Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Headquarters


                Buttcon builds $24.4 million two-site project, designed by +VG Architects

    Ontario Construction Report special feature

    The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph region’s new $24.4 million public health headquarters in Guelph, along with an Orangeville satellite location, will be completed next spring.

    Both buildings have been designed by +VG Architects and are being constructed by Buttcon Ltd. The project is expected to be completed in April, 2014.

    Buttcon project manager Christopher Guerra says the buildings are being completed under a construction management model that allows for transparency, value engineering, design flexibility and quicker construction turn around.

    “It has been my experience that, unlike lump sum projects which typically take longer to fully design and develop the project, obtain all required municipal permits and fully tender and award sub trades prior to commencing with onsite construction, the construction management model allows these phases of design development, permitting, construction drawing issuance and subcontractor award to be quickly expedited to allow for some overlap allowing these phases to occur in sequence with onsite construction progress,” Guerra said. He added that from foundation works to interior finishes, the process allows the sequencing of all aspects of construction, which typically results in improved construction turnaround time.

    The 50,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Guelph will bring together the unit’s approximately 200 staff currently working throughout the region in leased sites. It is located close to public transit. The amalgamation and improved accessibility will support the unit’s clinics, health protection and promotion efforts.

    Meanwhile, the Orangeville regional centre for Dufferin County includes 31,240 sq. ft. of new construction between existing historic buildings.

    Anita Maletic, architect with +VG Architects, says both buildings have been designed to be high quality with low operation and maintenance costs. “Calm, inviting and durable finishes were selected for longevity, ease of maintenance and a healthy environment.”

    She says accessibility factored in as a key design requirement. Flexibility for future use has been built in through movable partitions between offices, folding walls and furniture that will allow the office space to be adapted and modified as needed.

    Maletic says the Guelph structure has a “transparent design allowing light to go deep within the building.” This effect is achieved through an insulated curtain wall system and a large skylight.

    “The building is clad with extensive use of wood on walls and on the ceiling,” she said. “Owen Sound ledgerock and corrugated aluminum siding balance the curtain wall so there are rough and smooth surfaces both inside and out.”

    While in many cases harsh winter can be blamed for construction delays, in this case Guerra says that last year’s mild winter weather, that resulted in rapidly fluctuating mild to freezing temperatures with above average precipitation, made excavation and foundation work a challenge.

    “On the Guelph site we were able to work around this by directing onsite surface water away from the building excavation site by exaggerating surface grades and directing the water to onsite swales that led to stormwater management ponds,” he said. “When completing the footing and foundation works, we completed both foundation footings and foundation walls to progress together as opposed to separate as we needed to take advantage of the days that we were able to cast concrete.”

    The construction team has prepared for winter this year by expediting installation of the parking asphalt’s base coat, providing protection to the subgrade parking granular material and allowing for a clean undisturbed work surface for the sub trades requiring access around the building.

    “By doing this we not only protect the asphalt subgrade, we direct all surface water runoff to catch basins and prevent this water from penetrating within the parking granular that would freeze and result in frost heaving of the asphalt,” Guerra said.

    Guerra said any deficiencies will be corrected in spring before the final asphalt top coat is laid, providing a clean, newly paved parking area just in time for the building’s grand opening.

    Maletic says the Orangeville site uses natural wood and reclaimed brick accent walls from the original building on the site to blend in to the historic character of the block. “Calming and ‘zen’ like finishes will make up the interior to give it a more modern feel once people get inside.”

    Here, winter weather was not a factor as in Guelph.

    “Our main challenges in Orangeville were site logistics, remediation of contaminated soil within the building footprint, followed by structural reinforcing of neighbouring foundation walls to allow for shoring and excavation to occur.”

    The downtown Orangeville site is close to neighbouring buildings on two sides and a main city street on the other, leaving only one side for access. The team had to fine tune co-ordination to allow for the exit, entry installation and storage of materials without disturbing the construction flow. “It is a very confined site, and this posed ongoing challenges for us throughout the course of construction, however we were able to make it work.”

    Other challenges were experienced as construction started. The contractor discovered contaminated soils within the building footprint that needed to be remediated, a challenging process because of the close proximity of adjacent foundations that were more than a century old.

    “This next step involved the structural reinforcement of the adjacent foundation in order for us to drill and install our concrete foundation caissons,” Guerra said. “To complete this we used a method similar to underpinning that involved exposing the neighbouring foundation in sections and backfilling with concrete.”

    Guerra said once the entire length of wall had been backfilled with concrete, and the neighbouring wall stabilized, the team drilled through this concrete for installation of the foundation caissons that went to a depth of 5 m.

    Once we were “out of the ground,” Guerra says both projects proceeded as anticipated and as planned per schedule.

    “Currently we are in the same situation as many other constructors this time of year in that we are putting much emphasis and effort into enclosing both buildings and getting them weather tight before winter so that we can begin to heat the buildings to allow for interior works to progress.”

    The Guelph building has been designed to offer public services including vaccination, dental, tuberculosis, parent education and other health-focused resources on the main floor, which will also have a reception area and an atrium running the building’s length. Staff offices will be on upper floors.

    Energy efficiencies include an internal water source heat pump system, heat recovery, efficient water and lighting, occupancy sensors, photocell control of exterior lighting and plug load controls in office areas.

    Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is the thirteenth-largest of 36 Ontario health units.  It serves about 255,000 residents in a 4,100 sq. km. region.


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