Preserving The Past Helps Sarnia's Economy
By Jennifer Keating (First Monday)
It’s the best kept secret in town. A multi-million dollar project in Sarnia is underway and very few know about it. Local companies involved said it is one of the largest projects they have ever worked on.
“About a year ago we got the specs for a design build project worth $7 million dollars,” says Tom Collins, co-owner of Collins-Ferrera Engineering Inc. “We were excited at the opportunity to work on a project of this scale.”
American Railcar Industries Inc. (ARI) is expanding its current facilities located in the Aamjiwnaang First Nations Industrial Park. The new 60,000 square foot building will allow the company to add paint and lining to its current capabilities, making the plant a full service railcar repair facility. Collins says the design features two sandblast systems, bays for lining tank cars and two spray paint booths.
Collins-Ferrera Engineering Inc. worked on the plans last year which entailed a trip down to ARI’s Manufacturing Facilities in Arkansas. “We wanted to see first-hand what ARI wanted from the designs,” says Collins. They designed all the electrical and mechanical services of the building, which includes HVAC systems, ventilation and plumbing.
Henderson Builders Ltd. was one of three firms asked to bid on the design-build project by ARI. Henderson Builders was selected based upon their bid and the design team they brought to the project. Henderson Builders broke ground in the fall. “We are probably 25% complete,” says Scott Henderson, president of Henderson Builders. “We are at the stage where we are enclosing the building, which is hard for February.” Dozens of people are working on the site, but the winter weather has proved difficult to work through at times.
The construction began right away because the facility is built as a design-build. “In a design build situation, you are working in the budget of what the contractor has already quoted for the project,” says Collins. “We are dealing with a client that is used to the southern States so they are not used to this climate. There are different even stricter guidelines for things such as painting and ventilation issues to address.”
Henderson likes design builds because it allows the project to begin right away. “It allows you to start the construction faster without having the entire design completed,” says Henderson. “We know the specs and we go from there. We knew the size of the building and the height.”
“It works really well for less complicated projects,” says Collins. “You would not do design build concept with an office building where there are smaller details to consider. It is more difficult for the trades to bid on that job because they are bidding on the size of the job, and have to think of what will go into the building instead of looking at the actual drawings.”
This is the third design build job that Collins-Ferrera and Henderson Builders have worked on together. They feel that this method is growing in popularity. “It’s becoming more and more common. Typically, the engineering firm would deal with the client, and then the client deals directly with the construction company,” says Collins. “This way the engineering and construction companies are dealing with each other, as well as the client, for approvals and further detailed work.”
A project this size will have big economic spin-offs for the city, says Henderson. “I think it has already benefited the community. ARI hired local businesses to plan and build the facility. Afterwards, the paint and welding material will be purchased locally.”
The US-based company is a supplier to the North American freight car market. ARI manufactures new rail cars and repairs existing products for the covered hopper and tank car markets. Once the building is complete, ARI will be hiring more staff to operate the new addition. The exact employment number is still under consideration. The project is scheduled to be completed by early summer.