July 11, 2019
By Rachel Mercado
Brantford Gymnastics Academy, located in Brantford, Ont., is a high-performance club and training gym where qualified coaching staff work closely with athletes to strive for improvement and excellence. The facility is fully outfitted with professional-grade equipment and has been home to more than 15 national medalists, eight national gold medalists, 93 provincial medalists, and 39 provincial champions over the past two decades.
In early November 2016, thick, dark smoke filled the air over the city’s north end as the academy was engulfed in flames from an electrical fire. The fire took more than three hours to control and completely destroyed all athletic equipment (including bars, mats, and vaults), as well as the entire building itself. It resulted in $1.2 million worth of damages.
The owners of Brantford Gymnastics Academy demonstrated unwavering commitment and dedication to their athletes by immediately taking action to secure temporary housing in a building owned and built by Lanca Contracting, a design-builder and general contractor (GC). The building, which was erected earlier in 2016, was the only facility in Brantford with the necessary area and clearance height for the gym’s programs. One week post-fire, BGA was open and operational.
In March 2017, the design-build contract for a new Brantford Gymnastics Academy facility was awarded to Lanca, and the company officially began construction in September of that year after receiving the necessary permits from the city. The Lanca team knew a custom-designed steel building would be the best option to meet insurance and safety requirements, given the material’s innate resistance to fire.
Moreover, a predesigned metal building was an excellent fit for the design-build method, given the ambitious timeline set forth by the owner. This is because with metal, sitework and other preparation measures happen concurrently as the structure is being manufactured to the owner’s precise specifications. Upon delivery to the jobsite, the building is ready for erection.
The design-builder was further able to design a building that delivered all the wants and needs of the Brantford Gymnastics Academy team while keeping the project within a predetermined budget. While a relatively simple program and quick completion time led to fewer labour hours (and thus less lost), the single-source nature of the metal building and associated components also reduced the chance for product inconsistencies and job delays, resulting in quicker project delivery and move-in for the owner.
Although none of the existing foundations were salvageable and new ones had to be put in place, the new facility was erected on the same location as the previous one, and the owner was firm on preserving the building’s width. The amount of floor space required for the academy is dictated by the gymnasium’s equipment and operational layout; any less would emanate a closed-off, crowded esthetic hindering gymnasts’ training and performance. Noting this as a priority, Lanca was able to maintain the existing width of the old structure while lengthening the building footprint. It designed the pre-engineered metal building system to the appropriate width, maintaining careful attention to the amount of interior floor space.
The owners and managers of the facility were instrumental in ensuring project delivery occurred on time and the owner/builder process was as smooth as possible. They took ownership of ensuring their operational needs fit within the physical parameters of the building and even included an engineer to lay out all the equipment needed for national-level training. Minor changes required throughout the building permit process had the team reconfiguring changerooms and observation spaces to ensure timelines were met.
The finished project is a testament to the resiliency and endurance of the building owners and facility managers in taking care of their portion of the construction in conjunction with their daily duties of running the temporary facility, training athletes, and overseeing competition schedules and needs.
Rebuilding the facility
The new 1207-m2 (13,000-sf) building, nearly double the size of the previous gym, used a standing-seam steel roof system composed of steel single-skin panels. The steel standing-seam roofing panel system was attached to the subframing of the building using concealed, interlocking clips that provided minimal panel penetrations. This choice of roofing system provided a high degree of weathertightness for the building envelope.
Further, the decision to incorporate a steel roof in the Brantford Gymnastics Academy redesign brought advantages such as low maintenance needs, energy efficiency, durability, and (as mentioned) fire resistance. Supporting its durability, steel has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than many conventional construction materials, resulting in a stronger, more cost-effective building requiring less material and assembly. Although it takes a skilled crew and specialized labour to erect a metal structure, the numerous advantages and cost savings steel offers made it the right choice for this project.
This construction method, which incorporated fire-resistant steel, insulating metal panels (IMPs), and concrete, gave the owners peace of mind with the facility rebuild. To comply with property line boundary-limiting distance requirements, one of the exterior walls on the building is clad in 101-mm (4-in.) IMPs designed to achieve a one-hour fire rating by incorporating a thick steel veneer and rock-based mineral fibre insulation comprised of volcanic rock and slag (a byproduct of the steel and copper industry).
This fire-resistant IMP functions as exterior fire-resistant separation walls and is a popular choice for arenas, gymnasiums, and high-occupancy structures. In addition to its noncombustible core, IMPs offer strong thermal performance and protection from the elements across the entire wall area, and the mineral wool core provides enhanced insulation resulting in significantly lower heating and cooling costs for the owner.
