St. Patrick's Elementary School, Victoria

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The scope of this project is the seismic upgrading of the existing 1958 gymnasium and the three-storey 1958 classroom building. A recent seismic assessment of the entire school identifies that the existing 1958 gymnasium and the three-storey 1958 classroom building require upgrading to meet current standards. The remaining 1955 and 1991 building components are single-storey wood frame construction. The 1991 building addition meets current life and safety standards. The 1955 building has a lower risk rating, and would perform much better than the larger 1958 buildings. 

It has been determined that this seismic upgrade project can proceed without impacting the 1955 building and in this way, a possible future school addition is not limited by proceeding with seismic upgrading at this time. The seismic upgrade will be completed during the summer of 2016.  The possible school addition will not proceed at this time due to financial constraints and present realities. 

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Project objectives and benefits

The project objectives are to: 

  • Ensure minimal interruption to school programming; 
  • Complete seismic upgrading to current life and safety standards for elementary schools equal to the performance levels of the recently upgraded St. Joseph’s Elementary School, and other area schools; and 
  • Plan for a possible future school addition in the location of the existing 1955 building 

The primary benefit of the project is the advancement of the seismic upgrading for those portions of the building most in need of improvement. This work can be completed primarily during the summer months, with minimal interruption of school programs, and without the relocation of students to portable classrooms. The work will focus on areas of the building with the highest concentration of students, and the lowest level earthquake performance. 

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Project team, roles and responsibilities

The implementation of the Catholic Schools Plan started with the assembly of the required consultant team, including project manager, architect, structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, civil engineer, landscape architect, geotechnical engineer, building envelope consultant, and cost consultant. This team was selected through competitive calls for proposals, and a panel evaluation of qualifications, previous related experience, methodology, and fees. This team has undertaken preliminary evaluations and designs for all three schools, and has followed through with the construction project at St. Joseph’s Elementary School. 

The scope of the St. Patrick’s Project is limited to seismic upgrading, and will not require the participation of the entire CSP consultant team. The key consultants are expected to be the project manager and structural engineer, with lesser roles for the architect, and mechanical and electrical engineers. Based on the previous competitive selection process, the team’s successful performance, and the consultants’ detailed knowledge of the buildings, it is considered appropriate and advantageous to proceed with the existing team for this project. 

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Consultant team

  • Project Manager > CitySpaces Consulting Ltd. (Victoria) 
  • Structural Engineer & Managing Consultant > Read Jones Christoffersen (Victoria) 
  • Architect > Garyali Architects Inc. (Victoria) 
  • Mechanical Engineer > AME Group (Victoria) 
  • Electrical Engineer > Applied Engineering Solutions Ltd. (Victoria) 
  • Environmental/Hazardous Materials Consultant > Northwest Environmental (Victoria) 
  • Seismic Design Standards Specialist > Onur Seemann Consulting (Victoria) 
  • Construction Manager > Durwest Construction Management (Victoria)

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Seismic design standards

The project’s structural engineer, Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), is a highly regarded firm with offices in Victoria and nine other locations across Canada. The firm started in Vancouver in 1948, and is now recognized as a national leader in seismic design for new and renovated buildings. The Victoria office has been the firm chosen for the majority of area school seismic upgrading projects, and RJC brings this experience and expertise to the St. Patrick’s School project. On the advice of the St. Patrick’s Parents Association, the Diocese has also engaged the services of Onur Seemann Consulting (OSC), specialists in seismic design standards. OSC has collaborated with RJC to confirm that the St. Patrick’s design will meet all appropriate seismic design standards and performance goals. All the OSC recommendations for seismic design standards and performance goals are being incorporated into the RJC design. 

There are many variables and complexities that determine the performance of a building during various types and intensities of earthquakes, making it difficult to describe the safety levels that are achieved by school seismic upgrading projects. In general terms, however, the design standards are intended to ensure that if earthquake shaking levels stipulated in the Building Code were to occur, the building would not collapse, and it would be possible for all persons to safely escape the building. It is likely that in an extreme earthquake event, the building may become damaged to the extent that it may require repairs or rebuilding before is could be re-inhabited. 

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School community information process

Engagement of the school community, including students, families, staff, and volunteers, has been a guiding principle of the Catholic Schools Plan. A communication strategy for this project includes website, letters/emails, and open house opportunities to both inform, and invite feedback on the Plan. Open house events have been successful in bringing all stakeholders together to inform, discuss, and build community around a project. Project communications will involve all three schools, and all school community members. The most recent open house event took place October 21 at St. Patrick's School.  Future open house events will take place as we develop plans for St. Andrew's High School. 

