With more than 100 years of experience, Stuart Olson knows what it takes to complete a successful project: teamwork, communication and understanding.
By Bianca Herron
Founded in 1911, Stuart Olson Inc. is a full-service construction company serving multiple industries, including healthcare, industrial, commercial, hospitality, oil and gas, and education. Since its founding more than a century ago, the Canada-based company prides itself on successfully collaborating with others, a tradition it strives to uphold today, according to Project Manager Sean Kangas.
“We understand the importance of respect and focusing on the best interest of the project, and not just the individuals involved,” Kangas says. “I think this has made us quite successful in the industry and is the reason for our many repeat clients.”
One of Stuart Olson’s many repeat clients is the University of Alberta. The company is currently constructing a long-term storage building on the university’s south campus.
The Research and Collections Resource Facility (RCRF) will replace the existing Book and Records Depository (BARD). An off-campus high density facility that houses less frequently accessed library materials, research collections and University Archives.
“BARD opened in 1994 in a retrofit facility that was not originally constructed for this type of storage,” Kangas explains. “However, this new facility has been completely customized to suit all of the needs a facility of this nature would require. This includes optimal temperature and humidity settings for this type of collections. Obviously, that was something very important to the client to avoid degradation of their materials and ensure compliance with the Moveable Cultural Property (MCP) designation. The collections space within RCRF will have the temperature set at 18 degrees Celsius and about 35 percent humidity.”
In addition, it was also important for the university to relocate the collection from BARD to a location on campus that would provide better access to its student body, Kangas adds.
Construction of the RCRF began in April 2016, with project completion still on target.
“Due to the project delivery style, there was extensive preconstruction required,” Kangas says. “There was a lot of forethought put into all facets of the building structure, systems and overall functionality. One of the initial hurdles the team faced; was determining the proper foundation system that would be able to withstand the loading of the racking and would be suitable for the challenging soil conditions we had onsite. At the end of the day, the team decided to proceed with a structural slab, sitting atop 290 piles, give or take.”
Stuart Olson teamed with HFKS Architects to design the one-story storage facility. It will also accommodate staff operations, a mechanical mezzanine/penthouse and reading room for student and public use.
Stuart Olson’s subcontractors have been “a big asset throughout the project,” Kangas says. “Without them, it would be pretty difficult to construct anything.”
Stuart Olson has long-term relationships with many subs. However, “it depends on the project whether we use the same subcontractors or not,” he notes. “We want to ultimately ensure we can provide the client with the best product possible at the lowest price possible. So if that means we’re not able to use a preferred contractor that’s just the way it is. Of course we’re looking out for the best interest of our clients, which means being on budget and on schedule. So we do whatever is necessary to ensure that.
“Over the years, we have continued to get a lot of interest from the industry, which tells us that these subcontractors are still interested in working with us,” Kangas continues. “So that’s a pretty good indication that we’re able to maintain relationships based on respect and trust that we can continue to move forward with.”
Ultimately, when it comes to the successful completion of a project, it’s about the “power of collaboration,” Kangas concludes. “We have a great collaborative relationship with the University of Alberta and our entire design team,” he says. “It’s about being able to work as a team, successfully establish the parameters of the project and understand that what drives one person may not drive us all. So it’s about understanding everyone’s needs because it makes working together more seamless.”