize The Cloud, artificial intelligence and virtual reality as well as streamlined processes that ensure efficiency and unparalleled results.

Using an innovative approach with a few key components, Falkbuilt is able to build beautiful, sustainable, structurally sound and acoustically superior walls 4 times faster than conventional construction methods. Currently, Falkbuilt is preparing to launch its exciting new app, Echo Dome, which will allow colleagues and clients to interact and review architecture and design within the 3D design space while making changes in real time. Echo Dome “live syncs design changes and delights every stakeholder as they experience their space before it’s built”, saving countless hours and drastically elevating the industry standard technology.
“Technical construction is absolutely the most lethargic business in the whole world to respond to innovation,” says Smed, “We believe that the technology we’re developing will revolutionize the architecture design and construction industry, no question about it.”

The descent of COVID-19 on the city of Calgary in the past few months prompted another round of creativity and innovation from the workers at Falkbuilt, who responded to the demands of the pandemic by adjusting their original business plan projections to pivot into the healthcare industry far earlier than expected. “We hadn’t anticipated making any kind of meaningful effort into the healthcare industry for at least a year,” says Smed of the impact of the pandemic on Falkbuilt’s progress, “but Yogi Berra said it best: ‘if there’s a fork in the road, take it.’”

In partnership with Sprung Structures, Falkbuilt worked with Alberta Health Services in April 2020 to provide a rapid response solution to a patient capacity crisis at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary during the height of the pandemic.

Falkbuilt constructed 67 headwalls in 48 hours, all built to industry sterilization standards and equipped with electrical drops, lighting and switch boxes as well as connectors for med gases and vacuum outlets.
The entire project was built with sustainability in mind, and is therefore completely repurposable. This means once the structures are no longer specifically required for pandemic relief, all the headwalls will be efficiently reconfigured and rehomed within the healthcare system as needed. 

Smed and his team of “Falkers” now number over 200 – and that’s just the beginning. With the Falkbuilt factory already bustling with a number of ongoing domestic and international projects, and more in the pipeline for the coming months, Mogens Smed expects to be “pants on fire busy” by September, and can’t wait. 

 

 For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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Calgary Local Changing Lives with Senior Safe Project during COVID-19

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A member of the Dover community in SE Calgary stepped up this past year to fill a gap in the system by providing a unique way for senior citizens to participate and engage with the community from the safety of their own residences. 

Throughout the lockdown measures that were present in varying degrees for the majority of 2020, many of us struggled with feeling removed and isolated from the community. For senior citizens, many of whom already experience loneliness and isolation in greater capacity during normal times, the pandemic has severely exacerbated the negative mental health impacts of extreme seclusion. 

In July 2020, Karen Begg applied for a grant through the City of Calgary public art department to fund a senior’s community art project in Dover. “I thought about all the senior citizens who had lost a partner, or maybe never married, and were now going through this alone, and I had to do something,” she says. “I coordinated a senior safe activity that would allow them to contribute to the beautification of their community by featuring their art in a public space.” 

Begg’s original project design featured the distribution of 50 art kits to various participating seniors residences throughout the city. Each kit contained 8 2 oz. containers of colored paint, brushes, stamps, stencils, a canvas for the artists to keep, and a cutout to be returned for inclusion in the final installation. Upon launching the project, Begg described the response as overwhelming, and the original projection of 50 participants was quickly expanded in order to accommodate the tremendous expression of interest.

A total of 74 senior citizens from Riverview Properties, the Calgary Vietnamese Women’s Association and Grand Avenue Village Seniors participated in the project from October to late December. The project features a diverse range of painters, with the oldest participant being 92 years old.
Begg cites her own great grandmother, who lived to the age of 104, as an inspiration behind the project itself. “My great grandmother was a huge influence on me. She taught me a lot about aging and the importance of community,” she says, “so when COVID struck, I thought about my great grandmother, who had been a widow most of her life, and how she would have coped.” 

