Looking at masonry in Manitoba

Photo courtesy Alpha Masonry
Photo courtesy Alpha Masonry

By Gervin L. Greasley, CSO
Although contractors and designers have separate functions in the construction process, it is important that each understand the role of the other to ensure the timely completion of work. This is especially true when industry volumes increase and designs become more complex, as they have in Manitoba in recent years.

During the past three years, Manitoba’s masonry industry has experienced a strong demand for its services in both the industrial/commercial sectors and in multi-family dwelling construction.

In 2010, the overall construction volume in the province was $1.7 billion––a 12 per cent increase over the previous year. Member firms of the Manitoba Masonry Contractors Association (MMCA) collectively performed the majority of masonry work in the commercial and educational sectors and shared in the volume growth. By year’s end, the group expects numbers to reach the peak set in 2009.

From the supply side, members of the Manitoba Masonry Institute (MMI) also experienced the same success—manufacturers and distributors of masonry-related materials and services had three good sales years in a row. Representatives of brick and block suppliers indicated they expect the demand to continue into 2012. Additionally, masonry contractors have also received an increasing number of invitations to bid on projects in Northwest Ontario, from Kenora to Thunder Bay, and have been awarded many of them.

Challenging masonry projects
While construction has been active, it has also provided some challenges for masonry contractors. Projects incorporating unique designs, constructing above existing buildings, melding new masonry into existing facilities, and tight deadlines required creative planning. Four of these projects include a museum, student residence, school football stadium, and a rural school.

Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be 91 m (300 ft) high, towering over the Forks Market area. Photos © Ray MacDuff
Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be 91 m (300 ft) high, towering over the Forks Market area.
Photos © Ray MacDuff

Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Designed by Antoine Predock, with architect of record Smith Carter Architects and Engineers, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights involves undulating shapes to create the impression of a building wrapped in the wings of a dove––the symbol of peace. (See “Form Works for Canadian Museum for Human Rights” in the January 2011 issue of Construction Canada. Visit www.constructioncanada.net and select “Archives.”) The majority of external walls are not vertical, and some are also rounded, requiring special application techniques, especially for glass and masonry components.

Sited on 24,619 m2 (265,000 sf), the building will rise 61 m (200 ft) above its base. On the exterior walls, the glass and stone have to be manoeuvered into varying sloped sections. Owing to the non-vertical walls, the building had to be developed using building information modelling (BIM)––the first project in Manitoba to be done in this manner. Three types of stone are being used, including Manitoba Tyndall stone, Spanish alabaster, and Mongolian basalt. The translucent alabaster will be used to cover the walls of the ramp systems. Its application will have to allow for some future flexibility of the ramps. The Mongolian basalt will be used in decorative sections of the building.

The $310-million museum is the first national museum built since 1967, and the first one ever constructed outside of Ottawa. Scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013, the unique building and its intended programs have attracted interest––and financial donations––from around the world.

Pembina Hall
Building a new facility as a freestanding structure beside and above an existing and active facility required extra planning and scheduling. The University of Manitoba’s (U of M’s) $40-million Pembina Hall Student Residence required Bird Construction to build three floors of the hall at opposite ends of the existing student cafeteria, while allowing the facility to continue operating.

Manitoba has been experiencing an increased demand for the use of masonry block for condominiums and apartment buildings.
Manitoba has been experiencing an increased demand for the use of masonry block for condominiums and apartment buildings.

The two tower sections are joined by a 61-m (200-ft) span to support the addition of 10 floors of student resident apartments above the original Mary Speechly Hall. Designed by Raymond S. C. Wan Architect, the new U of M building was constructed over an existing building, in part, due to the lack of available land in the centre of the campus.

The masonry contract included 3400 m2 (36,597 sf) of stone and brick veneer. The project was completed in September 2011.

Blue Bombers Stadium
Next summer, Winnipeg will have a new 33,500-seat football stadium, located on U of M grounds. Also designed by Raymond S. C. Wan Architect, the $190-million stadium is expected to involve 500 workers at the peak of the construction cycle. The original concept of building a stadium became more complex when the site chosen was the location of the university soccer fields. The final plans included developing replacement soccer facilities west of the stadium site, and refurbishing part of the athletic-oriented Frank Kennedy Centre. The projected completion date for the stadium is late spring 2012.

The masonry portion, which began in August, calls for 320,000 concrete masonry units (CMUs) and 3600 m2 (38,750 sf) of brick veneer.

Clearspring Middle School
Few schools have been built in Manitoba in recent years, and none were total ‘block’ construction. Designed by Stantec Consulting, the $27-million Clearspring Middle School in Steinbach, Manitoba, is being constructed with CMUs, including the interior walls. The 14,900-m2 (160,382-sf) building’s content involves 130,000 blocks and 6000 m2 (64,583 sf) of brick veneer.

Brick is used in many of the recently developed Winnipeg condominiums and apartment blocks. Photo courtesy Euro-Enterprises
Brick is used in many of the recently developed Winnipeg condominiums and apartment blocks.
Photo courtesy Euro-Enterprises

The project involves building masonry block exterior walls for the gymnasium while constructing the remaining school building several metres away. Eventually, the two structures will be joined by masonry block corridors. The project is scheduled for completion next spring.

Multiple-residence construction
The building sector for construction of multiple-family apartments and condominiums has also experienced strong activity during the past three years. Typical of the sector is the River Creek Estates condominium complex in Lockport. Overlooking the Red River, the current phase requires 55,000 masonry blocks. The facility is being developed and built by Red Lake Construction of Winnipeg. The fifth tower is currently under construction and will be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2012.

A growing number of multi-family developments are concrete and steel construction.

“We emphasize the safety aspects of masonry buildings,” said Mark Laarveld of Euro-Can Enterprises. “From the point-of-view of the tenants and owners, the fire protection aspect, the reduced potential for bug infestations, as well as the decreased maintenance costs over the lifespan of the building make masonry buildings a good investment.”

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