Kindred Construction is presently elbows-deep in Vienna House budgeting sheets. Assuming the design pencils out, and following a favourable rezoning application, their team will put it all together. We caught up with President Bryan Reid, Vice President of Construction Jan Grooten, and Project Manager Sean Binns.
Why do you think you were awarded this work? What about your proposal closed the deal for the client?
Bryan Reid: At Kindred Construction, we have very relevant and recent experience with the Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency (VAHA). We’ve been a part of their project portfolio for the past four years and have worked with them on a very similar design and budgeting process, working alongside BC Housing and the lending partners across several sites. We have over two decades of experience working with BC Housing-funded projects. All that work is the result of the teams that we put forward for these projects and the strong relationships built with those groups from top to bottom. We bring people with the right skill set and experience for the project so that we’ll be able to slide into a project relatively seamlessly.
Can you walk us through what will happen between now and the building permit?
Jan Grooten: We are focused on budgeting at the moment. We are working with the consultants and the ownership group to take the project one step at a time through the budget process, starting with Class D, which is a ballpark estimate. As the design development progresses from schematic design through to construction documentation, we will work alongside the quantity surveyor through Class C, Class B, and finally A budgets, which is very precise. Every level requires more detailed information from all parties. And so, as the design progresses, we help the client make targeted, technical, and economic decisions. We have a clear understanding of the impact that the schedule and logistics have on the budget, and so we take an active role in assisting the owner with selection of materials and planning execution. We’ll go through the iterative process and progressively refine the details as we go along and narrow down the decision-making process.
You’re well into that process now. How did you get the ball rolling for the Class C assessment, and what comes next?
Grooten: Our first step was mainly based on accessing costing data from past projects, and our assessment of what will be needed for this build form, type, and its location. In the next iteration, we will have more specific detailing and specs available, which allow us to start engaging those trades that we’ve worked closely with for similar projects or build forms. And then we tender the project out to the trades who have been assisting in the process, and those trades that we believe cover the market correctly, as well as the trades the client has worked with successfully in the past. That tender process ultimately selects the successful trades, and we build the project.
You have done a fair number of high-performance and Passive House projects. What about Vienna House is different or unique or what’s most engaging about it?
Grooten: Over the years we have been working more and more on high-performance projects as the market shifts from traditional building methods to more sustainable ones. We’ve built some noticeable high-performance projects such as the UBC Boathouse, designed to minimize its impact on the environment, the new Pyrrha headquarters in Vancouver, which is targeting Zero Carbon Building certification, and COCO which is targeting to become one of the first ever LEED v4 Gold Certified projects.
Reid: Environmentally conscious building has to be the future of this industry. We are proud to be working alongside VAHA and BC Housing to achieve higher building standards in Vancouver’s construction landscape. Vienna House creates an opportunity where we’re doing something for those that could use some help and support in navigating this exceptionally tight housing market. The fact that it’s going to be branded and published as a project that other people will come to know and see the level of care and stewardship amongst the entire project team is an awesome benefit. We get to leave a lasting impact on a community here that we’ve been rooted in for over 40 years, which is going to be profound for over 100 families that occupy the development.
Is there still a perception out there that affordable housing should be built as cheaply as possible?
Reid: Supportive and affordable housing should not be perceived any differently than market housing. You want to have people who are proud of their homes and are excited to be in a beautiful space. One thing we see happening is that the city, in some instances, identifies parcels of land that might have some challenging aspect to them, such as proximity to rail lines, or high-traffic thoroughfares. If we want those buildings to be comfortable, then we need to utilize really good building practices. We need to build a very sustainable and robust product which is also good from a building maintenance perspective. You need to do something that’s going to have good sound barriers and foster great air quality, making sure that a healthy environment is fostered throughout the building.
Tell us a bit about some of the innovative materials and construction processes that you hope to incorporate in the Vienna House project.
Reid: Right now we are focused on making sure the project is financeable and streamlined to be cost effective. So, our approach is to be very diligent in our pre-construction process to deliver the Vienna House vision with the right materials, budget and schedule. Speaking generally, panelized construction is absolutely the more effective way forward than a conventional stick frame. And mass timber is a more sustainable building practice than typical build frame for a variety of reasons, one of which is the speed at which the building would come together. Those are both things that we’d like to see happen with Vienna House.
Sean Binns: The architect team has put together a few different proposals stemming around panelizing cross-laminated timber (CLT) options. So, primarily, we are considering various forms of panels for the superstructure. Pushing towards Passive House with prefabrication means having as much of the building factory fitted as possible.
Let’s touch on BIM for a second, Building Information Modeling. How will it be used in this project?
Grooten: BIM is one of the things that is most exciting about this project as it’s the most practical way forward, and it was already underway prior to Kindred joining the team. It’s great to see that the Passive House team has embraced the benefits of BIM. This allows us to use the BIM model to assist with quantity take-offs and estimating for the different budget iterations. We will also use the model to further refine the design with the Consultants and our Trades.
I’m not totally clear how BIM works, can you explain?
Grooten: Typically, when the architect completes the design in the 3D space, and design coordination has been completed, we will receive a set of 2D drawings from them. We then do some 3D modeling based on those 2D drawings to confirm that it’s constructible. The benefit of using BIM is that the design stays in 3D all the way through to construction, thereby providing process efficiencies through each step of the project. Furthermore, BIM allows for better coordination of prefabrication activities, allowing materials to be built accurately off-site. It also optimizes logistical planning which is especially important on this site given its constraints such as power lines, trolley lines, SkyTrain guideway, neighboring properties, and having to build on a slope.
We’re hearing a lot of buzz about widespread supply-chain disruptions and volatility in materials pricing. Do you expect any issues on that front?
Reid: I don’t think that it necessarily will impact our ability to deliver, though it is a concern we have to be on top of. The possibility of these disruptions will absolutely impact how we properly plan. I think that there’s a requirement to have early engagement with critical path trades and those that will have long lead items, including any materials or equipment that might be coming from overseas. Generally speaking, cost spikes can be navigated, if absorbed elsewhere. What cannot be absorbed is an inability to plan. If somebody just says, “We no longer have wood or glass,” then you’re in trouble. If somebody tells you that the cost of your wood is up 18 per cent, or glazing is forecast to increase, well that’s not good, but you can navigate it. You can try to figure out how to accommodate that increase. So what’s incumbent upon us over the next nine months is to properly plan to make sure that if there is anything that’s coming that’s not local, or even items built locally with parts coming internationally, we start preparing well in advance. The whole expectation for “everything to be done immediately upon requirement” is no longer going to be acceptable in construction standards.
There are a lot of partners and stakeholders on the Vienna House project. How are you navigating that?
Grooten: It’s a matter of making sure that you’re keeping everybody happy and accountable, and ultimately as the contractor, our goal is to hand over a set of keys at the end of the project to a client that is extremely happy with their experience with us. The success of our engagement is based on how well we bring different stakeholder objectives together and create one vision and a common goal that we all work towards. That’s our job.
What about the research and knowledge sharing legacy?
Grooten: We’re really looking forward to learning from the academic and research components associated with this project. We haven’t yet seen that in one of our projects, and it would be good to see how we can compare and utilize the data and insights that we get from this research to continue optimizing our own processes.