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EllisDon unveils Ontario’s first net zero structure

Infrastructure companies are seeking new and innovative ways to develop while keeping the environment in mind. EllisDon is one internationally-known construction company that is set on reducing its carbon footprint.

 Most recently, the company took on the impressive project to build the Mohawk College Net Zero Energy Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. It is Ontario’s first institutional building of its kind while also the first project under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

McCullum Sather and B + H Architects joined forces with EllisDon to complete the project  The “ Net Zero” facility essentially  produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, which is fascinating seeing as infrastructure, and development usually result in energy consumption.

 Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about the completion of the structure and its importance for future generations:

“EllisDon’s expertise is helping colleges implement significant measures to contribute to a green energy future for Ontario – everything from net zero buildings to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings to training the next generation of green energy workers. This will make a real and measurable difference in reducing carbon emission throughout Ontario.”

The design of the college is remarkable. The exterior looks like sleek and futuristic artwork, and the building utilizes many green energy elements. These include geothermal wells, a storm water harvesting system and  an LED lighting system throughout. The structure also has a green and high-efficiency plumbing system,  is 5 storeys high and can accommodate 4,500 students. Outfitted with a mechanical system installed to enhance ventilation, heating and cooling it also has an electrical system that optimizes lighting.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, also shared in the excitement about this pilot project:

“We’re excited to witness one of the first pilot projects using CaGBC’s newly developed Zero Carbon Building Standard. Mohawk College incorporates energy harvesting and conservation technologies and is a giant leap in future proofing new buildings that are fit for purpose, offer climate resilience as well as an enhanced user experience. As the Paris Agreement has set the international challenge to reduce global emissions, green buildings, such as the Mohawk College, demonstrate that innovation and energy efficiency can work together without compromising design.”

EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative not only targets net zero energy emissions, but also vows to track carbon emitted over the course of various projects and aims to introduce new clean technologies that can still result in effective structures for clientele

 They are a leader in green building design and innovative ideas. Women’s Post salutes their initiative!

Rail Deck Park to add attractive green space to the downtown core

It’s was almost a year ago the City of Toronto announced their intention to create the Rail Deck Park. Movement is now underway in addressing the proper funding plan and proposal of this new green space in the urban Toronto area. The park is expected to be a sprawling 21-acre green space in the heart of the city, built above pre-existing transit lines that stretch from Bathurst Ave. to Blue Jays Way.

Over the past few years, Toronto has seen a rise in condominium construction and with that construction comes a thirst for public spaces where families can play and enjoy the sunshine. In other words, a little oasis in the downtown core. Mayor John Tory’s support of the park is something he has been open about and he hopes to see this project become a reality.

Speaking at a statutory public meeting on Sept 25 at City Hall, the mayor said, “I believe this is a bold idea and I’m going to tell you with every ounce of determination that I have: It will be built.”

This November, an official funding plan will be presented at City Hall. The funding and construction plans for the park so far is unclear. The mayor is, however, confident that a big portion of the private sector will cover the cost. So far the estimated cost of the park is approximately $1.05 billion.

The official funding plan will make the steps clear to the public. The park represents the challenges of living in an urban space and making use of city building. This structured city planning will help for future developments that will arise in the city. The unused air space above the park is, however, owned by a mix of private firms. Procurement of these air rights will be negotiated or expropriated by the City of Toronto if necessary.

The mayor has previously compared the Rail Deck Park to places like Central Park in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago, and other global parks under construction — including the 26-acre Hudson Yards public plaza in New York City.  These sites of inspiration imply the park can be a major tourist spot while making the downtown area more appealing and liveable for residents.

This park will add trees, water features, public art, relaxation space, and more. Residents in the city will finally have a space within Toronto’s concrete jungle to connect and relax. So it’s time to sit back and relax as the city is on the path to adding this snazzy new addition

 

What we know so far:

  • Twenty–one acre park built over pre-existing transit hub from Bathurst St to Blue Jays Way
  • Estimated cost of $1.05 billion (not including maintenance)
  • Confirmed to be built in phases
  • Nine acre priority phase announced for east of Portland to Spadina
  • Majority of air–rights to be acquitted
  • City collecting fees from city developers through provincial legislation (this will only cover a small portion of the cost)
  • Great addition to Toronto’s urban planning
  • Labeled as a green space for recreation, culture, and celebration

What are your thoughts on this addition to the city’s green space

Is Ontario investing too much in foreign builders?

