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This article was published 23/8/2009 (2770 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Workers on Friday installed the base for the first of three tower cranes that will soon start sprouting at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights construction site at The Forks.
In contrast to the fact it will be one of the most complicated and sophisticated construction projects in Winnipeg, workers fumbled with a low-tech measuring tape as the tower crane base was set up.
But it means that the anticipated building destined to become a Winnipeg landmark will soon make its presence known above ground.
"Since April all the work has been below the surface," said the museum's chief operating officer, Patrick O'Reilly. "Now it will start to look like something as opposed to just a bunch of holes in the ground. It will be visible. People will start to see constant change."
The first construction crane is to be in place Sept. 10.
Workers are constructing the floor in the first of four excavations that will become what the architects call the four "roots" of the building.
Todd Craigen, construction manager for PCL Construction, the project's general contractor, said, "There is no question, it is very challenging from a construction and engineering aspect."
The $205-million construction project -- that is the cost of the base building construction, not including any of the museum's fixtures or operation -- is about six months into its 36 month-long schedule.
With about 60 craft workers and 20 salaried people on site, it will grow in intensity to about 200 workers plus 50 others at its peak.
Because the building will not have a standard rectangular footprint, there is an extra level of sophistication required in the sequencing of construction work.
The glass "cloud"-covered building will sit on 135 six-foot-wide concrete caissons and 370 smaller precast concrete piles rather than a typical basement excavation.
The Antoine Predock-designed, castle-like glass edifice is designed with a base of four "roots," each requiring excavation.
On Friday, the last caisson for root-A, the northern root section, was being drilled. The four rigs deployed on the site have 60 more caissons left to excavate 15 to 30 metres below grade.
Although there were some challenges in the initial pile driving, Craigen said it was not surprising considering the notorious Red River gumbo that the building will sit on.
"We knew that and we planned ahead with lots of contingencies to do some re-sequencing to make sure the scheduling remains on track," O'Reilly said. "It's not really a surprise. But you always hope there's less rather than more."
While there have been cost overruns, Susanne Robertson, the museum's chief financial officer, said the $205-million base cost ought to be a fairly reliable number now.
"We have already tendered 76 per cent of the base building costs," she said. "Some have come in higher than we budgeted for, some lower."
If the companies that win the tenders run over budget it becomes their responsibility, not the building owner's.
The tendering has been global, but at the same time, O'Reilly said, since it is a federal Crown corporation, there is a desire to use Canadian suppliers whenever possible.
Craigen said because of the complexity of the project, the most sophisticated construction management tools are being used.
He said all the subcontractors are working off the same 3-D modelling using Autodesk Revit architecture software so that when a change is made, it's automatically updated across the project.
"It also allows us to do something called clash detection," he said. "That's when architectural elements or structural elements or engineering elements clash with each other in the design -- for instance a steel beam running through some duct work. The program will flag that and we can address it at the design and planning stage rather than in the middle of construction."
O'Reilly said the tendering sequence that is being used allows the experts in the various aspects of the project to have plenty of time for input into the design.
For instance, the contract to produce and install the glass shroud "cloud" was awarded about 16 months ago to the firm Josef Gartner GmbH of Gundelfingen, Germany.
"That gives them time to finesse and improve design to find cost savings that exists and even more importantly, to make sure ongoing costs are minimized," O'Reilly said.
"Improvements have been made to the glass continually over the last 16 months."
As well, Craigen said PCL has done its own complete thermal mock-up, testing the glass in a cold weather chamber here in Winnipeg to make sure the performance values that were specified are actually being met by the glass.
Speaking of the cold weather, it is not something that Craigen and PCL are particularly concerned about over the next two-and-a-half years of construction.
He said the tower cranes have limited operation when it gets too cold but Western Canadian crews are resilient when it comes to cold weather work.
Building the museum
In addition to the intricate architectural design, construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights features additional layers of complication.
"ö Archeological -- Despite complaints that not enough attention is being paid to the historic significance of the site, archeologists are on site sifting through virtually every load of dirt being lifted in the process of creating caissons and piles the museum is being built on.
"ö Aboriginal heritage -- Because the site has cultural significance to the aboriginal people of the region, a medicine bag is placed in each of the 505 foundation holes that have been excavated, then filled with steel rebar and concrete.
"ö Environmental -- The site is on the edge of the busiest tourist site in the city, so special attention is being paid to keep the dust and rubble within the confines of the construction site.
PCL, one of the country's largest construction companies, is the general contractor and subtrades from around the world have won tenders, but several local companies have significant roles to play in the project, including:
"ö Smith Carter Architects and Engineers Inc. -- architect of record
"ö Wescan Electrical Mechanical Service -- mechanical engineering
"ö Derksen Plumbing & Heating Ltd. -- plumbing services
"ö Subterranean Ltd. -- foundation and excavation work
Economic impact of construction
"ö 6,000 -- person years of employment in Canada (including 3,500 in Manitoba)
"ö $133.9 million -- total labour income in Manitoba
"ö $23.3 million -- provincial income and sales tax
"ö $171.4 million -- contribution to provincial gross domestic product