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Municipal approvals

The Consultant Team believes the required local government approvals will be limited to the issuance of a building permit. The school building is located partly within the City of Victoria, and partly within the District of Saanich. The municipal boundary, at the north end of Trent Street, is between the 1991 and 1958 buildings, and includes a small portion of the 1958 building. It is anticipated that a permit will be issued by the District of Saanich, as the seismic upgrading is located primarily on the parts of the building within Saanich municipal boundaries. However, a City of Victoria permit may also be required. 

The project does not include any increase in floor area or impermeable areas, and no substantive changes are proposed to the building or property. Once Diocesan approval is obtained for the project, early consultation meetings will be scheduled with the District of Saanich and the City of Victoria to review the project, and to confirm the building permit requirements of each municipality. 

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Neighbourhood information process

The municipal approval process for a building permit does not require formal public notification, or neighbourhood participation process. It is, however, considered “neighbourly” to inform the community about the project, by providing information about nature of the work, the schedule, and a contact number for any questions. The notification area and timing of a neighbourhood notification will be determined by Diocesan staff, providing ample notice prior to the start of construction. 

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Project approvals process

The Project will be managed by the Oversight Committee. Using the governance structure established for the Catholic Schools Plan, the Committee will respond to, and approve reports and recommendations generated by Diocesan staff, the project manager, the engineer, and the consultant team. Liaison with other Diocesan Committees will also be coordinated through the Oversight Committee. 

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Project schedule

The seismic upgrade work includes improvements both on the exterior and interior of the existing building. Work outside the building will involve diagonal bracing outside the gymnasium, and reinforcement of the concrete block walls of the existing three-storey classroom building. This outside work can be safely fenced from the School’s outdoor access and play spaces, and be undertaken without risk to staff and students during the school year. This work is estimated to take approximately 7 to 8 weeks, and the intent is to commence in April 2016, so as to be complete by the end of the school year. This schedule allows the contractor to transition from outside work to inside work without having to re-mobilize the work force. 

The inside work is more extensive, and is estimated to take 13 weeks to complete, which exceeds the normal summer break period. Given that the additional time exceeds the summer break by just four weeks, it is considered most cost effective and practicable to extend the summer break to accommodate the construction schedule. The alternatives of moving to another school, installing portables, or extending the work over two summers are considered disruptive, costly, and impracticable. The extension of the summer break can be accommodated within two school years, while maintaining the required number of teaching days in each year. A shortened school year in June 2016 can be accommodated within the 2015/2016 school year, whereas the later school start in September 2016 can be accommodated within the 2016/2017 school year. In each case, the June and September changes would each be two weeks, resulting in a four-week lengthening of the 2016 summer break. The proposed inside construction schedule is June 17, 2016 to September 19, 2016.

Renovation and retrofitting work is less predictable than new construction, and includes a risk that unanticipated conditions may be uncovered during construction, resulting in both additional work and delays in construction. The Diocese has been diligent in mitigating this risk by engaging a contractor to undertake the opening up of existing walls in critical locations, and to the extent necessary, to determine existing conditions. This work was undertaken by a qualified construction contractor in coordination with, and attendance by, the project’s structural, mechanical, electrical, environmental, and architectural consultants. Although the risk of uncertain existing conditions has been substantially reduced, there remains some potential for unanticipated building conditions, as well as other construction delays beyond the Diocese’s control, such as strikes or supply chain interruptions that could delay project completion beyond the extended sumer break. Appropriate schedule and price contingencies are included within the project, and there is a high level of confidence that the project can be completed on time and within budget. Should the project be delayed beyond September 19, 2016, a further contingency plan is that the interior finishes within the classrooms would have to be delayed, and finished during off-school hours after the 2016 school year starts. 

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It is a priority of the Diocese and School Board to substantially improve the seismic performance of the low performing buildings at St. Patrick’s Elementary School. There is also a high level of commitment by the School staff, parents, and students to see appropriate life and safety standards implemented for all school users. The project scope is realistic and achievable within the Diocesan financial resources, subject to diligent control of scope and costs to complete the project within schedule and budget. Successful projects also require clearly defined roles and responsibilities, good communications, and champions to see the project to completion. In these respects, the project is considered well positioned for success.

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