Around Canada: Architectural, engineering and construction news from every province

ARtistÕs rendering Dakota Field House is a planned $17.9-million, 50,000-square-foot addition to the Dakota Community Centre in St. Vital.

British Columbia

Crane climbing incident results in arrests at controversial North Vancouver project

Five people have been arrested after being caught climbing Onni’s construction crane on a North Vancouver construction site, a local newspaper has reported.

“Alcohol was involved,” Cpl. Geoff Harder, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman told the North Shore News. “All five were arrested and released on promise to appear for a court date in August – for mischief.”

Harder said three of the five people arrested were employed as contractors on the worksite, where Omni is converting a former Safeway into a mixed-use development, with condos and a Whole Foods store.

The project had been controversial, originally turned down by North Vancouver council. However, the developers redesigned it, resulting in rezoning approval for two towers with 344 condos, 40,000 sq. ft. of office space, a childcare facility, and a small number of social housing units, as well as the grocery store.

WorkSafeBC has also started its own investigation into the crane-climbing incident, and Onni is co-operating, Harder said.

BC Hydro negotiates labour stability on $8.8 billion Site C dam project.

BC Hydro has agreed to give union labour an edge when it chooses the contractors to build the $8.8-billion Site C dam, the Globe and Mail has reported. This is a partial retreat from the provincial crown corporation’s original “open shop” approach.

The umbrella group representing  unionized B.C. buildings trades had earlier threatened to redirect skilled workers to other construction projects, if Hydro failed to agree to a project-wide labour agreement.

BC Hydro has already awarded one contract to a non-union firm for clearing a portion of the dam site. The new deal will give a higher priority to contractors who intend to recruit some of their workers from the building trade unions.


Housing starts rise despite oil price crash

Despite the oil price crash, Alberta led all provinces with the largest annual increase in investment in new housing construction in March, according to Statistics Canada.

The federal agency recently reported that total investment in the province increased 15 per cent from a year ago to $937 million.

“Alberta’s real estate market is certainly not collapsing the way some exaggerated reports would have you believe,”  Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial, told the Calgary Sun. “In May, home builders began work on 34,102 new residential units. That’s up slightly from April, but still down from the average of just over 41,000 per month over the last year. The figures are seasonally adjusted at an annualized rate. In other words, it is the total number of new homes that would be built in a year if the current pace of construction were maintained for 12 months.”

The seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of construction in Calgary, based on activity in May, was 12,504 new homes, up from 8,929 in April, while the six-month trend was 11,991 units, down from April, says CMHC market analyst Richard Cho.

Edmonton Arena spurring billion dollar development

Edmonton’s Arena District has become the fastest growing centre of  its type in North America – a development project worth more than $1.67, according to an Edmonton Journal report.

“The Katz Group spent $100 million buy land and designing the arena district,” the newspaper quoted executive vice-president Bob Black as saying.

“With its partners, WAM, the Katz Group is building a $300-plus million 27 story office tower and a $500 million 60-plus story officer and condo tower,” the report said. “The partnership is also building a $75 million Katz Group headquarters and casino next to the arena, a $150 million four-level below grade parkade and at-grade plaza, a $350 million hotel and condo tower and this new $200 million 50-odd story condo tower.”


Bird Construction consortium wins contract to build 18 schools

Bird Construction Inc. has announced that it is part of a consortium selected as the preferred proponent to design, build, finance and maintain 18 pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 schools on nine joint-use sites in Saskatchewan.

Bird has the majority interest in and is the managing partner of the construction joint venture designing and building the schools. It will also take a minority equity interest in the concession responsible for the project’s  financing and maintenance through Bird Capital, a wholly owned subsidiary.

The schools are in Regina, Saskatoon, Martensville and Warman. The project includes the construction on each site of one public and Catholic school as well as centrally shared space, including a multi-purpose room, community resource centre and a child care centre, to form a single cohesive joint-use educational facility.

The consortium plans to reach financial close in Aug. 2015 and will enter into an early works agreement with the province in advance of contract finalization.

“As a company that was founded in 1920 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, over 95 years ago, we are excited about the announcement of our selection for this significant project in the province that provided the foundation for our success,” said Ian Boyd, Bird’s president and CEO. “Together with our partners in the consortium, particularly our construction partner, Wright Construction, a long standing builder in the province, we look forward to the opportunity to work closely with local industry, the Province of Saskatchewan and the various stakeholders to deliver these community focused schools.”

Roughriders’ Mosaic stadium nearly half complete

Regina’s new football stadium was about 44 per cent complete on the project’s first year groundbreaking anniversary.

“This is a tremendous source of pride for our community and we are very pleased with the progress the PCL construction team has made over the last year,” said Regina’s mayor Michael Fougere. “There is a lot of activity in each area of the site and it has been incredible to witness how the stadium has taken shape.”

“We are right where we wanted to be a year out from the ground breaking,” said Sean Hamelin, representing the contractor PCL. “We continue to receive great feedback from all our sidewalk superintendents and appreciate their enthusiasm for the project.”

