The Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec is home to Le St. Jude Residence, a new complex of residential apartments for the now-booming number of retired people. As precast contractor Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac (BPDL) Vice President Guy Bouchard puts it, “We wore three hats — we own the building, we’re the General Contractor and we’re also, of course, the precaster.” The complex comprises 126 apartments, plus an interior commercial area and restaurant.
This level of involvement from the precaster was supplemented by the efforts of the firm Eric Painchaud Architecte, and a local developer as all sought to provide bright, pleasant and well-conceived interior spaces for the retirees of the area. Because access to the outdoors is also crucial in maintaining emotional and physical health, each apartment also features a large private balcony, creating living spaces that are open to the outdoors; a somewhat unique concept for the region.
Given the leadership by BPDL, the use of precast on the project was a given, but beyond that, it was also used specifically to help ensure the safety of the future residents, due to its resistance to fire and earthquakes. Concrete was also necessary for fire resistance, given the residential nature of the building, but also for resident comfort, in that it provides for a quiet living space.
At roughly 100,000-sq.-ft., the six-floor Le St. Jude complex is done completely in precast, including architectural elements like lighting fixtures and parapets, and was erected using 1,770 panels — with an average weight of 17,000 pounds — including solid planks for the floors, 220 exterior walls, 224 balconies, 236 columns, 695 slabs, 12 stairs, 25 beams, and some 5,113 cubic metres of concrete. Insulated panels were produced to a total width of 11.5 inches. Prestressed concrete slabs were also produced by BPDL.
For BPDL, using Total Precast was the only way to go because, "we were able to control the way the structure was to be built," says Bouchard, "and we were able to accelerate the project. Once the first floor was up, we were able to get the trades in there on that floor, so that everything ended up going up together. We began work at the beginning of March 2010, and the first resident moved in on December 1, and everything was done (by the end of February), so the whole thing took exactly one year."
The architecture employs a set of complex curve shapes and various finishes, with panels revealing a hammered finish on the balconies and a mosaic of beige at the ground floor. Cast stone pieces, also produced by BPDL were integrated into the panels to create this eye-catching look that was only possible through the use of precast, according to architect Eric Painchaud. “The decision to use precast concrete increased the number of design possibilities,” he says, “allowing us to accomplish the curves of the outdoor terraces, columns and various other architectural elements. One of the biggest aesthetic advantages to using precast is the fact that it allows for such specific colouring, which can be achieved with uniformity and very high accuracy, while still allowing for rapid production.”
Another factor that sped up the construction timeline in general, was the decision to install windows right at the BPDL plant before they were shipped to the site, eliminating the need to hire a window contractor on site, resulting in what BPDL describes as “huge” savings in on-site labour. Because BPDL is also the owner, and had guaranteed a move-in date to its buyers, the time saving that resulted from the off-site window installation was considered a bonus.
To further expedite the process, “we split the construction into two phases,” explains Bouchard, “which enabled us to close up the roof on time in order to be able to start on the detailing and all of the work that had to happen inside of the building, and our precast design also helped allow us to do that.”
As eye-catching as it is the flowing curves of the balcony precast complicated the job at the BPDL plant. “If we have a concept that has complicated pieces,” notes Bouchard, “the formwork needed to create those pieces is a bit complicated as well. We had to build unique polyurethane and wood forms to accommodate those special shapes, and our people did a really nice job on those.”
Bouchard also says that the job of connecting these sculpted panels also presented a challenge. “We used Dywidag Bars to connect the shear walls together,” he says, “which is always a challenge because need to make sure that these bars will fit together properly to enclose the foundation. In this case, the result was very good.”
One of the reasons that BPDL took such a leading role in the development of Le St. Jude was to showcase the capabilities of Total Precast. The effort seems to have paid off, in that it led to two other projects deploying the same technology in the area of Lac-St-Jean.
“Precast concrete is recognized around the world, and used in a growing number of countries,” notes Painchaud in closing, “but in Quebec, it hasn’t been used as much, and Le St. Jude is unique in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean. This local company, BPDL, in developing Le St. Jude, has made these people aware of the possibilities in creating this complex that its residents can be proud of.”
Owner: Joint Venture (BPDL + Louis-Alain Tremblay)
Architect: Eric Painchaud Architecte
Engineer: Gémel Experts-Conseils
Contractor: Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac
Precaster: Bétons Préfabriqués du Lac