Red River Condos
By: Jack Frink
The picturesque, sprawling Winnipeg suburb of St. Norbert once looked far different than it does today. in the early 1800s the Pembina trail was a major trading route between Canadas North and St Paul, Minn., for the Hudson Bay Company. The area advertises itself as the entrance to Winnipeg, birthplace of the Province of Manitoba and home of the Red River Floodway gates.
Now, 200 years later, the Winnipeg historic area is home to a new type of settlement " The Renaissance Condominiums.
THE RIGHT COMPANY
Sherwood Developments Ltd, a real-estate company operating out of Winnipeg, outdid itself with work on The Renaissance, a six-story, 41-unit multi-family, insulating concrete forms (ICFs) construction condominium. A family-owned business, Sherwood has spanned the entire array of real estate projects and has more than 30 years of construction experience.
We are a design/build company that specializes in land acquisition, putting concepts on paper and putting all the pieces together to design something that is very aesthetically pleasing and where we could see ourselves residing, Assistant Project Supervisor Louis Pereira said. We build top-quality communities and have found a niche in Winnipeg " our last three developments have been riverfront properties.
We try to build on whatever vistas are available, which is what happened with Pembina Highway along the river. It was a large parcel of land sitting isolated for many years, and the decision had to do with topography, which was sloped toward natural stream draining into the Red River.
We knew it would be a great place to live. Theres a grand look at the river; the condominiums are in a V shape, so 90 percent of the suites have views of the meandering river. We were thinking it would thrive in St. Norbert with that great river view.
The underground parking facility or parkade footprint measures 20,000 square feet, while the tower runs 11,500 square feet per floor. There is one elevator, a social lounge, a workout facility, shops and craft rooms, a large 4,500-square-foot garden terrace, and a live-in resident manager.
We choose our suppliers " select high-end flooring, cabinet, granite, paint packages " and we also give homeowners a chance to select outside of our options and purchase upgraded finishes directly from our suppliers, Pereira explains. We assist with interior design and oversee implementation of all their choices. Once the sale was completed, the homeowners formed a condo organization/board and are officially the owners of the building. They own not just the units theyve purchased, but also a percentage of the building as a whole. Theyre all sold out, now, so were pleased.
The walls are constructed with Nudura ICFs, while the floor is an open web, steel joist system with a 3½-inch concrete slab system. The parkade exterior walls measure 10 inches thick, while the interior counterparts are 8 inches thick. The towers exterior and demising walls are 6 inches. Finally, the stairwells and elevators have 6-inch walls as well.
Pereira explained that all ICF walls were poured with 2,500 psi mix design with, 3/8-inch aggregate and a 5 ¼-inch slump by the ready-mix company, Building Products & Concrete Supply Ltd out of Winnipeg.
We find it crucial to use no greater than 3/8-inch aggregates when pouring into any ICF system to insure consolidation.
There is more than 3,039 cubic yards of concrete in The Renaissance. That is not including the 284 16-inch diameter precast driven piles and the 25 2-foot diameter by 30-foot deep cast-in-place piles for the parkade ramp. There is also one additional cast-in-place concrete stair exit from the parkade down to the main floor. Another special concrete mix used on the project was put to use along the south and east side of The Renaissance near the natural course of the stream.
For the purposes of the build, three Sherwood foremen attended a training seminar by Nudura on the installation of their wall system. Sherwoods owner, Fausto Pereira, went to Toronto in order to get a personal demonstration of the floor system.
Nudura, Brock White, and Hambro all sent team members to work with our crew for the first week to strengthen our understanding of their products, Pereira said.
Even though it had been the first time we would use either system for one of our developments, we found that it worked well for us. The learning curve was fast and we were able to save a lot of money by eliminating the need for extra sub-trades.
KEEPING IT DRY
For waterproofing, the 10-inch ICF flood protection wall features a second concrete wall, traditionally formed, that is 4 inches thick, 140 feet long with 52 cubic meters of concrete. The wall has a Kryton internal waterproofing admix that was supplied to Sherwood by Brock White Canada, a construction supply company.
Jodi Eyolfson, ICF specialist with Brock White Canada, explained that the Kryton admixture works to waterproof the concrete itself by a chemical reaction that forms a crystalline structure which seals the porosity of the hardened concrete. Even if hairline cracks were to form, the crystals are said to quickly form to block water intrusion, Eyolfson said.
Pereira said that last springs flood waters were two feet higher than the parkade floor and there was no water penetration into the building. This was made possible by a series of flood protection walls originating 34 feet below the main floor.
To further defend The Renaissance against the natural aggressions of the Red River, all exterior parkade walls have a Bakor Blueskin self-adhered waterproofing membrane over the ICF walls. A layer of 7/16-inch oriented strand board has been loosely stood against the wall over the top blueskin to prevent backfill from penetrating through the membrane.
UP ON THE ROOF
There were three types of roofing systems integrated during the building of The Renaissance. Primarily, it is a flat roof system using an elastomeric compound membrane manufactured from ethylene, propylene and a small amount of diene monomer (EPDM), and a R-50 build-up of rigid insulation. The flat roof also includes 3-inch layers of 2-inch diameter river-washed stone overtop.