Everyone is talking about the foreign buyers tax in Ontario — but no one is talking about the increase in foreign builders.

What do I mean by foreign builders? Large, international companies based in Italy, France, or Japan, with small offices within the GTHA, are being given contracts for large transit projects while smaller Canadian companies are shut out.

If you take a look at the shortlist for the Hurontario LRT, half of the constructors are not from Canada. They may have Canadian offices, but the companies themselves were created and have headquarters in Europe, the United States, and Asia. While each individual “team” that is bidding for the contract does have at least two Canadian companies on board, this is not a guarantee on division of work and/or financial contributions.

And this is a big problem.

By allotting contracts for big developments and transit projects to foreign builders, it severely impacts the Canadian economy. It means less jobs and less money for construction workers, and it means the competition between Canadian companies is steep.

Canada also has a unique climate. There are certain materials that must be used for a development to support extreme cold and hot temperatures. Would a company from Spain or Italy be able to understand how to build something resistant to this temperamental landscape?

An even bigger problem is that these foreign companies are not connected to the community, and therefore do not understand and/or empathize with local concerns over a new development. These companies come in, build, and leave, which means they are not around if any problems arise and they don’t get to see the affect it has on the residents who leave them. There is no real investment to the community they are building.

To be clear, collaborating with international partners is not a bad thing. These types of partnerships can inspire new ideas and provide interesting solutions to municipal problems.

However, when native companies are pushed out of the process in favour of international conglomerates — it’s Canada that loses out.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Women CEOs leading the way in the trades

There are more women than ever starting businesses, especially those involved in trades, which is surprising considering those professions have historically been some of the most male-dominated businesses in the country.

CEO of Freshco, Mandy Rennehan, a very successful retail construction company based out of Oakville, Ont., believes that women leaders are essential to trades businesses. “A woman’s added value really shines through because we are passionate,” Rennehan says. “Women are detail-oriented and fastidious where many men aren’t.”

Millennial women are also catching on to the trend and starting their own trade businesses. CEO of Ash Street Design, Brittany Truppe, is one of those millennials. She started her business of designing and building interior speciality doors last year.  “It is a custom sliding door business. We essentially fabricate high-end interior-based wood doors in all shapes and sizes and I’ve expanded into contemporary styles and all different types of finishes,” Truppe says. “I really like the whole concept of the artisan market style. I don’t want to do cookie cutter stuff. I want it to be unique.”

These two women had to prove their worth in their respective areas time and time again. “Being a woman and being young, there were times where I definitely had to go above and beyond,” Truppe says. “Coming from finishing, there was a lot of time spent doing the tasks to prove my worth. You would get men throwing out terminology and the names of types of equipment to see if I knew what I was talking about. I felt I was being quizzed often.”

Rennehan agrees that women are tested more often to see if they are credible in their job position. “The biggest hardship is the confidence of the woman going into it. They need to make sure they know more than anybody in that space. Credibility is everything for a woman in trades. Make sure you have the passion and you are armed with the knowledge,” Rennehan says. “Many women have an irrepressible sense of accountability and if things happen, they will fix them. Women have a lot of advantages in this space, they just need to believe it.”

As a young female business owner, Truppe is taking a progressive approach to her artisan boutique and wants to keep her business relatively small, instead of aspiring to build a large corporation. She also focuses on the use of local woods and keeps costs low and affordable to give more people the opportunity to purchase one of her unique products. Though she is still in the midst of constructing her business, she also wants to dedicate part of her time towards helping women learn to build. “The biggest thing I want to focus on is having a program geared towards women to make them more comfortable working with tools, because a lot of women don’t. I envision doing it in my own shop,” Truppe says. “You would drop in for an hour or two and the women would build and I would charge for materials. I’ve networked with local artisan shops and furniture shops and they are pretty pro-women. I’ve found I have a lot of support from new-age men as well.”

