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A Platform for Success: Creative Problem-Solving Onsite at St. Andrew's College

On Mar. 23, 2020, The Province of Ontario ordered the temporary closure of all non-essential workplaces due to COVID-19. Although our project sites did not formally report any issues or cases related to the virus, the directive halted construction activities on the majority of Dalton projects. Once our sites re-opened and returned to productivity, our teams had to find creative ways to get things back on track, and quickly.

The manner in which our project team at St. Andrew’s College (SAC) handled a tricky situation involving a new HVAC system is one, fine example. Dalton is leading construction activities to improve and upgrade the science and technology learning spaces at the school’s science wing, McLaughlin Hall.

Prior to the site closure due to COVID, the team was all set to install six, new heating and cooling units totalling 30,000 lbs. on the roof of the hall. But the COVID lockdown prevented this from happening­, so they had to find a way to make back the lost time.

Our team put their heads together to develop a solution that accelerated the schedule, without impacting the budget. Here’s what it looked like:

The approach our team took to solve the problem–which required equal parts leadership, teamwork and focused communication by all Dalton team members–is the focus of this post.

First, let’s understand the purpose of the units themselves. Once lifted into place by the crane, they will be integrated into a modern climate control system that will cool and heat the spaces throughout the three-story, 13,000 sq. ft. building with greater efficiency.

The hitch is that McLaughlin Hall was built in 1971 (by The Dalton Company as a matter of fact–something we explored earlier in this post), well before the common practise of installing the bulk of HVAC equipment on rooftops. This means that the existing roof was not designed to bear the weight of the new units.

In the early stages of the province-wide lockdown, Dalton worked closely with CEC Mechanical who ensured the units would be ready once the site re-opened.

Here are the new units waiting for installation in the staging area.

Before the COVID site closure, the original plan involved building a 40’ x 40’ steel structure, or platform, on the roof that would house the HVAC units. The purpose of the platform was to transfer the 30,000 lb. weight load through its steel beams into the building’s existing columns and down into the footings.

However, preparing the roof and then assembling the platform directly on the building was scheduled to take 10 weeks, and the project had been set back a month and a half due to COVID. A faster method was needed to save time. So, alternative solution was devised: build the platform in a nearby parking lot and hoist it onto the roof.

Shifting platform construction off the top of the building would allow the workers to prepare the roof for the delivery of the 20-tonne steel structure. Dalton’s team, led by Project Manager Jason Judson and Site Manager Jeff Ranieri, led the consultation and coordination of the re-sequenced scope of work with the key consultants, trade contractors and suppliers, which involved electrical, mechanical and structural disciplines. Plans were exchanged. Precise measurements collected. Bugs ironed out. All under the close supervision and guidance by Dalton.

The steel fabricator shipped the platform to the site in pieces, which workers welded and fitted together over a three-week period in a nearby school parking lot.

While the platform was built, openings were created in the roof and steel footings were installed on top of the building’s columns. Here is one of the footings located on the edge of the roof.

Once the plate footings were installed and the platform was ready, it was lifted onto the roof by this 300-tonne crane:

The entire hoisting operation went smoothly thanks to careful planning and attention to health and safety details.

Here’s a photo of the platform installed on the roof.

Note the four platform posts located along the edge of the building. The strategic placement of the platform footings allows the weight of the HVAC units to transfer into the strongest areas of the building.

Of course, there is much more to this story than HVAC units, steel and load capacity. It’s about teamwork and rolling up your sleeves to work through the unforeseen challenges that are inevitable in large-scale renovation projects in existing buildings. It’s also about understanding our client’s needs and harnessing the talents and experience of our consultants and trades to solve problems in ways that are budget and schedule friendly.

In fact, it’s for these very reasons that Dalton chooses to deliver projects exclusively as a construction manager. It creates an integrative, team-based approach that our clients value when we take the lead and work through a solution such as this one. That’s what Dalton’s Alternative Approach to Building is all about.


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