Aluminum: A shining key to Iceland’s economy

Bechtel carved out a job site alongside a glacier-fed fjord by the Norwegian Sea in order to construct Alcoa’s first primary smelter in 20 years. Fjarðaál was the largest private investment in Iceland’s history and Bechtel’s first experience in the island nation near the Arctic Circle. 

Designed as a zero-waste-to-landfill project, the Fjarðaál smelter is among the most environmentally sustainable facilities of its kind. Mirroring our customer’s environmental commitment, Bechtel worked closely with vendors and suppliers to ensure the return of reusable materials, and we contracted with local firms for recycling. Ultimately, more than 90 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills. For our efforts, Bechtel earned Iceland's highest environmental award, the Conch.

This great achievement does not only matter for the companies involved but for Iceland as a whole and the future of construction in this country.

Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, Iceland's minister of industry and commerce

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On the safe side

Working with the East Iceland Medical Directorate, local and Polish physicians, and first responders, Bechtel assembled emergency and on-site primary care services with round-the-clock health care access for workers. 

Bechtel achieved 1 million consecutive job hours without a lost-time incident.

Which way the wind blows

At times, Iceland’s coastal winds reached 90 miles (145 kilometers) per hour, shutting down crane operations and other work. We couldn’t stop the wind, but we planned for it by assembling modules on the ground and even purchased entire buildings preassembled, so we could put them in place as weather allowed. We developed an innovative construction plan to erect Fjarðaál’s potroom roof from platforms indoors to avoid exposing ironworkers to the howling gusts outside.

A world of contrasts

From the smelter there are spectacular views of the northern lights in spring and fall. In summer, there is almost perpetual daylight. But it can be a desolate place in winter, when the sun peers over the horizon for only a few hours each day.