Rennehan is also an avid philanthropist, highlighting the importance of women CEOs giving back to others after becoming successful in the trades sphere. She started a non-profit program through her other business, a design firm named Rennduprat, that will teach kids between the ages of 10 to 16 how to use millwright machines. The non-profit will then make Christmas ornaments through the project and ship them around the world. Rennehan also founded the Chris Rennehan Scholarship Fund, named after her brother who sadly passed away from a heart attack at age 38. The scholarship fund helps a tradesperson who is in dire financial straits by giving them the funds to go to trade school or obtain work through Freshco.

Women business owners are essential to the future of trades in Canada. Truppe and Rennehan both bring credibility, generosity, and a progressive community approach to their businesses. Though there are challenges to being a woman in the male-dominated trades’ professions, there are more and more women that are coming out as strong leaders in this type of employment.

Transit Alliance: financing infrastructure via P3 and AFP

Ontario has an infrastructure deficit — there is a lot of infrastructure that still needs to be developed, but very little money is available. This creates a bit of a challenge. “If we were to build all infrastructure on public balance sheets, we wouldn’t be able to get there,” said Bruce McCuaig, Executive Advisor of Privy Council Office. “Money isn’t free.”

McCuaig was a special guest at the Transit Alliance’s seminar on alternative financing and public-private partnerships. Over 80 people attended the June 20 event in hopes of learning more about the Infrastructure Bank and alternative financing models that can help push municipal projects forward.

The morning seminar began with a fireside chat between McCuaig, KPMG partner Will Lipson, and Transit Alliance Chair Brian Crombie. The conversation centered around the Infrastructure Bank, a crown corporation that will provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects. McCuaig is set to help launch the Infrastructure Bank through the Privy Council.

“It’s about finding the best financial model for the project,” McCuaig said. “Each on has different needs.”

Transit will play a big part of the portfolio, although clean water was also mentioned numerous times throughout the discussion. McCuaig stressed that a balance will be needed between public interest and independence within the crown corporation, and that decisions should be made using evidence-based analysis.

The Infrastructure Bank will be complimentary to Infrastructure Ontario, Infrastructure Canada, and other private agencies. KPMG said the corporation will bring about numerous opportunities for municipalities, providing more financing options than before.

“The government has been quite wise in implementing the bank,” Lipson said.

After the fireside chat, Crombie moderated a second panel that dealt largely with financing for smaller municipal projects. Special guests on the panel included Rob Pattison, SVP, LRT, Infrastructure Ontario; Don Dinnin, VP Procurement Services at Metrolinx; Olivia MacAngus, VP Corporate Development at Plenary Group; and Omer Malik, Vice President Project Financing at Stonebridge Financial Corporation.

Each member of the panel is involved in public-private partnerships or alternative financing, and believes that innovation and creativity are key when it comes to municipal projects. For most, the Infrastructure Bank is a unique opportunity, but not something to depend on. MacAngus and Malik both think there is too much unknown about the Infrastructure Bank. “We don’t need another traditional lender,” Malik said. “It should focus on a gap, where larger equity funds aren’t interested.”

Dinnin suggested the use of an agency such as the Infrastructure Bank to help spearhead the relief line in Toronto. Metrolinx, he said, has a number of funded projects using public-private partnerships, but maybe the Infrastructure Bank can fill the rest of that gap. “There is always more than one way to do something,” he said.

The collective solution to municipal infrastructure, as suggested by the panel, is hybrid-financing models and innovative thinking — partnering with the right investors to see your project completed.

The goal of alternative financing and public-private partnerships is to build and develop a project on time and on budget. According to Pattison of Infrastructure Ontario, the worst thing someone can do is drag out the construction phase.

The seminar also included a networking opportunity, where business and municipal leaders were able to approach these financial firms to discuss their personal projects and seek advice (or offer potential solutions).

“Expertise should always be evolving,” Pattison said.

Here are some photos from the event:

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”7″ gal_title=”P3 Seminar June 20″]

More photos to come.

Photographs taken by Ethan Helfrich.

How choosing the right contractor makes a world of difference

Whether you are contemplating an addition or embarking on a large-scale renovation, deciding on the right contractor to handle your home renovation can be an extremely daunting task. There are so many aspects to consider, from reasonable pricing to the speed of construction. How do you even begin to make such a fundamentally important decision?

Well, let me introduce you to the new generation of home renovators — contractors whose main objective is to guide you through the entire process from inception to completion. This new breed of contractors is taking customer service to a whole new level, ensuring the client is happy and receives a phenomenally positive home renovation experience.

