10th July 2018

Offsite manufacturing for Ontario infrastructure

As part of the CIOB Members’ Forum, we are delighted to be able to see an example of leading construction in Canada. PCL Construction is opening its doors for our members to see the frontline of the industry in Toronto. Here Troy Galvin, Manager of PCL’s offsite manufacturing facility strategically located in the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, shares with us what makes their work unique and why they’re inviting us in.

Offsite construction is not a new concept, but it is one that has been slow to grow and develop in parts of Canada. Although we are seeing some traction in the market for this method of construction, at PCL we recognized the opportunities that have made it thrive in the global industry and we wanted to get in front of this as Canada’s only general contractor with its own in-house modular construction facility.

There are a lot of advantages to offsite manufacturing for our sector and we’re excited to put our work at Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital in front of the global leaders of the industry at Members’ Forum to show how we are utilising it here. The construction industry is one that has historically been closed and competitive, but there is a lot to learn from sharing best practices and identifying where the future of our sector is heading. We truly are better together and we hope that by sharing our work we can both educate and learn from our peers.

Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital

After a competitive procurement process, PCL, as part of the Plenary Health consortium, was named preferred proponent and construction on the hospital began in Spring 2017, with substantial completion scheduled for July 2020. The 350 bed, 1.2 million square foot design/build/finance/maintain project will focus on sustainable design and construction, with the goal of achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification. It will include 32 clinical departments within the main building and will be connected by underground tunnels to a separate central utility park and above-grade parking structure.

The project is being delivered under Infrastructure Ontario’s Alternative Financing and Procurement (AFP) model, which leverages partnerships with the private sector. As mentioned in CIOB President Chris Soffe’s interview with Construction Manager Magazine, the establishment of the P3 model – Public Private Partnerships – has been key for financing new projects. In Ontario, AFP has  proved to be an effective method in moving the risk, such as price certainty and scheduling, to those parties’ best suited to manage those risks, which has enabled the government to expand, modernise and replace Ontario’s aging infrastructure.

Agile taking manufacturing offsite

In an effort to run critical work activities in parallel with onsite construction for the hospital, PCL’s Agile offsite construction group will be manufacturing approximately 1,000 linear feet (LF) of intake and 1,000 LF of exhaust plenums, 300 fully finished washroom pods as well as other miscellaneous decoupled modular elements. All of this is being run simultaneously with elements being constructed on site. By taking some repetitive aspects of work away from site, we are also helping to alleviate site congestion through reduced manpower and material movement . This is vital to a successful development, even more so if your plot is small or access is limited.

One advantage that we have seen from our approach has been in our ability to integrate the latest digital technology into our builds, and that is benefitting our latest project greatly. The hospital will be one of the first in Canada to feature fully integrated smart technology, which features systems and medical devices that can speak directly to one another to maximise information exchange.

Changing the culture of quality and caring

The topic of quality in construction is a global discussion of great importance. It was also in the spotlight at Members’ Forum yesterday in the workshop from Paul Nash, Past President of the CIOB. Historically, one of the barriers of our sector has been in the lack of repeatability – every site is different and brings with it different challenges. However, the more you do something, the better you get at it and the more you can standardise and refine your practice. By developing a design that we can replicate in a controlled environment, we are limiting the risk and ensuring the quality of the construction.

For example, in this project, we have designed and manufactured washrooms as single pods. If these had been constructed on site, we would have needed to install the pipes overhead. Instead, in our prefabrication plant, we can lay the roof flat on the ground on an assembly line where the pipes can be fixed and then the roof is placed on the pod. It reduces the labour intensive requirement, significantly improves safety, and brings an enhanced level of quality control across all 300 pods as opposed to each being individually approached on site.

Our employees are our best asset and we want to be able to best care for them during our projects. Not just in changing the processes, but in how we support their wellbeing. Currently 40 full-time PCL salaried staff are housed comfortably on the Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital project site in an innovative refurbished sea-container office complex which was designed and fabricated by PCL Agile. The office complex itself is a labour of love – we’ve been able to recycle the containers that would’ve otherwise been cast aside. Instead, they are now able to house up to 65 staff and can be broken down and redeployed for multiple sites (including where stacking is required in congested areas, such as downtown Toronto) over its 15-year life expectancy.­­

Onwards and upwards

We’re thrilled that Ontario is the focus of the Members’ Forum this year and that we’ve been able to showcase how construction is thriving and adapting in Canada. With the work being done on bridging the skills gap as well, that Clint Kissoon touched on his earlier blog for the CIOB, we have a great offering to the global market and are grateful for the opportunity to share that with our peers and learn from their expertise from their regions.

We welcome all CIOB members to find out more about our work and our projects at www.pcl.com/toronto, or you can contact me directly at TAGalvin@pcl.com.