Next, Sherwood used a Mansard Roof approach, typical of classic French architecture. This section had 18-inch, diamond-shaped aluminum shingles, Typar building paper, a half-inch fireproof plywood and medium-gauge steel stud framing.
A third integrated style used in the roof was a metal roofing system, which required aluminum roof panels, heavy gauge steel stud framing and R-50 batt insulation.
Like all innovative, leading-edge projects, The Renaissance offered up several technical challenges for Sherwood. First, there was the climate. With wind chill temperatures reaching minus 40 degrees Celsius, exposed skin can freeze in less than a minute, and it is difficult to heat concrete slabs and stucco. In addition, the project was situated along the Red River and next to a stream that can rise from its (typical) 2-foot depth to 25 feet quickly, depending on seasonal rain and melting snow runoff.
Also, the condo was being built on a very sloped section of the land. The natural elevation of the property near Pembina Highway is 24 feet higher than the back corner of the building near the stream. Because of this sloping landscape, the process of moving equipment around the building site was more difficult than usual.
It was the topography of the land, Pereira explained. We could only access the structure mainly from two sides, so all building materials had to be strategically placed and hand-carted the rest of the way. We worked through all seasons, and with that comes a very drastic change of temperature.
Today is November 29th and the high is minus 17 degrees Celsius, and its not unheard of to stay near 40 below in January. We were building both floors and walls in the winter months. A great benefit of the Nudura system is that the insulation retains the heat of the concrete. All one has to do in sub-zero climates is prevent excess snow from building up in the wall during erection and to affix fiberglass insulation to the top of the wall directly after filling with concrete to maintain the heat necessary for curing.
Pouring Hambro concrete slabs (for the floors) were significantly more difficult to do in the winter. To overcome this we had to blast heat on the floor below with propane furnaces to temperatures higher than 30 degrees Celsius, creating a large oven.
We retained the heat by blanketing the entire prepped floor above with multiple layers of insulated tarps, which were peeled back only moments before being filled with concrete. Another difficultly to this method was that after the concrete was hard enough to walk on, it was immediately covered with insulated tarps again to retain heat for curing, denying the opportunity to perform a machine-polished finish.
In addition, Pereira said the design itself was very extensive. There has been a history of developments along the river near Winnipeg where theyve done an underground parkade, but failed to carry the parkade walls below the river system and so water seeped up. For the structural design, we had to excavate more than 34 feet below the main floor to build a series of 10-inch thick walls and buttress them to withstand hydraulic pressures imposed by the adjacent waterways.
It prevented seepage of water from the stream that meanders 20 feet from the southeast corner of the parkade. Additionally, the bottom of the flood wall elevation was determined by local geotechnical engineers who decided to have the bottom of the walls no less than 15 feet below the bottom of the stream. When we were building these walls it felt like we were building an elevator shaft to the core of the earth.
The Renaissances architectural design had to flow around a building shape that was complex even for ICF construction. The building consisted of many corners, rough openings and intersecting walls that did not coincide naturally with the ICF system.
Many half courses had to be cut and custom pieces made onsite to maintain the architectural layout, he said.
Fortunately, Sherwood Developments is a design/build company and we were able to take our experience from The Renaissance and use it on future projects, like our latest development, The Niakwa, a 50-unit rental also in Winnipeg. The Niakwas foundation was a very efficient build with minimal waste because of the pre-determined floor heights, rough openings and corners in locations that work well with the Nudura system, all of which we were familiar with because of The Renaissance.
On The Renaissance, we staggered our pours, Pereira continued. We prepared half a floor at a time. Each floor had 11,500 square feet and seven units, except for the main floor, which only had six units. The main through sixth floor, including the roof and all balconies, were concrete floor systems.
Sherwood also implemented green building details into their building plan. The building is equipped with parking lot controllers, energy-efficient lighting and energy-efficient triple pane argon gas casement windows. The Renaissances units sold quickly for $300,000 to $500,000.
Ive always enjoyed working with my hands, Pereira said. In shop classes, working on projects that I could see, hold and admire after they were complete gave me a feeling of self achievement. Ive enjoyed making things all the way back to playing with my favorite toy, Legos. After completing high school he went to Northwest Territories to try wood framing.
Tough time to do that, in October, and most of my friends went to college. I did a couple of years in Yellowknife wood framing, and worked on some smaller projects here in Winnipeg as well. But, I saw different levels of construction and it inspired me to take civil engineering at Red River College. When I got into that program, I finally excelled in school. Since childhood I enjoyed building, but it was not until eight years ago that I found the passion.
The Renaissance was the premier building in Manitoba to be built entirely (other than the suite partition walls) out of ICF systems.
I dont think there is anyone else in Winnipeg who has built a structure of this type entirely out of ICFs to this day, Pereira said. However, this project proved the benefits these new technologies in concrete construction can offer, and could prove to be the catalyst that will see this become the preferred method in a challenging industry, and even more challenging climate.