Every successful construction project requires two crucial components: cutting-edge technology capable of producing high-quality results, and expert professionals – working together in strong partnerships – who can guarantee those results get delivered.

PCL’s recent work on a new tower in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba demonstrates both in spades. The tower will become the new North American headquarters for Wawanesa Insurance when it’s completed in 2023, and it’s a case study in how technology can add exceptional value on a project when it goes hand in hand with strong partnerships.  

On the Wawanesa NAHQ tower, which features 21 leasable floors and well over 300,000 square feet of office space, PCL has worked with two clients: Wawanesa Insurance, which is the tower’s sole tenant, and the developer, True North Real Estate Development. PCL’s history with True North dates back 20 years, when PCL built the arena now known as Canada Life Centre. Later, PCL was the construction manager for Winnipeg’s True North Square. That history helped PCL understand the unique needs of its client and provide custom-made solutions.

“True North knew we had their best interests at heart, and they knew we really wanted to build on their success as developers and visionaries in this city,” says David Van Hooren, senior construction manager in PCL’s Winnipeg office. “We’ve worked really hard with True North, and them with us, to understand what works and what doesn’t on the contract and development sides. We’ve also worked well together through the whole preconstruction stage to control the budget and manage the schedule and cost side, and we’ve done that through a pandemic, supply chain issues and inflation. We could see that cost creep coming, and they trusted us,” he says. 

Van Hooren adds that several pieces of innovative technology are helping the tower become an example of cutting-edge construction, thanks to strong relationships with the client, designer and trade partners. One example is digital design models. “We use digital design models to solve almost every problem on-site,” Van Hooren says. The model he refers to is a detailed three-dimensional digital reconstruction of the tower.

“With the model, we can zip around, hide walls and see what’s behind them, and detect clashes before the trades are in the field with their materials,” says Van Hooren.

Clash detection is analyzing a building’s design for parts that overlap or interfere and can’t actually be built. This routine part of any design-assist process is much improved by using a 3D model. “When everything is in 2D design, it’s much harder to visualize the clashes,” says Van Hooren. “A model makes them really jump out.”

The benefits of building from a 3D model don’t stop there. “We can also use it for 4D scheduling — that’s looking at the build over time,” Van Hooren says. “It’s like watching a LEGO project come together. We can visually see which elements are installed on day one, which are installed on day two, and so on. This makes it great for communicating with the client and with trades.”

Models of this sort are not new in construction, but their usage isn’t as widespread as one might think. That’s because, in a high-stakes and detail-oriented industry such as construction, adopting new technology doesn’t happen overnight. However, PCL has been able to use digital design models extensively on the Wawanesa tower because of the close collaboration between the designer, trade partners, the client, and PCL. That adds value for the client by saving time and money and reducing rework.

“The team reviews the model every week,” Van Hooren says, “and we have a modelling expert on our team who is really the glue that holds the trades, the owner, and the consultant together on the model.” While it’s taken a lot of trust and collaboration to reach the point where the team looks to the model first and the two-dimensional drawings as a backup, Van Hooren says the benefits pay dividends for both PCL and the client. This also demonstrates how technology and client relationships are linked, and success with one can create success with the other.  

PCL’s dedication to strong partnerships applies to Wawanesa Insurance, too. The company’s roots are planted firmly in Manitoba: it’s named after the small farming town west of Winnipeg where it was founded in 1896. This shared dedication to community made PCL the perfect building partner for the new North American headquarters. The companies both have roots in the Canadian Prairies and were founded within 10 years of each other in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Their shared commitment to the people and communities of Manitoba led to exceptional results on the Wawanesa NAHQ tower. The mechanical trade is locally owned and operated; the electrical trade is, too. The project’s drywall trade had been established in Winnipeg for decades. Local architects designed the tower. Local union carpenters and labourers were involved, too. “There’s a greater level of care that comes when the business owners are local, because we’re all invested in growing the capacity of this city and province,” Van Hooren says.

The tower, he continues, demonstrates how PCL is dedicated to Manitoba and proud to provide made-in-Manitoba solutions. “Whatever anyone else can do, we can do it here in Winnipeg too,” he says. “We can design and build Class A office space. We can support companies like Wawanesa Insurance, which is a great Manitoba success story. The building will keep the head office of a homegrown international company here. That’s big in this city.”

Everything about the Wawanesa NAHQ tower – the innovative technology, the trusting partnerships and the made-in-Manitoba solutions – has Van Hooren excited about PCL’s future in the province. “I really feel we’ve nailed how to do a development,” he says. “This is basically the best possible process you can have.”