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Burnaby approves $50M for 2 'sister fire halls' by 2023

The city has sped up the building of the SFU and Duthie Avenue fire stations by using a new project delivery model for the first time.
Duthie fire hall, Fire station No. 4
Still standing: The 66-year-old Duthie Avenue fire hall was found to be in need of “significant upgrading and additional space in the future" 20 years ago. The city plans to have a $24-million replacement built by fall 2023.

After decades of waiting, Burnaby citizens are poised to get a pair of shiny new “sister fire halls” in a hurry thanks to a new approach the city is taking to get the projects done.

Long time coming

City officials have known about the need for a fire hall on top of Burnaby Mountain and a new fire hall at Duthie Avenue (just west of the Burnaby Mountain Golf Course) for at least 20 years.

A 2002 report on the needs of the fire department listed an SFU Burnaby Mountain station as a priority, saying the university was one of three areas in the city where fire department response times “consistently exceeded the desired standard.”

And that was before shovels even hit the ground on the UniverCity development, which has since brought thousands of people to live at the top of the mountain.

The same 2002 study found the Duthie Avenue fire station, built in 1956, was already only “marginally adequate for current operations” and in need of “significant upgrading and additional space in the future.”

The same issues showed up again in a 2019 study that listed the building of a Burnaby Mountain station (Station 8) and the replacement of the Duthie hall (Station 4) among its immediate recommendations for 2020 to 2022.

The two projects were duly added to the city’s 2020-2024 financial plan, with $20 million earmarked for Station 8 in 2022 and $18 million earmarked for Station 4 in 2022.

But making it into the financial plan hadn’t done much for Station 4 before.

The city’s five-year financial plans have included funding for the design and construction of a new Duthie fire hall every year since 2008 – and yet the 66-year-old station still stands.

The SFU project showed some signs of life. It was added to a list of major civic projects that staff updates the city’s financial management committee on every month, but its completion date was eventually kicked to 2024. 

And the Duthie station never even made it into the monthly updates.

Then, boom. Last week city council awarded a $50-million contract to a team scheduled to get both projects done by next fall.

Integrated project delivery

Here’s what happened.

Facing pressure from council to speed up delivery of the fire halls, staff took a step back last fall and re-evaluated its traditional approach to getting big projects built.

In November, Tim Van Driel told the financial management committee that staff was exploring two models for the fire halls: “design build” or “integrated project delivery.”

“What’s the shorter one?” Coun. Pietro Calendino said.

The answer was IPD, and that’s the approach that eventually came out on top.

For traditional “design, bid, build projects,” the city put its vision on paper in “excruciating detail” with a designer before sending them out for bids from builders, according to James Lota, the city’s general manager of lands and facilities.

Councillors on the financial management committee have long complained about how long major projects are stuck in the design stage.

But IPD cuts down that time because the designer, builder and all the other trade partners are all hired at the same time.

“You’re developing the vision with the people who are helping you build it,” Lota said.

Upper limit of risk

The fire stations will be the city’s first-ever IPD projects. Before the $50.4-million contract was approved by council last week, the city worked with a consultant to help make sure the team it hired would be up to the task and the project budget would be good value for tax dollars, according to Lota.

When asked if IPD was a riskier approach, he said it depends on your definition of risk.

IPD isn’t good for “cost certainty” before construction, but it does define an “upper limit,” according to Lota.

“You’re not going to hit the estimate exactly, but in IPD you’ll know your upper limit of the risk,” he said.

That doesn’t mean the project couldn’t go over budget, but that’s true of any delivery model, but IPD gives the team and incentive to keep the costs down.

“If it goes over, the city will pay the cost, but they’ll pay the cost with no profit to the partners, so that’s the incentive for the partners to keep it under cost,” Lota said.

‘Sister fire halls’

Construction on the new fire halls, priced at $24 million apiece, will begin in September, and both projects are expected to be finished by late fall next year.

The SFU station is going in at the east end of Discovery Park, at the corner of Tower Road and University Drive. 

The site for the new Station 4 has not yet been announced, but it will not be built on the Duthie site, according to the city.

The stations will be “sister fire halls,” nearly identical in design, for more cost efficiency, according to Lota.

“You essentially just order two of everything,” he said.

The IPD team

  • Contractor: Kinetic Construction Ltd.
  • Architect: Johnston Davidson Architecture Inc.
  • Structural: Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd.
  • Mechanical Trade Partner: Altac Mechanical Inc.
  • Mechanical Consultant: Stantec Consulting Ltd.
  • Electrical Consultant: WSP
  • Electrical Trade Partner: AltaPro Electric Ltd.
  • Civil Consultant: WSP

(This story has been changed. The original said the new Duthie fire hall would be built on the same property as the current station. That was incorrect. We regret the error.)

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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