Richmond Olympic Oval skates around competition

The Richmond Olympic Oval, the speed-skating venue, has sped away with a record six silver Vancouver Regional Construction Association (VRCA) awards.

“I honestly can’t remember any other project in the 21-year history of the awards that has garnered near that many silver awards. That is truly amazing and the contractors involved should be truly proud of their involvement,” said Brian Martin, awards chairman.

But contractors and trades are not surprised after working on the Olympic 2010 structure that many are already calling a national landmark.

Rob Third, of George Third & Son Ltd., a silver award recipient, said the structure is B.C.’s stand-out Olympic venue, just like Beijing’s Bird’s Nest venue. His company will mark 100 years of business in the Olympic year.

“The Richmond oval is really the showcase venue for the 2010 Olympics,” said another silver award recipient Dominion Fairmile Construction’s Alan Nicholson, the project manager working on the Oval. “It will become a well-known building right across Canada.”

Silver VRCA award winners on the project were: George Third and Son Ltd. and Apollo Sheet Metal both contenders for the gold in the category of Chairman’s Trade Awards; Rona Building Supplies in the category of manufacturers and suppliers; Dominion Fairmile in the category of general contractor over $50 million; Flynn Canada in the category of President’s Trade Awards; and Status Electrical in the category of electrical contractor over $2 million.

“This is really an award-winning project with a high degree of difficulty,” said Len Edmondson of Flynn Canada, which did the roofing, polycarbonate glass and the architectural metal panels and other metal work.

Edmondson said the greatest challenge for Flynn Canada’s team (lead by project manager Todd DeForest) was the time line.

“It was a very tight schedule,” he said.

The spectacular structure presented challenges to all trades with unique design features.

Those challenges included not just a tight timeline and almost military precision scheduling of equipment, but working during the height of the labor and skills shortage in B.C.

Nicholson said the project saw the roof placed before the ice-slab was complete. The reason for the different sequencing was that the ice surface was constructed with a post-tensioned suspended slab that included delay-strips.

This added extra months of engineering, but rather than waiting, crews continued with the roof.

“Once you put the roof on, you are limited to the crane boom height and you have to be extremely careful with any overhead obstructions,” he said.

As well, construction started east to west and that meant that machines and equipment were scheduled in and out of one access way.

Also, the ice slab construction was required to exceed a flatness tolerance of three millimeters in only three meters, a criteria aimed at improving athlete’s performance.

The challenge for George Third & Son Ltd. was the composite beams or trusses that span the building. The glulam beams were formed around a steel skeleton (which also housed ducting) and the beams had to be jointed to metal plates.

Ironworkers became woodworkers, Third said, as the project combined both skills at Third’s shop.

Apollo Sheet Metal Ltd.’s great challenge on the project was the duct work located inside the 13 triangular shaped glulam beams that span the facility.

In order to accomplish the task, the Apollo crew moved into the Third shop to better facilitate the prefabrication and scheduling process required to complete the beams that would be placed using a 200-ton crane.

It was the first time Apollo had undertaken such a joint-venture.

The beams are a showcase item in the structure and they hide the triangular duct work, but the 364 outlets supplying air over the ice surface are visible.

Keith Falardeau, president of Status Electrical is pleased to have the award as the uniqueness of the design presented challenges.

“There was a challenge placing the conduits for the writing and other structures in a way that would be concealed,” he said.

Providing the electrical installations also meant providing an integrated approach to getting the job done with an aggressive schedule. Rona won a silver award in the manufacturer and supplier’s category, the first year that this award has gone out.

“We are really pleased with the award,” said LeGrow of the first time honor. “It fits well with the commercial side of our business we are trying to grow where most people think of us as simply retail.”

by Jean Sorensen, Correspondent
Journal of Commerce, October 2, 2009