The secret to picking the perfect redesign firm lies in just how well they plan on taking care of you and your needs. Customer service must be a top priority, and you need someone who will not only understand your vision, but will also make it their mission to see that your dreams become reality!

Fraser Homes Inc. is a custom design rebuild firm that specializes in residential home renovations. Located in Toronto, the business is run by two brothers — Rod and Mark Fraser — who form a dream team with backgrounds in design, construction, marketing, and business. They balance each other out completely. Mark is the designer and “lofty dreamer” while Rod has the construction and marketing experience.

The brothers opened their doors in 2009 and then officially incorporated in 2012. Their first official job was a single bathroom, which quickly escalated into an incredibly successful enterprise. The clients were so enthralled with their stylish new bathroom that they hired Fraser Homes to redesign their entire home from top to bottom.

What makes Fraser Homes unique is their emphasis on customer service, something the Fraser brothers say is lacking in the construction industry.

Their website has a special client login that allows customers to follow the progress of their renovations. Using this login, which can also be accessed using the company’s app, clients can request changes, communicate directly with their project manager, and choose products, among other things. According to the Fraser brothers, the purpose of this customer-centric focus is to ensure there are no surprises at the end of the construction period and that the client is, ultimately, happy with their work.

“We go a long way to keep client informed and updated on our production schedule and what’s happening,” Mark said. “Communication is the heart and soul of construction – letting clients know where you are and planning the job well and making sure clients are involved.”

“We don’t believe in a $70,000 charge for upgrades they don’t remember. At the end of whatever project, they were able to say we were kept informed and there were no surprises,” he said.

Photo provided by Fraser Homes.
Photo provided by Fraser Homes.

Client reviews, both on the Fraser Homes’ website and independent review outlets, showered the company with praise, saying the brothers were professional, communicative, and friendly. Nearly everyone described their experience as a success, and after speaking with them myself, I understand why. The brothers are deeply passionate about their work and when discussing design and renovation trends — a “mixture between the minimalist-modern … as well as semi-industrial” — their enthusiasm is contagious.

The brothers also like to push the limits of design and help their clients to think, not just outside the box, but way beyond it.

“You have to be the one taking your clients to the next level,” said Mark. “I tell people you have two types of rooms: you can have the one pictured in a magazine or you can have the one people take pictures of FOR the magazine.”

Fraser Homes has also been experimenting with green and sustainable building. They try to use eco-friendly products in their current construction process, but they are also putting together a few proposals for property developments that will be completely sustainable.

If you are planning a home renovation and are looking for personalized and professional experience, look no further than Fraser Homes. Please click here to visit the Fraser Homes website or contact them directly at 416-477-1186 or info@fhinc.ca

West Toronto Railpath is on its way to being built

Biking through Parkdale and Liberty Village is similar to completing a difficult Olympic marathon challenge, complete with zooming cars, road-crossing pedestrians, and no bike path to be seen.

Luckily, cyclist enthusiasts and the City of Toronto are working on solving the problem — and the West Toronto Railpath is the solution. The goal of the pathway is to keep pedestrians and cyclists off the road, but there remains key challenges to achieving this goal. For example, the objective of the RailPath is to avoid roads. For this to happen, overpasses would have to be built over current rail bridges so that pedestrians could navigate through the limited land availability in a highly congested area. However, the City of Toronto is determined to persevere despite these challenges.

The West Toronto Railpath has been a long-time in the making. The first phase of the project began at Cariboo Ave., just north of Dupont St. to the Dundas St. W overpass and was completed in 2008. It has been a considerable success, and even won the 2011 City of Toronto Urban Design Award. The second portion of the cycling path begins at Dundas St. W. and Sterling Ave. and proceeds along the Kitchener GO rail corridor to Strachan Ave. The third and final phase would connect the bike path to the planned Fort York Pedestrian and Cycling Bridge.

Phase two of the project is moving forward despite challenges and the province of Ontario has recently approved a cycling path along with the expansion of the Dufferin St. Bridge. Metrolinx is expanding the bridge to increase access to GO service and the UP Express, and construction for the West Toronto Railpath will also be included.

So what does this mean for the West Toronto Railpath?

