Does the City of Winnipeg Hate Helical Piles?

April 4, 2022

One of the complaints I hear from our customers is that the City of Winnipeg can be tough to deal with when it comes to approving projects with helical piles. The assumption among some is that the City of Winnipeg has a problem with helical foundations. Maybe even that the City hates helical pile foundations.

That's not the case.

The City of Winnipeg does not hate helical piles and they're not out to "get them". It might seem that way sometimes, but in reality the City simply wants to ensure every new structure in Winnipeg is safe and sturdy.

The human rights museum in Winnipeg Manitoba with city skyline in background

That said, if you can understand where the City is coming from, you'll understand how to get the City to approve helical pile projects faster. It's how VersaPile has received lightning-quick approval from the City for hundreds of helical pile projects in just a few years.

It's Not (All) The City of Winnipeg's Fault

As contractors, it's easy to blame "pencil-pushers" for slowing us down. It's frustrating and expensive when an approval gets stuck in red tape and sunk in a bureaucratic swamp. But, as contractors, I say it's time we consider what we can do to speed things up.

A good place to start is by assessing our own processes, asking the real questions, and not being afraid to make changes. Ask yourself things like:

  • Are we doing everything we can to smooth out the approval process?
  • Is there additional data we could offer, studies we could present, and engineering expertise we can share?
  • Do we have team members with skills that could contribute to this effort, such as compiling efficacy data or engineers reports?
  • Are there relationships we can forge with authoritative figures in the industry, like engineers, that can lend support to our project proposals?

Yes, bureaucracy is slow. But you don't have to take a "back seat" mentality to the approval process. Even in the slow grind of civic government, there's usually something you can do to "grease the wheels".

A pile of paperwork that is delaying a helical pile foundation

(Image: Going through stacks of paperwork just to get a project approved is not the best use of your time.)

That's what happened here at VersaPile several years ago. Our customers were tired of waiting for approvals from the city and were considering concrete alternatives even though helical foundations were a better fit. We were stuck sitting on project's, sometimes for months, while we waited for the red tape to clear.

Sometimes, a helical pile foundation would be denied outright and we'd have to start the entire process again.

It was a slow and frustrating mess for our customers and our own team.

So we decided to take a different approach.

Good Intentions Make for Slow Progress

After taking a step back to let our frustration cool down, we realized the City of Winnipeg made things difficult more or less by accident. Their intentions were good, they wanted to make sure strong and safe structures were being built in Winnipeg. Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, that mentality created miles of red-tape and long approval times for helical pile foundations.

The protracted timeline caused plenty of frustration to our customers. Delaying a project by weeks while waiting for a piece of paper was hurting progress and costing our customer's money.

A snapping turtle opening his mouth to the camera

(Image: Our team can't stand waiting around for paperwork at VersaPile, so we were starting to look a little grouchy.)

Something needed to change. And we knew the change would have to come from us, not the City.

Once our team at VersaPile realized why the City was so slow to approve helical pile foundations, we could form a plan to (hopefully) speed things along.

How VersaPile Gets Faster Helical Pile Approvals

First our team gathered all the performance and engineering data we had on helical piles that was specific to Winnipeg and Manitoba.

Yes, it was a ton of work.

At the end we had a collection of comprehensive, easy-to-read reports about helical pile performance in Winnipeg soil. That helped city engineers get familiar with helical pile foundations and "de-mystify" this tried-and-true technology.

Next, VersaPile formed strong relationships with honest, high-quality engineers that were happy to offer lightning-fast expert reviews of our helical projects. It's crucial these aren't "rubber stamp" engineer reviews either, but instead a careful assessment of the project by an expert. These expert reviews on every single project helped build confidence in helical pile foundations.

A geotechnical engineer and employee from VersaPile monitor the installation of a helical pile in Winnipeg Manitoba

(Image: Having a trustworthy engineer to give honest assessments of our projects was, and continues to be, key to our speed, efficiency, and safety)

Finally, we took the time to prepare strong proposals for each project that included the data, engineer reviews, and other relevant information about the helical pile foundation. While this increased our workload on the backend, the results were undeniable...

Now, with years of excellent proposals and good data under our belt, our team at VersaPile often gets approvals in days instead of weeks or months. The ultimate benefit is that our customers can get their project's started faster and finished sooner - and that's good business for everyone involved.


It's easy to give governing bodies like the City of Winnipeg a hard time when they do things we don't like. Especially if it seems they're intentionally holding up progress on construction projects and costing us money.

But, having a combative "us versus them" mentality is exactly why it can be so difficult to work with the City.

Remember that the goal of the City is (we hope) to create a safe and healthy environment for all its residents. So it's not entirely surprising Winnipeg can be nervous about helical piles foundations, a technology many civic engineers and planners are still unfamiliar with.

A VersaPile employee monitors a helical pile installation for a custom home in a suburb in Winnipeg Manitoba

(Image: It was a big challenge to speed up our helical pile foundation approvals from the City of Winnipeg, but the result is our crews can put your foundation in the ground faster - so you can get building faster.)

That doesn't make the City of Winnipeg anti-progress, anti-business, or anti-construction. It just makes them cautious when it comes to things they don't fully understand. That's why at VersaPile we're not shy about sharing our helical pile performance data with the City. It helps them make faster, informed decisions.

Which helps us install faster, more efficient helical pile foundations in Winnipeg.

If you want a helical pile contractor that can get things done fast in the City of Winnipeg, get in touch with our team today! We're willing to put in the work others aren't and deliver the results they can't. Click here to get in touch with our friendly foundation experts for a no-hassle, no-obligation chat.


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