Every time the PCL team sets foot on The Hospital for Sick Children’s (SickKids) Patient Support Centre (PSC) project site, they look across the street at the hospital’s seven-storey atrium. Often, they have an audience of young onlookers who beam with excitement when they see the crane hard at work or an excavator in action.

This exact scenario fuels PCL’s passion to help build a new SickKids

Located on Toronto’s hospital row, the world-renowned SickKids is Canada’s largest pediatrics’ health care facility, and it has provided life-changing care to many patients and families. The hospital’s Patient Support Centre is kicking off a full campus redevelopment, Project Horizon, which aims to create an inspired hospital of the future and transform the level of care its patients receive.

A modern wellness-focused tower, the PSC will be a 22-storey education, training and administrative hub for critical educational, training and administrative resources at SickKids. Supporting over 1,000 world-class trainees, students and learners annually, the PSC will house the SickKids Learning Institute and Simulation Centre for hands-on teaching.

The legacy of SickKids inspired PCL to persevere through hurdles and unexpected challenges, and by September 14, 2022, the team successfully topped off the Patient Support Centre.

“We are incredibly proud to be celebrating this monumental moment alongside the SickKids, SickKids Foundation, our partners and the hundreds of tradespeople who have been integral in bringing this project to life,” says Monique Buckberger, vice president and district manager of PCL Toronto. “Topping off the Patient Support Centre is much more than a construction milestone. It is a representation of each team member’s personal connection to SickKids, as well as our shared passion and drive for delivering this impactful project for the community.” 

The first phase of construction at the Patient Support Centre involved demolishing the existing Elizabeth McMaster Building and pedestrian bridge connected to SickKids’ Atrium building.

The team worked hand in hand with SickKids early in the construction process to plan for obstacles and minimize disruption to hospital operations. This included investigating the existing Atrium building connection to determine which services would be impacted during the demolition and provide proper coordination with vendors to ensure the separation of work and hospital areas.

PCL conducted coordinated tests with the hospital’s occupational health group to test noise levels in the area until they were within allowable range. During removal operations, appropriate signage and routing maps directed staff, patients and families and the general public around work areas.

A similar challenge arose when it was time to erect the steel structure for the new bridge, but the PCL team knew exactly what to do. Strategically scheduling the final erection over the weekend, PCL worked with the client to shut down the main entrance of the hospital. Ensuring the utmost safety and minimal disruption, PCL assembled the structure of the pedestrian bridge on the ground and lifted it into its place. With the skeleton of the bridge complete, the glass paneling will follow suit. 

Emergencies are part of everyday life in a hospital setting, and SickKids is no different. SickKids’ heliport is one of two in the downtown Toronto core that is shared among neighbouring hospitals. With the eastern flight path being along the south boundary of the project site, it was imperative to develop a communication procedure with the hospital.

“We understand how crucial it is to have the flight path clear for the helicopter’s arrival. PCL worked with SickKids and NAVCAN, Canada’s air navigation service provider, to select and locate the cranes to ensure they were away from the path,” explains Ryan Evans, PCL Toronto construction manager. “We also developed a procedure for the hospital to notify the team of incoming and outgoing helicopter traffic. All work would be paused until the helicopter passed safely.”

Being a good neighbour includes immersion in the community and creating an exciting environment. Inspired by the everyday efforts of the hospital and its dedicated staff, PCL joined forces with its partners to get in on the action.

While the holidays are always a magical time of year, PCL wanted to do something extra special for the children at SickKids. The team recruited the help of Santa Claus, also known as our trained crane operator, to climb into the crane cab and wave to all the children watching from their windows. To accompany Jolly Old Saint Nick, the site gates were bedazzled with blow-up decorations and lights to display PCL’s festive spirit.

Almost every construction site has an unornamented hoist that moves up and down all day long. To reflect the playful, high-spirited nature of SickKids patients, the hoist company helped PCL give the hoist a makeover. Now, the patients and families see the hoist painted with fun kid-friendly characters and positive messages.

When working alongside a monumental hospital such as SickKids, it is hard not to appreciate what they stand for and want to be part of it. Embracing SickKids’ commitment to safe and positive space for its community, PCL vowed to do the same by engaging with our community and being good neighbours to the public, our client and the patients.

“We work extremely hard at being good neighbours because we understand the impact we have on the children, families and even the staff at the hospital. Knowing the legacy of SickKids and what it stands for makes it easy to come in to work every day,” Ryan says. “When you hear the stories of those who have received the help of SickKids, the significance of the work we do truly hits home.”