The city said in the news release that construction on the stadium’s west side will continue through the summer and will soon mirror what has already done on the east side. Meanwhile, work has begun on the administration area for the stadium, on the site’s north end.

As well, later in 2015, the structural steel work for the spectator roof will start to be installed on the southeast corner.


Extra funds approved for $6.7 Dakota Field House

The Winnipeg public service is recommending the city increase its contribution for the construction of a community sporting complex in south St. Vital by almost $2 million, the Winnipeg Free press reports.

The additional funds will increase the allocation for the Dakota Field House to $6.7 million from $4.8 million.

Tom Thiessen, president of the non-profit Dakota Community Centre Inc., said the money is required because of increases that have crept into the project during the last two years, the Free Press reports.

“We’re really looking forward to this,” Thiessen is quoted as saying. “We’re confident we can build a really good building for the budget we have in front of us.”

Dakota CC plans a $17.9-million, 50,000-sq. ft. addition with equivalent of six volleyball or three basketball courts and additional features including a mezzanine-level running track, locker and change rooms, and showers.

St. Vital coun. Brian Mayes said council approved the cost increase in mid-2014. Now, the newspaper quotes him as saying city hall is now being asked to approved the business plan and loan guarantee, along with a construction loan guarantee to Dakota for the project.

“The grant and loan guarantee was contingent on a satisfactory business plan from the community centre and now we have that,” Mayes was quoted as saying.


            Eglington Crosstown LRT:  Canadian contractors join forces to win nation’s largest PPP project

A consortium including some of Canada’s largest contractors has won the Eglington Crosstown LRT project, described as the largest public-private partnership (PPP) project in Canada’s history.

The Crosstown represents a $5.3 billion (2010) transit improvement investment – the largest in the history of the region, Infrastructure Ontario (IO) said in a news release.

The project’s scale has been controversial in Ontario’s design and construction community industry, as association and business leaders expressed concern about “bundling” and the possibility only large, multi-national foreign companies would be able to bid and win the work.

These fears have been allayed because the major Canadian contractors including Aecon, ACS Infrastructure Canada, EllisDon, and SNC-Lavalin joined forces as equal 25 per cent partners to form Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), beating out another consortium, Crosstown Transit Partners, built on a largely foreign consortium including Fengate Capital Management Ltd., OHL Concesiones S.A.,  STRABAG Inc., Bechtel Development Company, Inc. and Obayashi Canada Holdings, Ltd.

The new consortium has already set up a website at and has invited suppliers and sub-contractors to express interest in participating in the project.        Infrastructure Ontario (IO) has been giving weight to “local knowledge” in evaluating competitive bids, and this presumably helped the Canadian-led consortium in the two-way race for the massive project.

CTS will be responsible for the design, build, finance, operation, and maintenance and lifecycle activities of the 19 km. line for a 30-year term. It includes 25 stations, an integrated system of track work, rolling stock, as well as signaling and communications infrastructure.

Financial close on the project is expected by summer 2015, with construction anticipated to start in the first quarter of 2016.

Separately, in November 2013, and as part of a 50/50 joint venture with ACS Dragados Canada, Aecon was awarded a $177 million tunneling contract by Metrolinx for the construction of a section of the Eglington Crosstown LRT.

Ottawa: City challenges Ontario Municipal Board ruling reducing municipal control of building heights

The City of Ottawa has decided to challenge in court an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decision to overturn the city’s control of building heights through the Official Plan and local neighbourhood plans.

The story started when city planners objected to a proposal by owners of 267 O’Connor St. to build two 27-story dual condo towers with a bridge connecting them, replacing a six story medical building.

The plan by Mastercraft Starwood “will draw attention to itself not as a striking piece of architecture that might be considered a piece or art, but rather as an anomaly within the central character area,” planner Douglas James wrote in a scathing 2014 review.

The owners objected, and the OMB agreed, that the city could not use the Official Plan and related Community Development Plans to specify heights.

The argument is these should be regulated by zoning bylaws, instead.

“Official plans should be flexible documents setting out general policy and are not intended to be prescriptive in their application,” OMB member Richard Makuch wrote in his decision on April 29.

“This is not good planning,” he wrote. “(It) will not result in better urban form but rather it will place undue hardship on applicants by forcing them to amend their plans or obtain relief by applying for an official plan amendment in order to meet a somewhat arbitrary standards that cannot respond to individual circumstances and context.”

This OMB decision reflects the development industry’s views, says  John Herbert, executive director of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA). “While the city can set height restrictions in zoning bylaws, it should not use the broad strokes of the Official Plan to set these restrictions.”

Not surprisingly, in deciding to spend money on lawyers and seek leave to appeal the OMB decision to the divisional court, the city disagrees.

Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority issues first request for construction tenders

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA) announced in early June that it has issued a request for tender for the construction of a perimeter access road, the relocation of utilities and the placement of fill on the site of the Canadian inspection plaza site for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.

The work will prepare the Canadian inspection plaza site for construction by a private-sector partner to be chosen later.

