February 1, 2013
As of Dec. 23, 2012, the 2,700 officers, administrative officials and support staff of the RCMP, previously based in 25 far-flung detachments throughout the Lower Mainland, are finally united in one state-of-the-art complex in the Green Timbers area of Surrey, B.C.
The precise date is significant, because an absolutely firm occupancy date was one of preconditions of the performance based agreement forged as a P3 project less than three years ago by the Government of Canada, representing Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and a consortium called Green Timbers Accommodation Partners. This latter group included Infrared, Bouygues Building Canada and ETDE FM Canada. The design and build phase was subcontracted to Bouygues Building Canada and Bird Design Build Construction Inc. in a joint venture, and the operation phase to ETDE Facility Management Canada. They, plus the architects and consultants who then joined the project, had been responsible for the design and construction of the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. As with that facility, ETDE will run the operational aspects of the new RCMP E Division Headquarters for the next 25 years, providing property maintenance and engineering expertise, housekeeping, landscape services and energy management, among other duties.
Franck Lombard, project director for Bouygues Building Canada, points to five aspects that made the project a challenge: the size of the building footprint, the fast-track schedule, the technological requirements of the individual buildings on site, the security aspect that had to be monitored through the construction process, and the requirement to meet LEED Gold and Energy Consumption Target. “There would be penalties if we didn’t meet energy performance commitments, so there was lots of pressure,” says Lombard. “We were committed to not exceed certain consumption levels, so we had to be very confident in our design and systems.”
According to Nick Joosten, CEO of Green Timbers GP Limited, it helped immensely that the government articulated its myriad objectives from the outset. “There was a clear vision,” says Joosten, who jokes that he took to walking around with the objectives “stapled to my forehead.” The new facility had to support “easy coordination of various integrated units both physically and electronically.” While meeting current policing needs, it needed flexibility not only to support organizational and technological change but to perhaps accommodate another tenant entirely. While maintaining appropriate security, it should “present itself as open to the public.” Meeting national standards for design and security, it had to attain LEED Gold certification. It had to maximize the value of each dollar spent to build and operate the facility. Last but not least, it had to be ready for occupancy on schedule. These were ambitious goals, Joosten admits. “The RCMP may not be the tenant the entire time, or its needs may change in the future, so we designed it to be flexible space. At the same time, it is purpose-built, and some of the requirements are geared to a high-security facility.
The new headquarters is actually three separate but related structures. Building A, the operations centre, is by far the largest at seven storeys above grade on a 100,000-square-foot floor plate. Building B is a post-disaster emergency operations centre, designed to withstand an earthquake and function as a stand-alone crisis centre for 72 hours without any outside utilities. Building C is a warehouse facility with workshops, garage and exhibit storage. Provision has been made for the optional future construction of a fourth building, which could house a forensics laboratory. “
The idea was to create a campus in a forest setting,” says Michael McDonald, director of design and principal at Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd. “But we saw very quickly that the scale of the main building was so large that to fit it into the site was going to take careful choreography so that it would not only fit the site but the floor plates would be livable. Each of the different organizations within the 2,700 occupants would feel at home within the greater home.” The other key consideration was the array of heritage trees at the front of the property that needed to be preserved as part of the architectural context. “We set the main building, which breaks down into east, west and centre segments, on to a plinth of trees,” McDonald continues. “The first two floors have a masonry skin with reference to the tree trunks. We worked with the mason to develop an angled brick that could be placed to create the angled lines of the tree trunks. Then we have the three large forms that fold into each other, accentuated by a white frame. The north-south tree axis also goes out behind the entrance and forms a pedestrian link to the campus of buildings beyond that are not seen from the street.”
The heritage trees and mature cedars were a high priority for David Rose, principal at PD Group Landscape Architecture Ltd., but so were a large water feature near the main entrance and the need to accommodate parking for 1,800 vehicles. The water feature, a 2,400-cubic-metre pond, serves several roles. “It collects all the stormwater from the site, with an irrigation function for the green roofs and the lawn in the rear courtyard,” says Rose. “It also provides a barrier to deter unwanted access. All the security measures on the front of the building have a deterrent value, but they’re also decorative in nature.” His biggest challenge was “dealing with the surface parking. It’s a huge area. It’s hard to make it look pleasant when you’re limited in terms of the soft landscaping you can get in, while maintaining view corridors for the CCTV cameras.”
David Woo, the engineer of record on this job for Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers, faced myriad challenges as well, because each component building called for a different structural design. “The main office building is mostly reinforced concrete; we had to provide long spans that pushed the capability of reinforced concrete, and the floor loading is heavy in some areas because of filing,” says Woo. “The post-disaster building used a combination of structural steel and reinforced concrete; there we used post-tensioning cables in a selfcentering system whereby the building straightens itself out after an earthquake. Building C, the exhibit building, is a concrete tilt-up structure; they cast the walls on the ground and then tilt them upright.”
The electrical consultant, Stantec Inc., and the mechanical consultant, Cobalt Engineering, worked especially closely to maximize their efforts in energy efficiency. “It will be a 24/7 operation, so we had to concerned about a high level of reliability and redundancy,” says Dean Kaardal, vice president, buildings engineering with Stantec, which installed numerous daylight and occupancy sensors. Stuart Hood, mechanical engineer and partner at Cobalt, estimates that there are some 130 electrical meters throughout the site. “People put green features in buildings, but if they’re not operated right, they don’t get the desired savings,” says Hood. “The consortium is tied into a contract guaranteeing the amount of energy used, so we need to measure and verify it. We have sub-metered to the point where we can tell how much energy is being used by the lights, the computers and every piece of mechanical equipment.”
Stewart Borrett, deputy project director at Bird Design Build Construction Inc., says that the project will apply for LEED Gold certification “with a comfortable margin,” but it wasn’t easy to do so. “You have a high-security building with cameras and lighting that you’re trying to blend into a forest, which makes some of the credits hard to attain. But the use of waste energy recapture, chilled beams, efficient lighting control and good envelope design all contribute to our ability to keep energy use in line.”
The project was fast-tracked, with design and construction proceeding in tandem, creating nearly 1,000 direct and indirect jobs; at times, there would have been 700 people working on the site. “This building should set a record,” says Scott Douglas, project director and the leader of the commercial market sector at Kasian Architecture. “We were in design meetings and taking calls from the site asking what’s next.”Adds his colleague Michael McDonald, “The great thing is, when you walk from the curb up to the building, past the row of mature trees, it feels as if it has always been there.”