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U of M files lawsuit over $45-M Innovation Hub

The University of Manitoba is suing the consultant and construction firms that worked on its $45-million Smartpark Innovation Hub, a roughly 75,000-square-foot facility on the Fort Garry campus, over allegations of “structural and mechanical deficiencies.”

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The University of Manitoba is suing the consultant and construction firms that worked on its $45-million Smartpark Innovation Hub, a roughly 75,000-square-foot facility on the Fort Garry campus, over allegations of “structural and mechanical deficiencies.”

The information exchange centre located at 100 Innovation Dr. was built to be a space that encourages partnerships between industry, government and Manitoba’s largest university and houses the budding projects that come out of those collaborations.

The hub opened to much fanfare in June 2019. North Forge Technology Exchange, which supports entrepreneurs via mentorships and other resources to launch advanced manufacturing startups, is one of the current tenants.

A statement of claim filed at the Court of King’s Bench suggests significant building code concerns have come up since the university issued a request for proposals to construct the hub in July 2016. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

While the facility remains open, a statement of claim recently filed at the Court of King’s Bench suggests significant building code concerns have come up since the university issued a request for proposals to construct the hub in July 2016.

Cibinel Architecture Ltd., Bird Construction Group, Bird Construction GP Ltd, Architecture49 Inc., Abesco Ltd., Peikko Canada Inc., and T.D. Enterprises Ltd., operating as Wescan Electrical Mechanical Services, are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

“There are a number of functional and operational defects as well as construction and building code deficiencies concerning the design and/or construction of the project,” states an excerpt from a statement of claim filed on Sept. 29.

The 31-page document states U of M became aware of “a range of serious issues” during construction and after it wrapped up.

The complainant alleges the businesses breached their contracts and duties. The university also claims there was negligence in the selection, application and installation of material, systems and methods used in the design and construction processes.

Among the defects are issues affecting the building’s stability; misaligned or deflected columns, steel beams and joists; and faulty mechanical equipment that affected air flow and cooling, according to the statement of claim.

“The cooling capacity in certain areas of the building was wholly insufficient, rendering: a) the intended use of the building impossible or impractical; and b) said areas of the building a health and safety risk to occupiers as some of these areas reached temperatures close to 40 Celsius,” it adds.

Cibinel, a professional consulting firm, is facing allegations of improper design of the building’s architectural or mechanical portion, resulting in airflow not being up to code, as well as inapt engineering of the superstructure and structural steel in the hub’s cantilever area.

The Smartpark Innovation Hub opened on June 26, 2019. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The claims levelled against construction giant Bird include failure to property co-ordinate and schedule the sequence of tasks, and inappropriate installation that caused instability to the building’s structure.

Abesco, a steel fabricator company, is accused of improper construction and installation of the hub’s superstructure.

Architectural firm A49 is alleged to have performed inadequate design, energy modelling and commissioning services.

Manufacturing company Piekko is facing accusations related to improper fabrication and supply of structural steel framing materials for the project.

Court documents claim Wescan supplied faulty mechanical and related equipment for the building. The electrical business participated in improper construction of the mechanical portion of the site, in turn affecting its airflow and cooling capacity, per the document.

U of M is seeking general and special damages, in addition to compensation for the school’s expenses related to remedial design and work, project delays and operational losses suffered in connection to the alleged contract violations.

University lawyer Jonathan Woolley, who specializes in construction law, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Among the alleged defects are issues affecting the building’s stability; misaligned or deflected columns, steel beams and joists; and faulty mechanical equipment that affected air flow and cooling, according to the statement of claim. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

None of the defendants returned calls or provided a statement before deadline.

The City of Winnipeg declined to provide details about historical inspections or enforcement at the property, citing privacy reasons.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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