Horn River


It takes a certain level of craftsmanship, capability, and capacity to build a city. It takes a company like Alta-Fab to build a remote city that is self-sufficient and fully functional in the middle of nowhere.   

The Horn River Lodge is a multibillion-dollar shale gas drilling project operated by EnCana and Apache in the Horn River shale basin. After drilling a series of exploration wells and conducting tests, Encana confirmed that there were high volumes of naturally occurring shale gas plays in this highly remote area located 60 kilometres northeast of Fort Nelson in 

British Columbia. Recognizing that this natural resource was more abundant per square foot and cheaper to produce than conventional resources, like oil, EnCana invested $400 million into building a plant and hired 600 people to begin developing this new reliable energy. The Horn River shale gas play is an unconventional source of energy that has the potential to achieve production levels approaching 1 billion cubic feet per day.

Encana hired Black Diamond, a leading supplier of rental camps, who in turn contracted Alta-Fab to build the project’s first phase of custom accommodations. The Horn River Lodge features modern and well-appointed modular camp accommodations and facilities built entirely by Alta-Fab.


The objective was to place one large, centralized base camp by the site rather than the typical rig camp on-site and base camp off-site. This plan would allow EnCana and Apache to service the project more efficiently throughout its three phases, building a more solid worksite infrastructure and decreasing operational costs significantly. Workers (a.k.a. project engineers) who normally lived at the rig sites would be required to live at the base camp instead. 

The Challenge

The Horn River Lodge had three main challenges in its first phase (Phase I). As a thirdparty contractor through Black Diamond, Alta-Fab leveraged its expertise and resources to develop a customized camp solution that exceeded all of the project’s requirements.

Alta-Fab needed to deliver a high-quality base camp that could withstand the rigour of hundreds of workers living in it for many years. The modular accommodations also had to address the remote physical toughness of the area and, at the same time, be comforting and inviting for its residents.

Alta-Fab had to produce the required units for Black Diamond within a short timeline. In total, 160 modular units had to be built by Alta-Fab between November 2008 and February 2009. Of the 518 rooms within these units, 88 had to be high-end VIP rooms. 

Since the workers were used to certain living conditions on-site at the rig camps, they expected similar standards at the project’s off-site base camp. The team at Alta-Fab had to build units that would meet these workers’ demands. Being the innovative company that it was, Alta-Fab had a solution prepared for this particular challenge: its prototype demonstration unit.

The Result

Alta-Fab’s attention to craftsmanship was perfectly matched to Black Diamond’s need for a high-quality product. In fact, Black Diamond decided to use Alta-Fab for this highprofile project because of the company’s reputation for building high-quality modular site accommodations, including the ones found on rig sites. In the last four years, Black Diamond has developed a close working relationship with Alta-Fab. This long-term relationship has allowed both companies to work together comfortably and quickly to produce the best possible solution for this project.

Furthermore, Alta-Fab was considered because its products were recognized for being fire code-compliant. Typically, camp suppliers are not required to build 100% code-compliant units; however, Alta-Fab chooses to include it as a standard feature within all of its products. The Horn River Lodge, in particular, was designed and built to meet all of British Columbia’s fire codes and regulations.

Initially contracted by Black Diamond in October, Alta-Fab finished building the first set of units in six weeks (they were installed in November) and delivered the rest of the units in the scheduled time frame. Its built-in flexibility enabled it to expand its resources and operate all three of its manufacturing plants at maximum capacity to meet deadlines. For this first phase, Alta-Fab orchestrated its resources efficiently and was able to produce units within a tight time frame.

To meet the needs of the engineers who would be living at the base camp, Alta-Fab hosted an informal planning session with the engineers to discuss how they could customize the VIP units. This was the first time that Alta-Fab had worked directly with a client and the end-user of its product. Alta-Fab used the engineers’ feedback, suggestions, and specifications to build the final product. As a result, these 250 square-foot units featured a private washroom, large flat-panel television, queen-size pillowtop bed, several appliances, and other amenities completely customized to the workers’ needs.

In addition to living quarters, Alta-Fab has also been contracted to build several offices and a fully-equipped recreation facility, kitchen, and dining hall, all of which are scheduled to be completed by the end of the project’s third and final phase. To date, the Horn River Lodge is the best reflection of Alta-Fab’s capacity, capability, and craftsmanship and remains a symbol of its ability to create “comfortable” living conditions in the remote bush.


First install: November 2008
Final install: February 2009
Units: 160
Style: End-to-end dorm
Beds: 518 (88 luxury VIP units)

Special Features

State-of-the art fire system, 17 code-compliant firewalls.

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