The installation, officially named Birds and Blooms after the various nature inspired cutouts, which feature bird, flower, dragonfly, butterfly and leaf prints, was revealed on December 19, 2020. It is located at the Twin Views Communal Garden in Dover, at 2951 26 Ave SE. Since then, the feedback from the seniors and the surrounding community has been unbelievably positive. “It really brightened up a dark corner,” says Begg, “and now everyone who uses that pedestrian path can enjoy it.” 

According to Begg, this project has highlighted the need for more senior safe activities, which she intends to continue working on. “I’m so proud of the creativity we saw from the seniors,” she says, “and I hope to keep this up.”

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – This is Auralia’s Story

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), childhood cancer is the #1 cause of death among Canadian children past infancy – more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. In 2019, the Government of Canada Canadian Cancer Statistics Report estimated that 1,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 would be diagnosed with cancer throughout the year. 

That is 1,000 families whose lives have been irreversibly changed as they face the battle of a lifetime before their child has even finished middle school. 

For Ryan and Trinda from Calgary, Alberta, this day came on November 14, 2018, when their daughter Auralia was diagnosed with Leukemia, just 16 days before her 8th birthday. Two days later, she was taken in for her first surgery. 

“It’s hard for people to understand,” says Trinda, Auralia’s mom, “because they don’t ever think it will happen to them. Then one day, you’re told something you never thought you’d hear, and you’re making decisions you never thought you’d have to make.” 

As parents of a daughter with childhood cancer, Ryan and Trinda have learned to take things as they come, knowing every day is its own rollercoaster. They celebrate Auralia’s successes and support her during the most difficult days, standing in solidarity with their daughter and weathering the ups and downs of each new stage of treatment together. “Losing her hair was, of course, hard,” says Trinda, “before she lost it to treatment, she had gorgeous, waist-long hair. Now, Ryan keeps his head shaved, so his hair is never longer than his daughters.” 

Auralia is 9 years old now, 2 years into her 2.5-year Leukemia treatment. She loves animals and the outdoors, and wants to be a zoologist one day. Her reality for the past two years has been filled with doctor’s visits and daily chemo, isolation periods, and unexpected obstacles such as sudden illnesses and emergency hospital trips that have derailed her treatment. In the face of such monumental adversity, however, Ryan and Trinda are continually inspired by their young daughter’s perseverance and compassion. “She is so kind.” Says Trinda, “She just wants to help. Even with Leukemia, she is still out helping Ryan shovel the elderly neighbors walks all winter long.” 

For the month of September, Auralia, Ryan and Trinda are participating in the Believe in the Gold Virtual Run/Walk for Childhood Cancer

Believe in the Gold is a charitable organization established in 2013 that works to raise awareness and provide financial and emotional support for families impacted by childhood cancer. Based out of Calgary, Alberta, it was founded in memory of Jacey Uphill, who passed away after a fight with Ewing’s Sarcoma in October of 2012, at the age of 19. 

Believe in the Gold has helped Ryan and Trinda mitigate some of the uncovered costs incurred by Auralia’s treatment over the last two years, and they are participating in the fundraiser as a way to give back to the organization and help other families who have experienced the difficulties of childhood cancer. “They’ve done so much for Auralia and for our family,” says Ryan, Auralia’s dad, “this is our chance to do what we can for them, while doing something we love.” 

Auralia and her family have always been outdoor enthusiasts and avid hikers – something that they’ve continued to pursue at an adapted rate following Auralia’s diagnosis – and the family decided to participate by hiking. For the month of September, Auralia and Trinda each set a 10 km goal, and Ryan set a 100 km goal. 

According to Trinda, when she was first diagnosed, Auralia was unable to walk more than a few blocks before her dad had to carry her. This month, Auralia and her mom have already accomplished their original 10 km goals, and Ryan is now at 87.5 km.

After smashing her 10 km goal well ahead of schedule, Auralia has showed no signs of slowing down. “The first thing she said when we finished was that she wanted to increase her goal by another 10 kilometres,” says Ryan.
“She just wants to keep helping.” Says Trinda. Their most recent has hike put Auralia at over 17 km! 

The family has now raised over $2,700, more than doubling their original fundraising goal, and will continue to push as hard as they can to support Auralia and raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer. 

You can follow Auralia’s progress and support her cause here.

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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