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Keith Plumbing and Heating Co. Ltd.


Founded in 1911, Keith Plumbing and Heating Co. Ltd. is on the verge of celebrating its centenary in 2011. “We believe we’re the oldest British Columbia-owned mechanical company,” owner and President Paul Myers asserts. “We also believe we are one of the largest commercial and institutional mechanical contractors in British Columbia,” he adds.

“It’s a big milestone,” Construction Manager Kevin Collier says of the centenary. “Not too many companies in the construction industry have been around as long as we’ve been. We’ve been working here, from the north shore of Vancouver, the whole time in the same industry working for some of the same clients for a lot of that time, but very few of our competitors – very few other companies – have achieved that milestone.”

Myers believes the success of the company is in its people. “We’ve been able to attract a lot of people with a lot of years behind them,” he points out. Myers started working for the third generation of Keiths in 1954. In 1970, he purchased the company from the Keith family. “It [has] grown by leaps and bounds, and a lot of that has to do with the people I surrounded myself with,” Myers in­sists.

The company’s reputation as a specialist in plumbing and HVAC for hospitals, laboratories and major construction projects is demonstrated by the projects it wins, such as the mechanical construction management for the Univer­sity of British Columbia of a large pharmaceutical lab. This highly complex project – which includes offices and wet and dry laboratories and research areas – has an aggressive completion date in the summer of 2012.

Royal Jubilee Hospital

Keith Plumbing and Heating has worked on several public/private partnerships (P3s). “We have been quite successful with these P3s,” Collier says. “We’re working on three – one in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, one in the Vernon Hospital in Vernon, British Columbia, and the third is here in the lower mainland, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s British Columbia division relocation in Surrey, British Columbia.”

The eight-story Royal Jubilee Hospital will have approximately 500 beds and is due for completion by December 2010. The mechanical portion of the project, which will cost approximately $45 million, started in Sep­t­em­ber 2008.

Keith Plumbing and Heating is reporting to a joint venture of two contracting companies, Acciona/Lark, who also are managing the project. The P3 joint venture will maintain the facility for 30 years, during which the P3 will receive a monthly payment from the government, which owns the hospital. At the end of the 30 years, the hospital becomes the property of the government.

This P3 arrangement changes some design considerations. “We have to bear in mind that members of our team have to maintain this fac­ility for the next 30 years, so we cannot just continue in the traditional method of procurement,” Collier emphasizes. “So sometimes that means we’ve got to take our traditional cont­ract­ing hat off and turn it around the other way and think about what the cost is over 30 years to maintain, repair or replace that particular piece of equipment, and maybe we need to consider a different piece of equipment in there.”

Pricing Exercise

The 320,000-square-foot hospital uses bathrooms premanufactured in Littleton, Mass., by Eggrock with the plumbing, wiring and ceiling already installed in them. The bathrooms are trucked to the site, lifted into position, and the pipes and wiring are connected. “We looked at lots of different options to see how we could best achieve the schedule and best value for the clients’ money,” Collier explains. “This was part of the process that the team worked through to try and get the best solution for the challenges presented.”

The hospital is cast-in-place concrete with a reddish brick and cement composite facade system. The one floor of basement is mainly a service area. Keith did the plumbing and heating and used subcontractors for sheet metal, sprinklers, controls, pipe insulation and medical gas.

The LEED Gold structure uses 100 percent outside air and air handling technology that recovers heat from the exhaust air in the winter and cooling from it in the summer. The heat recovery technology was found to be the most economical on a long-term basis when the maintenance and replacement costs were considered, Collier says.

The facility also uses low-flow plumbing fixtures with electronically controlled flushing and harvests rainwater for irrigating the hospital’s partial green roof and other areas.

Keep It Down

Because the new hospital is being built next to the old one, a challenge of the project is keeping the noise levels within an acceptable volume. The noise from the current hospital could not be exceeded by the new hospital, so noise readings were taken of the existing facility when it was in full operation before construction started. Noise levels during construction also have to be monitored.

Because the construction site is so close to the existing hospital, no laydown areas are available. “It is an extremely tight construction site,” Collier emphasizes. “There is no storage area onsite at all.” When completed, the new building will be the largest LEED Gold hospital in North America, Collier maintains.

Many of the new building’s energy-efficient mechanical systems – such as the heating, chiller and medical gas – are being tied into the existing hospital’s systems to save costs through a service tunnel between the buildings. “The complicated thing for us was tying in to the existing system,” Collier stresses. “There is no shutdown, no down time, no possibility of turning it off. We have to integrate the full system seamlessly so the patient isn’t affected. So there was a lot of coordination and a lot of dry runs and testing to be sure we achieve that.”

The schedule necessitated beginning construction while design was ongoing. “The schedule was a major challenge from the start,” Collier con­cedes. “You’re trying to design and build a hospital on an extremely tight schedule. We were aware of it, and that’s why we had to work closely with the local labor market, as well as work closely with the design team and the owners and user groups while the project was in construction. 

“We pride ourselves in our ability to tackle any challenging project, any complex project requiring a bit more attention to detail,” Collier explains. “Every project we do we try to learn from, and we never think that we know it all, no matter what we’re doing. We pride ourselves on working as part of the team.”