Building a 25-Year Partnership, One Storey at a Time

With a history that goes back almost to the birth of Confederation, PCL Construction is celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday by reflecting on the role that PCL and its clients, the projects they have built together, and the communities they have served have contributed to the country’s growth over the past century.

In this PCL Canada 150 profile, PCL Constructors Canada Inc. (Toronto) looks back on building Scotia Plaza, an icon of Canada’s financial core.

Toronto’s Highest Record-Setting Tower

In the spring of 2016, PCL—in partnership with current owners of Scotia Plaza, Dream Office REIT and KingSett Capital - embarked upon a major revitalization and modernization of the iconic Red Napoleon granite tower. With construction totaling approximately 60,000 square feet, the project modernized most of the building’s interior. It was a fitting upgrade, completed just in time for the celebration of Scotia Plaza’s 25th birthday this year, which also signifies its 25-year relationship with PCL as its original builder.

The construction of Scotia Plaza was an ambitious project from the start. Excavation for the tower extended 85 feet, the deepest for a building in Canada’s history at the time. After reaching substantial completion in 1992, it stood as the second-tallest building in Canada. It has since been designated as Canada’s third-tallest building and North America’s 22nd tallest.

Construction of Scotia Plaza

The tower consists of 68 storeys above ground, and six storeys below. The famed red granite used for its exterior was quarried in Sweden, cut and polished in Italy, and imported to Canada. The tower itself incorporates the heritage Beaux-Arts Bank of Nova Scotia building, which is connected to Scotia Plaza by a 14-storey glass atrium that features a 40-metre metal structure, referred to as the Circle of the Provinces. Home to 40 retail stores and with a structure that accommodates up to 12 corner offices per floor, Scotia Plaza has long been regarded as some of Toronto’s most coveted office space.

The construction of such a colossal Canadian icon came with a wide variety of complications. Located in what would become the financial district of Toronto’s downtown core, the project site was very tightly constrained owing to its close proximity to a heritage building. Additionally, with construction starting in the midst of Toronto’s building boom, workers were hard to come by.

Campeau Corporation, owner of the development at the time, called for an extremely fast schedule, further complicating the already challenging task standing before PCL’s team.

Building Partnerships

The sheer scale of a project like Scotia Plaza requires intense planning and cooperative synchrony between all project partners. PCL and WZMH Architects, the design consultants for the original Scotia Plaza and its 2016 revitalization, worked tirelessly with consultants and trades to overcome these challenges. This highly demanding project required the best of the best, from site superintendents to construction managers, in order to construct Toronto’s second-tallest tower.  

(Left to right) assistant superintendent Dave Smith,
low-rise superintendent Brian Delichte, and tower
superintendent Barry Reynolds.​

To make up for the site constraints, PCL rented a parking lot across the street from the site. It was used not only to store materials but also to pump concrete beneath the street and up into the building. This saved on crane time, and made it possible for the team to build two storeys per week. Using self-jacking steel formwork minimized crane time even further. Workers were employed day and night throughout the project, and were able to get it to the finish line with time to spare.

“Each and every obstacle we encountered was overcome through teamwork and innovation,” said Brian Delichte, who took an active part on the project as its low-rise superintendent.

Eight years and $200 million after its 1984 start, Scotia Plaza emerged and reshaped the Toronto skyline. In the quarter-century since its completion, PCL—in collaboration with long-standing project partner WZMH, has been involved in every significant improvement that has taken place within those red granite walls. The journey of the building’s creation and its revitalization have led to new and strengthened relationships with partners such as current owners KingSett Capital and Dream Office REIT.

Relationships such as these are a reflection of our company’s dedication to every building that PCL has raised throughout Canada, and a testimony to the valued partnerships gained along the way. 

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