Factors to consider when redesigning podium decks

Ongoing installation of liquid-applied, hot rubberized waterproofing.
Ongoing installation of liquid-applied, hot rubberized waterproofing.

Construction stage

The timing between initial assessment, design, tendering, phasing, and construction can vary from a period of weeks to multiple years depending on existing conditions, site needs, and implementation timelines. However, once site work starts, it is vital to minimize the negative impacts of construction while ensuring prompt completion of work. Completing work in stages is required and preferable to maintain building access and site functionality. How the work is staged must be a design consideration that is clearly planned for and conveyed on the construction documents. The key components and considerations for a work staging or phasing plan are:

  • means and procedures to maintain safe access to and from the building’s primary access points and emergency egress locations (the construction of temporary walkways or temporary pathways may be required);
  • maintenance of access for emergency vehicles and site parking;
  • co-ordinating work hours and closures to minimize the effect on building operations and reduce noise impacts on occupants and neighbours;
  • maintenance of site security, waste management operations, and other servicing needs;
  • installation of temporary structures or finishes to maintain functionality;
  • temporary grading and water management for areas outside of the occupied work areas;
  • co-ordinating soft landscaping installation with remainder of the work;
  • protection of occupied spaces after removal of existing waterproofing systems until new systems are installed; and
  • timelines for fabrication of custom elements that may affect construction schedule.

Contractors should be selected based on having previous, satisfactory experience in podium deck repair and protection, which may include the ability to manage multiple trades dealing with building occupants, understanding how to limit construction impacts on the public, and their ability to meld parts of the work into a cohesive finished restoration within the available schedule. The construction phase challenges everyone; it is stressful for the construction team and building occupants. The team must maintain good communication; focus on the safe operation of the building, and deliver a finished product that will last a (service) lifetime.

Case studies: 550 Ontario Street, Toronto

The owner of 550 Ontario Street, Toronto, is Hugh Garner Housing Co-operative Inc. RJC Engineers (the author’s firm) was the prime consultant and structural engineer of the project. MWLA Landscape Architects managed the landscaping and the contractor was Structural Contracting. This project included a fundamental redesign of how many of the spaces on the site were segmented and utilized. The original design created closed-off corners and dark walkways. The original paving was in poor condition, and a large open courtyard was totally unused. The project progressed through a design and planning process featuring resident input to ensure key concerns were incorporated into the design. The focus of the redesign was on improving accessibility, creating a more welcoming and safe environment, increasing green space and gardens, and renewing a sense of pride in the building among all the residents.

30 Greenfield Ave., Toronto

The owner is MTCC No. 877 with property managers Crossbridge Condominium Services. The prime consultant and structural engineers were RJC Engineers, MWLA Landscape Architects was the landscape architect, and the contractor was Macdero Construction (Ontario). The original design for this podium deck left very little room for vehicles to pick-up/drop-off people without obstructing the entire circle. Additionally, it lacked a safe sidewalk on the west side of the property where most pedestrian traffic travelled. The design incorporated the creation of a new layby area, a new, safe sidewalk, and stylized finishes to modernize the podium. While limited in space, the podium deck has increased functionality and a renewed waterproofing system. This project was challenging to phase due to the location of the entrances to the building as well as the underground parking—elaborate, temporary walkways were constructed to provide a safe, barrier-free entry point to the building. Daytime closures were utilized to allow for work in front of the building entrance and garage ramp. These temporary access structures often separate a successful project from a total failure. The client was engaged throughout the project and given advanced notice of closures or phase changes. Without this communication, the project could not have been completed with such little conflict and on time and budget. Planning for these temporary access points during the design stage mitigated costs and risks for all parties.

An associate at RJC Engineers, James Cooper, P.Eng., LEED AP, is responsible for managing projects from start to finish, including assessments, design, tendering, construction contract administration, and project close-out. He has more than 15 years of experience in the field of structural restoration and waterproofing, and has been involved in rehabilitation/retrofit projects throughout his career. He can be reached at jcooper@rjc.ca.

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