"It's the largest construction project Southern Health-Santé Sud has ever seen." 

That's from Implementation Lead Kyle MacNair talking about the new Portage District General Hospital construction currently underway. 

People can see the construction going on as they drive on roads nearby, but the feeling of how massive it actually is can't really be experienced until you stand inside the site grounds. 

They held the first tour of the grounds on October 24. PCL superintendent Chad Hawthorn led the tour. PCL is the construction firm hired for the build, and Hawthorn noted that concrete was being pumped for the first pouring of a section of the the main floor at Area C that day. 

Steel decking was being installed, also. There are three floors to the new hospital with the third being a penthouse section for large mechanical equipment alone. 

The framework for the new ambulance bay was completed, piles have all been hammered into the ground overall, and welding was taking place on the exterior of the building by the loading dock. Hawthorn explained hand drills inside of stairway wells were worked on and two lifting zones were currently being worked on with another near the main entrance. 

A crane was lifting steel up to Level 3 in area A as well as between areas B & D. 

Hawthorn said 110 workers are currently on site. 

Those entering the site must walk through a turnstile as each person is counted by a scanning device for security. The scan indicator turns green and people are good to go.

When workers come on site, after the turnstile is engaged, they face a screen every morning to see the site plan. He notes this kind of communication is a key part of their work. Workers see red-roped areas to avoid and what accesses they can use. 

Referring back to the steel being lifted and erected on the third floor, Hawthorn explained the workers were bolting and torquing beams on Level 3, seeing as that was where all the roof joists were positioned in the area. He noted the western wing was undergoing the same procedure. Hawthorn said the roof joists were all in, and workers continued to move along, bolting and tweaking, while cranes were lifting bolts to the men who were up there.

Hawthorn says there will be a total of 24 concrete slab pours. 

The decking for the hospital floor is steel, and its perimeter utilizes wooden block around it inside of which the cement is poured. Heating lines are used in certain edges around the building, conduit runs are throughout the cement, mechanical penetrations are created, and reinforcement is threaded throughout.

He says the natural gas line was installed the day before, running along a trench. The next step was to see the gas meter connected by mount.

Hawthorn notes once the gas is connected and running, the building will be heated. A large section will be tarp-wrapped to heat almost the entire building over the winter to pour concrete slabs.

The flooring must be heated from beneath and from below. 

"You pump the heat in there, heat the cue deck up, and the reinforcing. It's got to be above 5 degrees, and now we're able to pour and finish it in the winter."

While work was going on, the crew had to ensure that helicopters heading onto the heliport at the old hospital location beside the grounds had ample safety measures in place. He said cranes had beacons on top to lighten their presence. Hawthorn noted the helicopters were also usually flying in from the west and not over the site toward their landing, anyway, making it less of an issue than it might otherwise have been. At times, some did have to fly over the site, requiring them to call ahead and let the crew know so that the cranes were put on hold until after landing.

He notes piling was made in one section for the switch gear and transformer pads, adding that equipment is significantly big and heavy. 

The outbuilding was being worked on with workers getting all the void form and stego wrap done, to allow for an underlaying onto which to pour the concrete, which took place this past Friday. 

We got the chance to enter a crawlspace where the heat is on continually to allow for the cement pouring.

Hawthorn notes all the new underground "civil" is in for all the wastewater and water supply out. The fire hydrants are in. 

He explains the weather has greatly assisted them.

The Ambulance Bay had all of its structural steel completed with some bolting and torquing taking place last week. Angles were then to be implemented while temporary bracing held it in place until the steel decks were installed on the roof. 

When we walked onto the decking of the floor in the future emergency room, a ten-foot perimeter around the entire building was seen with in-floor heating lines ready to be embedded in poured cement. 

Hawthorn says the outer enveloping will begin in a week or so with roofing, and they'll start over the emergency room, the section closest to Crescent Road. 

"Beneath the flooring, piping was installed before the steel structure was put up in order to eliminate the need to haul the pipes in one-by-one, saving a lot of time," notes Hawthorn. 

The first pouring of cement began that morning at 7:30 a.m. and work would continue late into the night. Once pouring starts, it cannot stop until the slab is completely poured for that section. Hawthorn explained work on the pours would occur up until 2:00 a.m., making it a long day when pouring in winter. 

A surveyor was shooting onto the slab with a laser device to ensure the cement was perfectly level and smooth. He used a scanning system, enabling him to let the crew know if there were any dips or imperfections in the slab, so they can build it up or take it down.

"Everybody back in the day did it all by eye. Right now, there are laser levels. You move along with the laser level, and it beeps when you're perfect, build it up, take it down; whatever you need to. This is taking it a step further. You scan it as you're pouring it, and make it just perfect. If you look across, you can see it's looking very flat and these guys come along and give it a nice finish (with power trowels). He's able to stand on it now and start finishing it. So, this is roughly a 10,000-square-foot slab floor."

Hawthorn notes that so much of what is required is completely unknown to the average person. He outlines the most intensive work involved.    

"So much goes into the interiors," says Hawthorn. "That's a lot of work. There's the coordination of your mechanical, electrical, and all of that tying in with the finishes. A big, big thing is when a steal structure goes up, you got your steel deck coming in, your Nelson studs behind. Then you've got your mechanical, electrical rough-ins that follow, and you got to try and do it, letting everybody have their time and their space without putting them at risk with the work above. So, there's a lot of good coordination that goes on there, as well. I'd love to say there were highs and lows, but it's pretty fast-paced all the way through."

There's snow clearing in the winter to get workers to the workplace. Well-lit areas are required, making safety a big thing when snow flies, and keeping the building tight. When snow flies, he notes, they never stop. 

As we were leaving the site, Implementation Lead MacNair pointed out a large tree that was planned by the landscaping group to remain near the emergency entrance. 

"There's a lot of work to keep this tree. They must make sure there's a fence around it. It's a big centrepiece tree, so they kept it for the shade. It's not a light task to keep that tree alive here."

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