Fort McMurray has become a “people magnet” on a scale that dwarfs the gold rush. This booming city is located near the vast Alberta oil sands, a five-hour drive north of Edmonton, Alberta.
Temporary work camps are home to thousands of construction workers involved in oil sand extraction projects. While the camps provide temporary homes for construction workers, they are no place for the families of permanent plant employees. A drive through new Fort McMurray subdivisions clearly illustrates the challenge. There are acres of lots populated with trailers dressed in vinyl siding, each worth in the neighborhood of two hundred fifty thousand dollars and hardly a bargain.
The new Eagle Ridge project on the banks of the East Timberlea River is the beginning of something much better for the City of Fort McMurray. This project will see the completion of approximately 3,500 apartment / condominium units over the next several years. The good news for future residents is that the majority of the units are constructed with concrete, bringing an unheard of, yet welcome permanence to boom town of Fort McMurray.
This project’s Calgary-based developer, Centron, has taken a fresh approach to the design and construction process. Centron recognized that precast would provide many benefits if the project design was tailored to suit the product.
To capture the benefits of a precast solution, a design team consisting of Centron, architects Gibbs Gage, structural engineers TRL and Lafarge’s Alberta Precast group with consultant, Kassian Dyck, was assembled at the conceptual stage long before any lines were drawn on paper. Numerous meetings were held resulting in the development of a striking new design. The entire project was modeled using precast concrete PC-3D software. The 3D model was used during the design development by the owner, architect, engineers and precaster to assist in the design development, make design decisions and increase the speed of approvals.
The model allowed the precast team (estimating, engineering, production and erection) to visualize and assist with the design and construction. Construction and manufacturing drawings are generated directly from the PC-3D model. The project could not have achieved the fast-track schedule without the use of PC-3D modeling.
The Eagle Ridge Project will be constructed in two phases. The first phase will feature seven buildings – two four-story and five six-story structures. The second phase will add a further thirteen buildings six stories high.
These buildings are total precast concrete structures using columns, shear wall panels, 10 in hollow core floor slabs, elevator and stair cores including stairs, exterior architectural precast insulated sandwich panels and balcony units. In total, there are approximately 11,000 pieces of precast in the first phase and 25,000 pieces in the second phase. Overall, there are approximately 22,000 cubic meters of precast in the first phase and an additional 45,000 cubic meters in the second phase.
Eagle Ridge project is an excellent example of creating added value. Precast construction’s added value comprises engineering design and detailing of the precast components, as well as forming, reinforcing, casting, transportation and erection. The biggest value added benefit, however, is to achieve year-round construction in Fort McMurray’s harsh winter climate.
The total precast structure features an insulated wall system that will serve as the building envelope. Windows are preinstalled at the plant. When the panels arrive on site and are installed, the wall system is complete. There is no need to hoard the building to create a temporary heated space.
The precast panel system also provides the exterior architectural finish, creating a stained red brick look balance with flat accent areas. An innovative framing method created by the design team allows the walls system to be staggered, providing a look that has traditionally been difficult to achieve using precast components. This method also allows the balconies to be cantilevered from the building surface, differentiating these buildings from previous precast solutions.
The site was cleared in May 2006. Construction started August 2006. The first precast building was completely erected in November 2006 and will be occupied in March 2007. The second building is being erected and components are being cast for the third.
Considering the magnitude and the innovative construction methods, Eagle Ridge could easily set a new standard for multi-family residential construction in years to come.
Developer: Centron Residential Corporation, Calgary, AB
Architect: Gibbs Gage Architects, Calgary, AB
Structural Engineers: TRL
Precast Contractor: Lafarge Alberta Precast Group
Precast Engineer: Kassian Dyck Associates, Calgary, AB