“Over the past ten months, the WDBA board of directors has put in place a team of executives, professionals and advisors with the domain expertise required to enable us to launch today’s first construction tender,” says bridge authority chair Mark McQueen. “The Canadian inspection plaza is the key first component of the larger procurement process.”

“Our team is doing all it can to ensure the new publicly-owned bridge between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan is open as soon as possible,” he said. “The completion of these early works activities will help ensure that the project remains on track.”

“The WDBA team has been working closely with the City of Windsor, utility companies and regulatory authorities to bring this tender package to the market,” says bridge authority CEO Michael Cautillo. “We are pleased to take this significant step toward fulfilling our mandate of delivering the Gordie Howe International Bridge.”

Officials say the WDBA is committed to a fair, open and transparent process for the selection of contractors.

The request for tenders is posted on MERX and can be viewed at


Retirement home boom anticipated

Canada will soon experience a boom in constructing seniors’ retirement homes, says Luc Maurice, a Quebec developer spending $1 billion on new projects.

Radio station CJAD reported that Maurice believes there is a need for at least $3 billion a year in investment across the country to build and upgrade retirement homes.

Porta Potties to be replaced by running-water toilets on larger construction sites

It took 12 years, but the Quebec Labour Federation (FTQ) has finally won its request for a change requiring real toilets with running water and heating on construction sites.

Under new rules, workers on sites with more than 25 workers will no longer be forced to use chemical porta-potties.  Quebec has been the last North American jurisdiction to adopt the rule.

FTQ director general Yves Ouellet told the CBC the union first requested the rule change in 2003.

“Everywhere we say to people: ‘You have to wash your hands to stop the spread of contagious diseases.’ It’s bizarre because in construction, nobody cared,” he was quoted as saying.

“For us, it’s not a question of money, it’s a question of respect. It means we’ll be treated like humans,” Ouellet said.

He said the new washrooms will be in heated trailers equipped with water tanks and sinks.

The change will be introduced gradually.  Sites with more than 100 workers will replace the porta-potties over the next six months. Gradually, the new rules will be expanded to sites with 50 and then 25 workers.

New Brunswick

Moncton receives funds boost for downtown entertainment centre

The provincial government has announced it is ready to contribute $21 million to Moncton’s planned $107 million downtown entertainment centre, on the assumption that the federal government will make a similar contribution.

(In pre-election mode, the Conservative government has indicated that it will be opening the taps on infrastructure spending projects across the country.)

The proposed downtown centre include a concert venue, NHL-sized rink and meeting space.  There also will be outdoor areas to host community, cultural and entertainment events.

Nova Scotia

Province invests $220 million in highway, bridge repairs

The provincial government has announced it is spending $220 million on highway funding for 2015-16, and a large proportion of the funds will be spent on bridge repairs.

“We’re busy all year, summer time especially because that’s when the majority of your work starts getting done,” said Will Crocker, bridge maintenance engineer with the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, told Global News.

Officials say each bridge in the province is unique and can require different repairs.

“It can be cracking. It can be rusting of steel members, it can be deterioration of timber, sometimes potholes on bridge decks. Its all related to the bridge,” Crocker told Global News.

“We’re busy getting structural designs done. We’re already getting designs done for next year and the year after just so that we’re ahead of the game hopefully, so we can get projects tendered and awarded early in the season to allow construction to complete during the best weather,” he said..

Prince Edward Island

Summerside approves 64-unit apartment complex

Summerside Council has approved a height variation and subdivision application for Conrok Development Inc. to build a four-story, 64-unit apartment complex.

“It would be a steel structure inside with concrete floors,” Conrok’s Mark Gallant is quoted as saying in Daily Business Buzz. “We are looking at a very durable, very energy-efficient building for the long term.”

Moncton-based Spitfire Designs has designed the structure.  The subdivision of the 24-acre land parcel to create a 1.8 acre lot is the first phase in what is expected to be a four-phase construction project.

“We will begin marketing and provide more information going forward, with signage going up on the property in the next few weeks,” said Gallant, who didn’t provide the project’s cost or indicate when construction would commence.


Corner Brook lays out the red carpet for new home builders

Corner Brook has announced that it will waive both development fees and the first year’s property taxes for new homes in the city.  The incentives are expected to result in several thousand dollars in savings for each home.

For contracting companies like Discovery Ridge, the incentives bode well for business, CBC news reports.

“I think that makes a big difference, and that up front cost is the stuff that’s out of your own pocket, that’s not (included) in your mortgage,” CBC quoted project manager Trina Burden as saying.

“Average permits last year were about $850, some were more, some were less. It’s based on the square footage of the home. The average tax is somewhere in the vicinity of $2,000,” Mayor Charles Pender said.

With additional savings on the removal of landscaping fees, the average savings for a new home compared to last year will be about $5,000, he said.

Pomerleau awarded $21 million contract to build Harbour Grace arena

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has recently announced it is investing $15 million in a new Harbour Grace arena project, with the town to pay for the remainder of the costs.

The construction contract with Pomerleau was signed on May 27, ending years of uncertainty about the project, which was first announced nearly four years ago.


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