When the Gillam Group Inc. won a contract to construct an athletics and wellness centre at Branksome Hall, an independent girls’ school in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood, part of the company’s mandate was to identify “teachable moments” to enhance the students’ education.
“Because our client is a school, they wanted to use this project for educational purposes,” says president and CEO Marcus Gillam, a project management specialist with 18 years of experience in the planning and delivery of a wide range of complex construction projects.
“I think that’s kind of neat.”
Thus far, there have been two such teachable moments on the job site.
During the pre-construction phase, an archeological consultant conducted an on-site demonstration for students, unearthing some objects of historical significance. At another juncture, a tower crane was erected and students were given a demonstration of the equipment in action.
“I think the students found these demonstrations quite interesting,” Gillam says.
The 75,000-square-foot facility, centrepiece of a revitilization plan for the school’s 13-acre campus, includes an indoor, 25-metre pool and separate indoor leisure pool, gymnasium with viewing space for spectators, high-performance fitness room, an ERG room for rowing training, yoga/dance studio, kitchen and cafeteria to accommodate 600 students and change rooms and support facilities.
The project has been designed to LEED Silver standards by MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects. The design team includes PMA Landscape Architects Inc., structural engineers Blackwell Bowick Partnership and mechanical-electrical engineers Smith + Andersen.
Gillam Group was awarded the contract in July 2011. Construction got underway a year later. Completion is scheduled for fall of 2014.
The company is acting as both project manager and construction manager.
“Clients sometimes hire an independent project manager,” Gillam says.
“But we have the skills under one roof. So, it made sense to combine them for economies of scale.”
Gillam says the project has posed its share of challenges, among them: obtaining municipal approvals, a process that involved a number of stakeholders; constructing a building on a tight urban site; and ensuring no disruptions to the school’s ongoing programs during construction.
“It’s like building on a postage stamp,” he says of the site.
“The project was kind of shoe-horned into the space that was available. There were constraints basically on every side.”
Because of the school’s location in a residential area, “a great deal of thought” was given to minimizing noise wherever possible.
“Our working hours have been engineered around local sensitivities,” Gillam says. “We’ve been starting basically at 7 a.m. and avoiding noisy work on weekends.”
Traffic management was also an issue that had to be addressed.
The company drafted a traffic management plan and got the approval of the city to occupy a two-metre section of the western-most lane of nearby Mount Pleasant Road in order to create an internal driveway for the site.
“It took us about eight months to complete that application,” Gillam says.
This was done in parallel with the pre-construction work.
Gillam Group has taken pains to schedule most deliveries outside of rush hour “in order to make this work.”
In terms of construction, installation of the swimming pool basins had to be carefully planned in order to ensure continuity of work for all the trades involved.
“Our team was able to sequence the work in parallel with the rest of the concrete work.”
The project is about 30 per cent complete.
Subtrades include: OSC Demolition; Groundworks Construction; Verdi Alliance; Gilbert Steel; Clifford Masonry; Aquanorth Waterproofing: Acapulco Pools; Innocon; Modern Railings & Metalcraft; Tresman Steel; Provincial Roofing; Stouffville Glass; Trillium Architectural Hardware; VR Mechanical; Vipond; Metric Electric; Genesis (AV); European Equipment; and Thyssen Krupp.
The Gillam Group specializes in medium-sized projects in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors of up to $60 million in value.
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