Collaboration is the key to success on any PCL project, but the Lakeridge Health Accelerated Build long-term care home is a perfect example of what strong partnerships can achieve. 

The life of a traditional construction project often includes months, if not years, of preconstruction planning before shovels go in the ground. In the summer of 2020, Infrastructure Ontario, Lakeridge Health, PCL and a team of top-tier consultants and trade partners put their heads together to determine how to compress years of construction and build a new, six-storey long-term care home in just months. 

What was needed to accomplish this seemingly impossible task? Strong relationships, and an expert team of professionals from multiple disciplines delivering on a precise strategy – all fueled by a relentless passion to achieve a common goal. The result? After just over a year of construction, Lakeridge Gardens, the new long-term care home at Ajax Pickering Hospital, achieved substantial performance on March 2, 2022.

“Lakeridge Gardens’ progress over the last year, and especially in the last few weeks, has been a remarkable achievement,” said Cynthia Davis, President and CEO of Lakeridge Health. “Our partnerships with PCL Construction, Infrastructure Ontario, local and provincial governments, the Durham Region community, and countless other skilled workers, tradespeople, and team members made this possible.” 

If you think that timeline sounds unachievable, we’ve broken it down.

The global COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for new long-term care homes in the province of Ontario, and a solution was required fast. Jumping to action, the Ontario Government and Infrastructure Ontario launched the Accelerated Build Pilot Program – an innovative approach that leverages hospital-owned land and accelerated construction techniques to get shovels in the ground quickly. This approach helps build urgently needed long-term care homes in large urban areas where scarce and costly land is a significant challenge for prospective developers.

Leveraging available hospital land saved significant time in the process. Within weeks of announcing the new model, Infrastructure Ontario chose Lakeridge Health’s Ajax Pickering Hospital as the site for the long-term care home and issued the Request for Qualifications and Standing Offer (RFQSO). The hunt for a roster of firms that were equipped to rapidly deliver this project began.

With a model of this caliber, PCL established a preconstruction plan early in the RFQSO phase to hit the ground running during construction. While PCL has a long history of experience in delivering projects under aggressive timelines, this project presented a unique set of challenges that required a near-perfect strategy.

“Going into the preconstruction phase with an open mind was key in developing a successful strategy,” says Dean Xuereb, field operations manager, Canadian Buildings. “We needed to come up with a plan, validate it, receive community buy-in and form a team of consultants and trade partners within a small window of time. Once our team bought in to the modular kit of parts approach, we were able to pitch it to our stakeholders as the most effective method of construction for this project.”

A knowledgeable design team is crucial for carrying out a successful accelerated construction program. Bringing in long-term care design experts G Architects, in joint venture with Parkin Architects, played a large role in mitigating potential design risks and setting up the construction team for success. With the design team working closely with the hospital and local municipalities, a site plan was submitted and prep for the project was underway. 

“Making sure we could support the construction schedule and maintain accuracy was top of mind,” explains Phil Goodfellow, partner at G Architects. “It was important to incorporate a simple and straightforward design that was reflective of PCL’s modular solutions approach.”

After four months of planning and procurement, PCL and its team of consultants were officially awarded the contract to design and build the long-term care home. As PCL geared up to begin construction, bringing the right people to the table was important.

“Resourcing trade communities that have an exceptional safety culture and experience in delivering a high-quality product within a rapid schedule was vital to being successful,” adds Xuereb. “We hand-picked a team of trade partners that were as committed to delivering this project as we were.”

PCL officially broke ground in January 2021, commencing one of the most ambitious rapid delivery build projects it has ever taken on. The site was mobilized, and excavation and foundation work began.

While design development often continues simultaneously with construction, adopting a modular kit-of-parts approach allowed the team to minimize up-front design work. PCL was able to manage risks early on and had more control over the outcomes on the project.

“Each modular component of the building was broken into tangible parts and prefabricated off-site parallel to the on-site construction being done,” explains John Schmalz, modular construction manager. “Understanding the design requirements, relaying that information to our consultants and trade partners and finalizing the details during the preconstruction phase was how we were able to stay on track.”

By early spring, the team successfully began construction on the vertical structure. A variety of specialized vendors were outsourced to prefabricate precast concrete, load-bearing wall panels, washroom pods and mechanical distribution systems. Each key element was manufactured, shipped and installed on-site as the team reached the respective milestone.

The precast concrete and wall panels arrived at site in March, followed shortly by the washroom pods. Construction of the building’s structure was moving at an incredible pace with the workforce alternating over two shifts per day. By August 2021, the structure of the long-term care home was complete, topping off just eight months into construction.

In October 2021, PCL began to shift the attention to the home’s interior work, roof and exterior cladding. Ten months into construction, the home’s overall structure was complete.

“It was important for us to keep the momentum going once we reached this monumental milestone in such a short amount of time,” adds Schmalz. “The entire workforce recognized the significance behind what we were trying to accomplish and was willing to work around the clock to complete this project for the community.”

As the end of construction inched closer, interior finishes became top priority. Despite the pressures of the ongoing pandemic, Lakeridge Health’s clinical team safely supported important decisions that guided design development and clinical functionality throughout the project.

In November, an entire resident floor was mocked up, complete with a fully furnished resident room and working washroom reflective of the clinical team’s review. With final interior work taking shape, the long-term care home was only weeks away from achieving substantial performance.

After just 13 months, the long-term care home was announced as Ontario’s first Accelerated Build project to achieve occupancy. To celebrate the monumental occasion, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Paul Calandra, Minister of Long-Term Care, plus other government stakeholders, held a press conference on February 1, 2022.

Following the major milestone, Lakeridge Health unveiled ‘Lakeridge Gardens’ as the official name of its new long-term care home on February 3, 2022. 

Lakeridge Gardens long-term care home crossed the finish line and achieved substantial performance on March 2, 2022, the ultimate construction milestone. Marking the completion of construction, Lakeridge Health will take full access to the home to prepare the space for grand opening.

The successful outcome on this project is a testament to the passionate drive of all partners involved and the over 500 tradespeople who have worked tirelessly to deliver this new long-term care home without compromising safety, even during a global pandemic. Committing to sending everyone home safely at the end of the day, the workforce performed a total of nearly 500,000 worker hours without a lost-time injury.

“We are deeply privileged to have worked with partners to create the Accelerated Build Program in order to quickly deliver much needed long-term care infrastructure,” says Michael Lindsay, President and CEO, Infrastructure Ontario. “Through a range of accelerating measures such as modular construction, rapid procurement and the use of hospital lands, we have been able to successfully build this facility faster than the traditional timeline. This project is a resonant example of what can be achieved when innovation, modern solutions, and great partnerships come together.” 

"To our design and construction partners, and the hundreds of men and women who have built this urgently needed home in record time, thank you for stepping up to the challenge with us to deliver as promised,” says Todd Craigen, President of Eastern Canada, PCL Construction. “I’m extremely proud of the role that everyone has played in delivering Ontario’s first Accelerated Build project. Congratulations to everyone involved."

“A sincere thank you to the Province of Ontario, Infrastructure Ontario, Lakeridge Health, our community and all stakeholders including our consultants and trade partners who have been instrumental throughout all stages of building the home,” says Marc Pascoli, vice president and district manager of PCL Toronto. “The successful outcome on this project is only possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of countless individuals who worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to provide long-term care residents with a modern, comfortable and safe place to call home.”