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Prestigious condo project for deep foundations contractors inc.

By Sarah B. Hood

On Toronto’s busy St. Clair Avenue, atop the steep climb of Bathurst Street, a remarkable new condominium building is remaking a gateway intersection in a developing neighbourhood that is as well known for its multicultural diversity as for its favourable situation overlooking the rest of the city. Appropriately named the Rise, the project was spearheaded by Reserve Properties Ltd., a family business that has been active in commercial and residential development across North America for over three decades. 

Intended to stand as a signature building in the rejuvenation of the St. Clair West neighbourhood, the Rise stands on a site assembled from three separate parcels of land, including an existing corner property, a space formerly occupied by a Toronto Parking Authority lot and a church. Negotiating the acquisition of the complete property – which included commitments to provide about 44 parking spaces to the city and to finnd a new home for the church congregation – took about a year.

The site is now large enough to accommodate a striking 21-storey building containing 283 units, including studios and one- to two-bedroom suites. Architecture firm IV Graziani + Corazza + Biase Interior Architecture Inc. designed an eye-catching Modernist exterior that refers to the work of Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian, known for his compositions featuring flat rectangular blocks of primary colours divided by thick lines.

Part of the interest of the building lies in its two-level design. A seven-storey pedestal base supports a 14-storey tower at one end; the other is dedicated to an extensive and luxuriously-appointed terrace with a sculpture garden, an infinity pool and impressive views over the downtown core and the lake. Inside, the lobby has been lavishly conceived by Graziani + Corazza in a bright neutral colour palette with plenty of natural light. 

TMG Builders, a construction and project management firm specializing in high-rise residential development, was chosen to oversee the construction, which was just beginning to reach upwards from the foundations as of May 2016. Deep foundations contractors inc. was awarded the installation of the secant cutoff wall shoring system – a 10-month, multi-million-dollar contract. Founded in 1971, deep foundations has built up a history of innovation, and has exceeded revenues of $100 million per year. It was the first company in Canada to install secant piles as a water cutoff wall, CFA piles, and the first to own a hydraulic drill rig – now an industry standard in the country.

Unique to deep foundations is a pile driving spotter with an onboard computer. This invention prevents torsional loading of a lattice boom, and has earned the company rights to a US patent.

On the site of the Rise, deep foundations was required to install 300 interlocking secant piles to a depth of 26 metres to form a watertight wall for excavation support, with an interlock of 300 mm, an excavation depth of 15 metres.

Due to the soil conditions, most of the piles were drilled to a depth of 30 metres, which is unusually deep for a condominium secant wall. This requirement resulted in a very strict tolerance of just 0.4 per cent for the verticality of the piles. In order to maintain quality control within these precise limits, the company made use of a laser tool that was designed and manufactured by deep foundations for positioning. Horizontal location was controlled by the construction of guide walls.

Furthermore, the pile toes were dug much deeper than the excavation in order to resist hydrostatic pressures and heaving of the base. The secant wall was supported by two rows of 128 mm diameter post grouted soil anchors. The vertical drilling was achieved in 100 days using two BG40 drills. Deep foundations supplied all of the equipment from within its own holdings, using materials supplied by Du erin Concrete, Ennis Steel Industries, Inc. (piles) and Canadian BBR Inc. (tiebacks).

Safety
On the Rise site, as in all its projects, deep foundations exerted every effort in order to foster an excellent culture of safety at all levels of the company. Job site safety is held in high regard at deep foundations, where the company’s proactive and team-based approach to incident prevention has made it a role model in the industry.

“Deep foundation's health and safety program is integrated into the company's total management system; this ensures that safe work practices and job site accountability are considered part of the job,” said Rise project manager, Mike Sousa. “Our Annual Safety Month provides valuable direction and motivation to our employees to help reach the milestone of zero lost time injuries. It also provides an opportunity to facilitate discussions to identify areas for improvement and foster a team-building culture.”

For this dedication, the company was honoured with the Toronto Construction Association Award for Outstanding Safety Culture in 2015; the winner of this award is chosen from among the association’s 1,500 member companies. Deep foundations was previously recognized with the Best Managed Company award in both 2013 and 2014, and has won the International Association of Foundation Drilling (ADSC)’s Outstanding Safety Award numerous times since 2007.

In addition to these accolades, deep foundations achieved its Certificate of Recognition (COR) in 2014, endorsed by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association, becoming one of the first contractors to receive this designation in Eastern Canada and reinforcing the company’s commitment to its workers and workplace safety.

“Everyone at the worksite shares responsibility for health and safety, and job site accountability is part of it. Pre-job planning and daily field level risk assessment help develop a safe worksite by identifying hazards and control measures,” said Sousa.

Among many other initiatives that deep foundations uses to ensure the safety of their workers on the job, Sousa lists “site inspections, new-hire orientation, extensive worker training and education, safe work behaviour observations, development and communication of site-specific safe work procedures and practices, near-miss reporting system and a mentorship program.”

Of course, the company also assigns high priority to making sure every worker is provided with the required tools, equipment and PPE in good working condition to perform their work safely.

What is Sousa’s best safety advice for other contractors?

“Consult with employees on health and safety matters that directly affect them; this includes identifying hazards and risks, and determining risk controls, pre-job planning and safety program review and development,” he said. “Workplaces where employees play an active part in health and safety lead to improved employee commitment, safety morale, productivity, efficiency and quality. Also, employees will be more likely to buy into a safety program they’ve contributed to.”

The Rise condominium will play a part in transforming a neighbourhood, bringing in new residents and helping to change the way people feel about the area. In years to come, few of the passers-by who pause to admire its bold fac╠žade will also stop to think about the piling work that went into its construction. But for those in the industry, it’s a reminder that – with buildings and with safety programs – if you want to aim high, you start with deep foundations.

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.