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Bird Construction – Seton Recreation Facility

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Bird Construction’s Seton Recreation Facility project will provide a focal point for a growing Calgary neighborhood.

By Tim O’Connor

As a new community in south Calgary, the Seton neighborhood doesn’t have an identity yet. Some destinations are in place, such as the local shopping center, others, such as a cinema, are nearing completion, but much of the urban district is still under construction, including a new high school. Bird Construction is helping to change that by building the 30,697-square-meter Seton Recreation Facility, a $133 million facility that will serve as the center of the community.

The recreation center will bring a host of needed amenities to the community, including a 50-meter, 10-lane competition pool with competition dive tower and diving boards; a water park with a surf-riding area; two multipurpose ice rinks; three gymnasiums; fitness rooms and equipment; and a 200-meter running track. In addition to facilities for physical activities, the building will provide Seton with space for artistic endeavors.

The recreation center will house a library, a gallery space and a 300-seat theater. There will also by a youth center with dedicated space for activities and programs. The city of Calgary is in negotiations with the YMCA to operate the building.

As a Seton resident and business development manager for Bird, Jade Neher is fully aware of the area’s excitement over the recreation center. “My neighbors are always asking when this project will open,” he says.

John Preston, senior project manager for Bird, hears from locals on a nearly daily basis. “Everybody I talk to, they are so keen to have it open,” he says. “It’s a needed development. Everybody probably has their personal piece of it they are looking forward to. But there are enough pieces there for everybody.”

Experience Advantage

The project was awarded through a standard bidding process; however, Bird had several advantages over other construction firms competing for the work. A few years ago, Calgary announced plans to build four recreation centers in the city – including the Seton Recreation Facility – and Bird was awarded and built the Quarry Park Recreational Centre. Bird Construction Seton box

The experience from that previous project aided Bird as it developed the bid for Seton. Bird was able to identify efficiencies that it could carry over from Quarry Park, utilize the same site team and engage similar trades to secure preferential pricing. By the time Bird submitted its bid, it was able to offer the lowest-cost package.

Although the project was bid as a fixed-price contract, Calgary has made a few changes that will impact the final price. The city recently approved a mandate to make all its buildings accessible to as many people as possible, which led officials, consultants and Bird to make several design changes to the project. Ramp elevations and sidewalk widths were altered, accessibility lifts were added to the competition pool and the locker rooms for the hockey arena were altered to make them easier to use for people with handicaps.

Those changes added costs to a project that already had a large price tag, however, Preston says Calgary officials worked with Bird to balance the accessibility requirement with the budget. “The project manager for the city is firm but fair,” Preston says. “He’s trying to bring it in as economically as possible.”

Staying on Schedule

Work on the building began in spring 2016 and it will open in January 2019. The structure was effectively enclosed as of early December. Bird had finished the roofing and begun on interior work such as drywall and tiling.

More than 15,000 cubic meters of concrete is going into the building, much of it exposed concrete floors that must be treated, polished and sealed. At the same time, crews are installing stainless steel handrails and completing interior glazing. Subcontractors are also working on getting the mechanical rooms up and running so they can be commissioned in spring.

The center is designed to be energy efficient and limit its environmental impact on the community. All of the lights in the structure and outside areas will use LED bulbs and a natural gas-fired generator will provide combined heat and power. A heat reflective roof will lower the energy cost to keep the building air conditioned and an envelope consultant is on site on a regular basis checking the vapor barriers and at projects end, a thermographic review will confirm the envelope performance and any deficiencies identified will be rectified.

“We have emphasized that a thermographic review takes place and the trades are coordinating amongst themselves to make sure there are no holes,” Preston says. Preparing for those daily reviews in routine field work has helped subcontractors avoid rework and delays. “For every time you do rework that means you’re stopping and you’re not going forward,” he adds. “So far, we haven’t had any delays to the project due to having to do major reworks.”

Timing has been a consideration since work began. The nature of the relationship with the sub structure and super structure meant that Bird needed to finish the steel sections of the structure by May 1 so that it could have the building enclosed and ready for interior work this winter. That was especially important in light of weather challenges last year that caused delays and forced the city to grant an extension from July 2018 to September for the building to be turned over to the owner, with an opening date of January 2019.

Adding to the challenge, the project is being built on a sloped site. During rainy periods, the area can become slippery, making it difficult to complete tasks in a timely manner. However, that challenge has gotten easier over time as the sidewalks, curbs and gutters were placed. About 75 percent of that site work was completed by early December.

Bird was able to hit those strict deadlines by using technologies that allowed for an efficient construction process. Building information modeling (BIM) has played an important role. Every aspect of the project has been modeled, from clash detection to finishes and technical systems, and those models are continuously updated every time there is a change.

All those alterations generate a lot of blueprint drawings, which can create issues if subcontractors are working off outdated plans. To keep everything straight and avoid errors, Bird is utilizing PlanGrid, a construction management system that allows for seamless sharing of construction documents with every worker on a site.

“Our team identified efficiencies prior to construction, which has allowed it to maintain that schedule,” Preston says. Using BIM and PlanGrid, Bird was able to figure out how to integrate the foundation for the site’s construction crane into the building’s foundation, saving time and reducing costs. For the building’s atrium, steel and glass contractors were able to better coordinate the construction process between the off-site fabrication and installation while accounting for different tolerance thresholds.

BIM has been such an asset on the Seton Recreation Facility project that Preston and Neher believe it will become more common in future projects. The company’s Calgary branch has already hired a dedicated BIM manager to maximize the potential of the technology. “We see the benefits and advantages of it and we are taking it to other projects that aren’t as big, but we see the value in it,” Neher says.