Seeing two tower cranes rise above the Terrace skyline was a first for the Northwestern British Columbia community. The cranes signaled PCL Construction’s start on the new Mills Memorial Hospital, envisioned a decade ago. Double the size of the original hospital built in 1959, the new leading-edge facility will improve patient care and expand and strengthen health-care services in the region.
Kelly McAllister, a long-time Terrace resident, says those tower cranes inspired her to join PCL as an administrative assistant on the new hospital’s project team. “I thought the cranes were so majestic. We’ve never had anything like that in Terrace, and it was fun seeing the pictures and comments on social media and in the community. I think people here will talk about the cranes for many years.”
Two years after they went up, the tower cranes at the new Mills Memorial Hospital site have now come down, marking another turning point for the new hospital and the community. However, PCL’s impact on the community will last long after the new hospital opens its doors.
The site of the new Mills Memorial Hospital is big enough to require two tower cranes, both of which were assembled inside the building footprint. They provided maximum reach without interfering with each other as they moved heavy materials and equipment around the project site safely and efficiently.
The moment PCL began pouring the foundation and structural concrete, tower cranes moved formwork across the building’s footprint and up and down the excavated area. As construction advanced, the cranes moved heavy construction equipment, building equipment and materials, including small packers and excavators, air-handling units, structural steel, generators, and mechanical and electrical equipment.
PCL’s specialized crane team began planning the safe dismantling of the tower cranes at least six months in advance. Each step was carefully planned, engineered and executed.
The team used a smaller but mighty mobile crane to take down sections of the tower crane. The mobile crane’s placement, reach and load capacity were critical.
“We make sure the tower crane maintains its balance while we’re dismantling it,” explains Derek Pearce, senior construction manager with PCL. “First, we remove the counterweights for the counter jib. Then we dismantle and remove the jib, crane motor and counter jib. Finally, we dismantle the remaining tower and apex in the same order that the crane was assembled.”
Crews then backfilled the hole at grade where the crane stood and finished the concrete pours at each floor before closing off the building.
When the tower cranes disappeared from the skyline, their absence signaled a visible milestone for the community.
“When we dismantle a tower crane, the community understands the hospital is closer to completion,” says Pearce. “It means the building structure is complete and we’re focusing on interior finishes.”
Although the tower cranes temporarily added colour to the city’s skyline, Pearce says PCL aspires to permanently brighten the Terrace community beyond the construction site.
“Community engagement is important for PCL wherever we work,” says Pearce, adding that many of PCL’s Memorial Hospital project team members are working away from their home and families. “Giving back makes us feel like we’re a part of the community.”
PCL supports the Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation, which raises money for the Mills Memorial Hospital and the Terraceview Lodge, a local long-term care facility. The project team sponsored the foundation’s Festival of Trees and raised $10,000 for the foundation with a golf tournament.
“We benefitted from the funds PCL raised with their golf tournament and their sponsorship of our two key annual fundraisers,” says Heather Bellamy, administrative assistant with the Dr. R.E.M. Lee Foundation. “They anchored those two events, and their support encouraged our event coordinators to source further sponsorships.”
Though the hospital will serve the community for years to come, Bellamy says she’ll always remember the generosity and thoughtfulness of the people who built it. “I watched the final 360-degree sweep before the second tower crane was taken down,” she remembers. “PCL attached an orange flag on the end of the boom to commemorate Canada’s National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. It was a touching moment.”
The PCL project team has contributed to the community in many more ways, including assembling tents and building a stage for Terrace Riverboat Days, raising money for United Way of Northern BC, donating blankets to the Terrace Fire Department and collecting food for the local food bank.
PCL has partnered with both Kitselas First Nation and Kitsumkalum First Nation to introduce Indigenous community members to construction careers. It has committed to a three-year sponsorship of the Kitselas Five Tier System, a job skills and training program, and is hiring Kitsumkalum members who are qualified graduates of Jobs North, a Kitsumkalum-managed training program.
PCL has also made a five-year financial commitment to Coast Mountain College for a scholarship that supports local Indigenous students taking their first year of engineering or geoscience education in Terrace.
Up to 30% of the tradespeople working on the Mills Memorial Hospital live in the community, and Pearce says he hopes they’ll share with their family and friends the pride they feel knowing they were part of something special. “We want people to remember PCL fondly and we want our projects to be enjoyed by the community.”
For McAllister, the Terrace resident who was inspired to join PCL, working on the new hospital’s project team connected her to her childhood. She remembers spending hours on weekends at the old hospital visiting her mom, who worked there for many years. “I’d follow her around and visit with all the staff and keep her company as she cleaned the hospital,” she says. “It’s surreal to be so connected to the new build after all these years. Mills has been a huge part of my life, and I’m so grateful to be part of this legacy.”