$86M, 320-unit seniors care facility set to open in 2019

By the time the new Summit seniors facility along Hillside Avenue between Blanshard and Quadra streets is finished, people will have watched its construction for close to three years.

Once complete in spring 2019, the Summit will house 320 residents, offering complex residential and dementia care and replace the Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital.

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Its novel design connects two X shapes to create an enclosed courtyard in the centre.

The Capital Regional Hospital District is using its own project manager as a general contractor. David Wilkinson is working with Vancouver’s UnitechCM, a construction management firm, to analyze the marketplace to be as strategic as possible in completing the $86-million facility within budget.

“It’s kind of like having a tactical approach to a difficult situation,” Wilkinson said.

This approach provides agility to managers as the project moves ahead, he said.

Contracts are being let out in a time when the busy construction climate can make it difficult to line up trades contractors.

This is a large project, but not the highest-value underway in the community, Wilkinson said. “But on its scale and duration, it’s notable, and therefore desirable to trade contractors.” Contractors may prefer to work on one job, such as this, rather than move around to several others.

“This allows us to progressively tender our packages and see how we are doing on the main packages and then in some cases, reduce our expectations on the remaining work by design. It allows us to revise our specifications and our details to a less-expensive standard because we will have control over that.”

There is a budget for each step in the process. All of the five packages done so far are under budget, he said. “It gives us hope that each and every package, if carefully tendered, will be approximately on budget or within our contingencies.”

Ground was broken in June.

Crews have excavated massive holes to make space for underground parking, with 92 spots and room for bicycle storage.

A total of 186 reinforced-concrete caissons have been drilled into the bedrock. The caissons, up to 50 feet long and two-to-four feet in diameter, are part of the massive underground sub-structure being built to protect the building in case of dramatic movement during an earthquake.

Concrete caps are going on top of the caissons and the basement foundation structure will be built over them. The contract with the successful bidder for the concrete superstructure — basically the skeleton of the building — is to be signed this week.

That company will be on site in a couple of weeks for about the next 16 months, Wilkinson said.

Passersby will see large construction cranes as crews construct the facility wing by wing.

As each 24-unit, four-storey piece is finished, trades crews will follow. “By the time the last component of the concrete frame is finished, the first component will probably be almost completely done,” he said.

“The trades move behind each other as quickly as they can.”

It’s the job of the construction managers to orchestrate this work, to make sure they are not getting in each other’s way, and that the work is happening safely, Wilkinson said.

As the concrete superstructure, the part of the building above ground, takes shape, there will also be people working offsite “organizing, planning and ordering equipment.”

Materials and equipment, such as heating and ventilating systems, boilers, pipework and electronics, drywall and flooring are typically sourced regionally. Most products are manufactured elsewhere, but the “real uptake” is when local companies receive large orders for the project. “Ordering is always done as close to the actual work site as possible,” Wilkinson said.

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