The adjacent wall to the southern neighbours’ property did not require fire resistance as it did not sit on the property line, and this allowed the Brantford Gymnastics Academy team to clad the balance of the exterior walls with 101-mm IMPs that have an attractive, stucco-like appearance and tilt-up look. This panel type combines the thermal efficiency of IMPs with a modern masonry appearance often used in both new and retrofit construction.
Inside the facility
Inside the academy, the faces of the panels feature a white, lightly corrugated profile creating a feeling of openness between exterior walls and a 7-m (20-ft) clear ceiling height. These panels have a standard Factory Mutual (FM)-approved Class 1 foam core and offer excellent insulation value. The steel and foam composite construction provide a rigid panel stronger than the individual parts, thereby creating span capability and reducing the need for secondary structural components.
Nathan Lancaster, CEO of Lanca, said the IMPs “provide the benefits of good thermal performance and reduced sound transmission.” He also praised the material’s fire resistance and esthetic benefits, saying, “It is an attractive metal panel that exhibits the natural beauty sought by many owners and designers. In designing the building, we knew it was important to match the professionalism and vibrancy that many people associate with Brantford Gymnastics Academy and its members.”
Among the factors making these IMPs appealing is the aforementioned factory-applied, hard aggregated fibre-reinforced, stucco-like finish that offers an extremely durable, impact- and abrasion-resistant coating able to withstand severe weather conditions.
“What this durability results in is nearly zero maintenance in the long run while still enjoying the benefits of an IMP urethane core and energy efficiency, as well as thermal efficiency,” said Lancaster. “Who says that beauty and functionality have to be mutually exclusive?”
In addition to the IMPs, the building also used conventional construction materials and nearly 464.5 m2 (5000 sf) of glass on the exterior, which allows an abundance of light on the two Olympic-sized floors where competitive athletes are able to tumble and train. The glazing is tinted to provide a bright interior space without compromising athlete safety. Brantford Gymnastics Academy purchased new, top-of-the-line equipment from all over the world to ensure exceptional quality in its training programs.
The interior space was laid out in conjunction with the owners and the design-builder’s architect. The layout requirements of the training facility were established by the owners, along with its equipment supplier, to maximize the efficiency of the space. This allowed for an inset trampoline and two additional foam pits with climbing rope and bars above. The interior floor and wall texturing utilizes an acrylic modified cement-based coating allowing for comfortable, nonslip surfaces underfoot as well as low-maintenance, easy-to-clean surfaces on the walls. The coating further adds texture giving the appearance of a decorative faux-stone finish and, of course, contributes to an amazing colourful touch to the inside space.
Other building features include 278 m2 (3000 sf) dedicated to office/administration areas, a colourful party room, a glass-encased viewing area on the mezzanine overlooking the gymnasium floor, and changerooms for the athletes. The first-floor changerooms and main entry feature heated concrete floors so athletes moving from boots to bare feet do not have their muscles shocked before entering the training space, and the second-floor viewing area’s glass wall is dual-pane, which increases safety, lowers noise transmission, and provides a wonderful viewing space and open feeling to both spectators and athletes. While the main viewing area is located on the second floor, there is another on the lower level that is wheelchair accessible and welcomes family members to observe classes in a safe, comfortable space.
Lanca also used a striking red for all the building’s trim and downspouts that brings a vibrant, modern feel to the facility.
Internally, the design of the space, in conjunction with the metal panel system, allowed the HVAC designer to ensure airflow was quiet and did not serve as a distraction to the athletes. The system allows coaches to adjust quickly from a cool, empty gym to one with high humidity when many athletes are training. Athletes as young as four years old can thus remain comfortable in the cavernous space both upon entry and during training, when their core temperatures inevitably rise.
Careful consideration was given to the HVAC system. Constant air movement was required to ensure athletes in leotards were comfortable by keeping their muscles warm and cool enough once moving. Enclosed destratification fans permit air movement, are whisper-quiet, and give no visual distraction during any athlete’s activity. With health and safety in mind, Brantford Gymnastics Academy also mandated the HVAC return-air system minimize air pollution within the gym and keep humidity and dust/chalk concentration to a minimum. The system also eliminates odours by recycling the air and constantly drawing fresh air from outside.
In late November 2017, six months after Lanca was awarded the contract and several weeks ahead of schedule, Brantford Gymnastics Academy opened the doors of its new facility to the public. Two pivotal factors contributed to the expedited delivery of the academy. First, the efficiency and vigilance of the design-builder’s team, and the implementation of a steel building system and components.
“The owners of the Brantford Gymnastics Academy were motivated and a pleasure to deal with, which improved the project delivery schedule,” says Lancaster. “It truly is a second home to these athletes, and I am glad Lanca had the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Rachel Mercado joined Robertson Building Systems in 2015 and has five years of experience in the construction industry. She attended McMaster University’s MBA program between 2008 and 2011 and received degrees in business and math prior to that. Mercado can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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