October 27, 2011
FEATURE | General and Trades Contracting
How Mohawk College in Hamilton fast-tracked construction
In an era when fast-track timelines are the norm for so many construction projects occasionally the pace of construction shifts into an even higher gear.
A 40,000 square-foot addition to Mohawk College in Hamilton is a case in point. Just one month after the architect was retained, the first tender package for excavation was issued and construction followed the next month.
Developer/builder Arcturus Realty Corporation had a foundation permit in its hands about eight weeks after concept design drawings commenced. That’s four to 10 months quicker than most projects of that size and scope, according to Ron Taylor, project manager of Arcturus.
Taylor adds that only 14 months after construction started, the new Learning Exchange and Cummings E-library was completed on target for a LEED Gold certification.
A key reason for the project’s success was that the design/engineering team worked out the conceptual design together. A BIM (Building Information Modeling) design process was used and building costs were carefully tabulated early, minimizing potential budget shortfalls that could lead to design changes during construction.
The college administration played a role in keeping things rolling by making decisions on design and other aspects of the project quickly, Taylor points out.
As speedy as the design/construction pace was, however, students weren’t left out of the design.
“We had over 2,000 students participate in workshops, surveys online and blogs.”
Completed last year, the new learning centre is a model of efficiency, not just in energy savings but also in the square footage because 75 per cent of the building is dedicated to learning. That is 25 per cent higher than most educational institutes.
The efficiencies are partly because the design features few corridors but a lot of open space with study or “casual learning” areas, says Vaidila Banelis, partner in charge of design for the project’s architect Zeidler Partnership Architects.
Taylor adds the structure and systems of the building are exposed to create “a living lab” for students in architectural technology, building sciences and associated curriculums housed in the new addition. “Even the mechanical rooms are set up so teachers can take students in to examine the systems.”
One of the design objectives was to create clear circulation routes through a campus that had expanded in a hodge-podge manner since it was constructed in the 1960s. The Zeidler Partnership chose to reorganize flow patterns through the use of an “interior urban street,” explains Banelis.
Another priority for the architect was to boost the profile of the college’s appearance to the general public by creating a new high-profile on the busy Fennel St. A two-storey glazed façade with bold signage was selected. A polychromatic glazing system (composed of laminated color film) creates “a rainbow effect” of the color spectrum.
To create the “extremely energy-efficient” façade, the glazing is free of mullions, usually a weak thermal point in such facades.
Instead, Zeidler incorporated a series of stainless steel angles, bonded to the outside face of the glass, to support the glazing off a steel structure on the exterior of the building, says Banelis.
The view from the interior is through “a sheer piece of roughly 30-foot-high glazing.”
The unique design was originally developed by Zeidler for a project at Canary Wharf in London. “It has never been done in North America,” says the architect.
The glazing system was developed in conjunction with Contract Glaziers Inc. (CGI). Thermal imaging tests will determine the façade’s energy performance.
Banelis says the building requires about 50 per cent less energy than a comparable sized conventional building partly because of upgrades to the college’s heating plant. A dedicated outdoor air system consists of two sets of ductwork to separate the ventilation system from the conditioning system.
“With this system we don’t have to heat as much air,” says Banelis.
In addition to the new learning centre and library, the old library was recently converted into to the student services area designed to continue on the architect’s interior main street design theme.
Next on tap for Mohawk College’s renewal is a recreation centre which is scheduled to start next spring, says Taylor.
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