It was the middle of a December night in 2016, and the historic Mount Royal Hotel in the Rocky Mountains was on fire. Twelve hours after getting the call from hotel owners, our Special Projects division was on-site to help make the building structurally safe and begin getting this landmark ready to welcome back guests.   

Our Special Projects division focuses on unique construction jobs and has significant expertise in hospitality, building remediation and heritage renovations. With experience revamping historic properties such as the Fairmont hotels in Banff and Calgary, as well as Calgary’s Hillier Block, the Special Projects team was well positioned to rebuild the second-oldest hotel in Banff. 

The first priorities were to properly secure and abate the building. Construction work happens quickly in an emergency, and we integrated closely with the consultant design team to provide practical solutions to maintain the tight design and construction schedule, which were taking place simultaneously. Abatement happened alongside site reviews. Design and installation of temporary structural support in the hotel’s retail spaces allowed us to install mechanical and electrical infrastructure and build second-floor offices during completion of the final structural design. 

As the team peeled back the walls, they uncovered construction from four distinct 20th-century eras, each of which employed its own materials and techniques: in the 1900s-1920s section they found straw and hay mixed with concrete, and from the 1950s flooring built with laminated two-by-sixes. 

Rather than rebuild in a uniform style, we embraced the nuances of early-to-mid-20th-construction. We reimagined the space in a way that pays homage to each era revealed in the aftermath of the fire, diligently reviewing each update to the design drawings and walking the site to make sure elements would work as drawn, since the as-built drawings had been lost in the fire. To keep construction moving while completing the detailed design, we arranged with the consultants to allow structural or wall layouts to proceed based on existing layouts or similar conditions within the building.  

Parts of the hotel that survived were, with some ingenuity, fixed up to good effect. We found a way to reuse the existing plumbing rough-ins in the section of the hotel least damaged by the fire. With the consultant we surveyed and reoriented each washroom to redeploy the plumbing and still use the specific left- and right-hand shower bases and sink vanities without having to reorder material. 

Response to the rebuild has been so positive that after the reopening, the Mount Royalrose several spots on TripAdvisor’s ranking of Banff’s best hotels. 

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