The Dufferin St. Bridge announcement means construction of the RailPath has finally begun! The project has now moved into its next phase: detailed design and implementation. This part of the construction process decides which of the recommended pathways should be chosen. After that, construction commences. The cycling and pedestrian bridge that will be built on the Dufferin St. Bridge is a good start for the next phase of the project. Creating a safe bike path at the intersection of Dufferin and Queen is a difficult task and placing it on top of the bridge solves this problem.

The RailPath currently stands in phase two of its construction, with an Environmental Assessment (EA) successfully completed last year. The study report from the EA was released for public review between Jan. 14 and Feb. 15, 2016. The project will move forward, and recommended alignment options are in place.

It remains to be seen how the rest of the path will be built connecting the Dufferin St. Bridge to Dundas St. W overpass in the Junction, and then through Sudbury St. to Strachan Ave. That being said, the Dufferin St. Bridge is a key area that is needed for the success of the West Toronto Railpath. Though the rest of the cycling path is still in the planning stages, the announcement for the bridge makes this cycling path a reality — and that is exciting indeed.

The value of a home

My husband and I bought a monster house 12 years ago. It was an old Victorian style, double brick with good bones, but in need of repair. In the 60s it was divided into four apartments and no one had renovated it since. The yellowed shag carpeting had seen better days, and the white stucco walls and arched doorways had gone grey over time. It still had all the old plumbing and knob and tube wiring so needed desperately to be gutted and restored.

A house has a personality, and ours seemed to be like an old oak tree that had been made to look like a Christmas pine. It had a solid soul, but the renovations were horrendous. Our goal was to restore it to the solid home it once was. It was the perfect project for a newly married couple!

We decided to live in it and tackle one floor at a time. Both of us were working full time, so it meant spending our evenings and weekends toiling away on the house.  After gutting out all the apartments, we found signs of the original stairs that were located right where we planned to put in the main stairwell. We repaired all the old fireplaces, putting new liners in all and using old bricks from the original construction that we found hidden away to repair the chimneys. We managed to save all the original leaded glass windows, and searched salvage yards for old six panel solid wood interior doors to match the original doors in the house.

Between electrical, plumbing, tiling and carpentry, we found that only a few of the trades people we hired could deliver the quality that we wanted and so did much of the work ourselves. There were months when we were too busy with our jobs to do anything on the house, and with the demands of toddlers, there was a year or two when very little was done. Our 10-month renovation project took us 12 years! And now that it is finally done, it feels like we’ve reached the top of the mountain. We’re looking around and enjoying the view, thinking cool we did it… but now what?

I don’t think I can sit quietly in a huge house, sipping tea and eating bon-bons, or give up the confidence I get from building with my own hands. What many think of as menial work —painting, sanding, tiling — is my way of keeping grounded and in shape! Being able to see the work that you have done take shape doesn’t happen often in politics, and there is nothing like taking down a wall to let out a little frustration!

Although we have built many terrific memories in our house, it was the journey, not the asset, that created them. And so we decided to put our house up for sale and continue our journey.

I feel that we have lucked out when it comes to our real estate agent. We have listed with Cheenee Foster. She is with Slavens and Associates and is one of the hardest working agents I have ever met. Cheenee spent years staging houses and has an eye for design. But what I admire most about her is her drive. She isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and help, although she is always dressed to perfection. Watching her in an elegant summer dress and high heels as she set up my living room furniture, moving couches and chairs without hesitation, reminded me that women can do anything men can do — and we can do it in heels!

Cheenee spent a week helping me stage the house. From moving furniture to picking paint colour, she walked me through the process of preparing our house to sell. Few agents would invest the time that Cheenee gave to making sure our house looked terrific.  But, what truly makes her a top agent is her integrity. She knows that we aren’t in any rush to sell and has suggested that if we don’t get what we want, she’d recommend taking it off the market and trying again in the fall. I’ve bought and sold a lot of homes, and where most agents would try to coerce us down in price to make a quick commission, Cheenee sees the value in our property and in holding on for a better market if need be. What makes Cheenee Foster one of Toronto’s best real estate agents is that she puts her customers before her commission. So, if you are looking for a good agent to help you through the stressful process of selling your home, I highly recommend Cheenee Foster.

She’ll be hosting an open house at our home this weekend. Come out and meet her!