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Eastern Construction embarks on project deemed ‘big building in a small package’

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by Don Procter

For some large construction companies, small jobs are seen as “a cakewalk” but Eastern Construction is taking a project to expand a modestly-sized private school in an upscale Toronto east end neighbourhood “very seriously.”
Michael Yoo, a superintendent with Eastern Construction, stands outside the Montcrest School project in Toronto. The $10.5-million project is being done in three phases and calls for selective demolition, adaptation of several heritage designated buildings and about 10,500 square feet of new construction.
Michael Yoo, a superintendent with Eastern Construction, stands outside the Montcrest School project in Toronto. The $10.5-million project is being done in three phases and calls for selective demolition, adaptation of several heritage designated buildings and about 10,500 square feet of new construction. - Photo: DON PROCTER

"I affectionately call it a big building in a small package," says project manager Ryan Desjardins of Eastern Construction, the construction manager upgrading Montcrest School on Broadview Avenue.

The contract calls for selective demolition, adaptation of several heritage designated buildings and about 10,500 square feet of new construction.

"We are essentially doubling their space over a demanding schedule. It has all the elements of a larger job with similar logistics, phasing and execution of work within an existing operating campus," says Desjardins.

The $10.5-million project is being done in three phases. Phase one, slated for completion in December, includes renovations to classrooms of one of the three heritage brick buildings on campus plus a 5,500-square-foot new steel structure behind the building, which will house additional classrooms.

Desjardins says the project team conducted a preconstruction evaluation of the heritage buildings to determine structural makeup before it tallied a price for renovations.

"As with most older buildings, it is selective demolition that reveals the bones of the structure, cutting openings in walls, ceilings and floors, for example," he explains.

The old brick building's classrooms will be expanded and will have new wall, ceiling and floor finishes.

"The idea is to maximize the available space and make a seamless connection to the new expansion," he adds.

The preconstruction assessment also helped determine how to tie the heritage building into the new steel structure behind it.

"What we learned from the evaluation is that some of things we had planned to do would have to be rethought and revised," he says.

The old and new buildings will be connected using a continuous expansion joint "so they can move independently," says Desjardins, adding while the early 1900s buildings have "settled," the new addition "may experience some differential movement over its lifetime. It is also important to ensure the loads of the new construction are not adversely affecting the old building."

The project's schedule is demanding, requiring the builder and its subcontractors to work in multiple areas at the same time. Up to 45 workers will be onsite during peak periods, he says, adding it is "a logistics challenge" to ensure everyone has space to work on the small construction site.

With minimal laydown space, steel for the phase one addition was delivered in multiple loads on a just-in-time basis. Erection was done with "small mobile cranes" and boom trucks because there "was no space" for larger equipment, Desjardins says.

To minimize disruption to the school's operation, most of the heavy construction work was planned in summer and during off-school hours.

"We've gone through an exhaustive logistics planning exercise with the owner and the consultants to inform the schedule evolution and required dynamism which allowed the school to remain operational by moving from building to building on campus while we work in other areas," he says.

To separate the site from school activities, concrete Jersey Barriers — typically used on highways — have been installed, largely to contain heavy equipment such as articulating man lifts. Additionally, "tall hard hoarding" (plywood) helps prevent dust and dirt spreading from the site, he says.

The steel addition in phase one will contain classrooms on two floors. It will be clad in a glazed curtainwall system plus masonry veneer and metal panel accents. The building will look onto a courtyard.

Desjardins says steel was chosen over concrete for the structure because it supports the schedule constraints, requires less space to erect and offers better use of space than concrete.

Phase two will include another steel building linking campus heritage buildings while the final construction leg will largely consist of interior renovations to another heritage building on campus which will be completed in September 2018.

The project's architectural design is by Montgomery Sisam and is a development by Colliers Project Leaders.

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