Posts Tagged ‘Construction’

beautiful curves of glass

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

If you’ve ever had to replace a window in your house, you know that working with glass is fiddly, exacting work. It needs to fit perfectly or you’ll get drafts and leaks. Glass has no tolerance for being the wrong shape or size. And dropping a pane from a window: well, that means another trip back to the store.

Now, imagine the challenges of installing the glass on the curves of our new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] rapidway station. As you can guess, it was a long, multi-stage process, done with great care and precision.

strength and safety

As with all our vivastations, the VMC glass was laminated and tempered for strength and safety. First the glass was cut into panes, and then it went through a special process to make it extra strong. This way, if it breaks, it crumbles into small granular chunks instead of sharp pieces.

To add more strength and make it even safer, we then laminated the tempered glass by sandwiching two glass sheets together around an interlayer. If the glass is broken, the interlayer holds the small pieces together instead of breaking into many little shards, the same way a car windshield stays together in an accident. The interlayer on the blue skylight glass is actually a different, stronger material than the interlayer used for the clear side glass, since the top skylight needs to support heavier loads from snow and maintenance workers.

creating curves

Fitting flat glass to the curved shape of the station was a challenge, because every surface of the steel roof curved over two dimensions, much like the outside of a ball. The first step was to divide the glass into a series of triangles. Three-sided shapes are easier to work with compared to four-sided shapes, the same way a tripod is more stable on uneven ground compared to a four-legged chair.

But this still left the challenge of fitting flat pieces of glass over a curved frame. The solution here was to adjust the bolts on the corners of the spiders [the stainless steel fittings that hold  the glass pieces onto the frame] so they’re each set at a different height. We knew how high each bolt needed to be from 3D scans, so we adjusted them before we installed the glass. By installing each corner of glass at a slightly different height, we recreated the curves of the tubular steel frame.

intricate jigsaw puzzle

The last step was putting the glass panels in place, one by one. Although they were all triangles, every piece was unique like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, so to avoid mix-ups they were carefully numbered before they were delivered. Once the glass panels were bolted onto the spiders and the final adjustments made to perfect the curve of the glass, we sealed the gaps with caulking to make the structure weather-tight.

Building this strong and beautiful glass-covered station took precision, but look at the stunning results! This landmark station helps set the architectural stage for future development at the VMC and makes the everyday experience of transit a beautiful one for our customers.

collaboration now and for the future

Friday, December 8th, 2017

Building our Vaughan Metropolitan Centre rapidway station required close collaboration with the TTC, since it’s so near to their new subway station – literally on top of it, in fact! The collaboration began at the design stage, and continued between our two construction teams as we brought the plans to life.

staging for success

With the new rapidway station being built in layers, and in the middle of the road, staging was crucial for both the vivaNext team and TTC. Staging means carrying out work in phases, such as shifting traffic lanes from side to side to give crews room to work safely. Another example was how we stayed clear of the TTC work crews while they finished the subway box, before we started on the concrete and rebar that went on top.

teamwork

Coordinating with the TTC, vivaNext crews shifted the traffic to one side while we built the road on the other side, and they worked on that side of the underground subway structure. Then, when we flipped the traffic back to widen the other side, the TTC also switched sides. A detailed planning process ensured we both did what we needed to do, in the right order and the shortest possible time, without tripping over each other.

Building the escalators and elevators from the TTC station to the BRT station also took detailed planning and coordination. Rules and specifications determine how closely crews can work to adjoining crews. The subway and rapidway stations share a very small area. If you’ve ever done a renovation, this was like having one group building the stairs, and another building the walls and hanging the wallpaper.

the collaboration continues

Most of that coordination is done now, with the vivastation area fully under our contractor’s control. We’ll continue to work closely with the TTC as we get to the final stages of signoff for the station equipment. On opening day, December 17, there may be some finishing touches still required, but we will open for service!

The collaboration continues even after the work is done, since the goal of the new station is to create seamless connections between Viva rapid transit and the TTC. We’re looking forward to a long, happy future of working together to get you where you want to be.

the concrete choice

Monday, December 4th, 2017

If you’ve ever renovated your home, you know about the endless options for flooring: tile, wood, carpet, stone. Once you select your material, you have to make more choices about colour, finish, how it should be arranged, even the kind and colour of grout. So many decisions! Of course, as with all design questions, your choices are shaped first and foremost by the space and its function: wet or dry? Formal or casual? How much wear will it get?

the floor dilemma

Our design teams faced similar quandaries when working out the details for the rapidway platform floor of the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station [Viva bus rapid transit].

All of our other open air vivastations have tiled platform floors, so the obvious choice would be to use that in the new VMC Station. But this station faced an additional level of complexity, being built above the subway extension.

The top of the subway station extends to just under the vivastation foundation, providing limited depth to work with. Installing the tiles with concrete underneath as required would use up space needed for essential power and communications cables. A concrete floor became the ideal alternative.

durable by nature

Concrete flooring for the platform works better in the space we have, and the durability means less maintenance is required, saving money down the road. The VMC Station floor will be getting a lot of use in a relatively small space. We know concrete will perform.

But, we also want great aesthetics. Fortunately, concrete is also versatile.

Outside the station along the sidewalks of Highway 7 are paver stones laid in a distinctive pattern. Inside the station, we’re re-creating that look with concrete. First, we built the concrete molds to match the sidewalk, then poured each section with matching colours of concrete.

functions like concrete, looks like tile

Because the platform floor continues beyond the shelter of the vivastation canopy, we needed to ensure it’s not slippery. Before the concrete set, every concrete slab was given a hand-applied swirl finish to provide a measure of slip-resistance. We have also done decorative work on each section to create the appearance of tile.

Just like you’d want for your own home, the final result will meet design goals in every way: strong, durable, easy-to-maintain, and functional. And nice to look at, too.

 

a vent shaft becomes a thing of beauty

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Building transit infrastructure comes with some mandatory requirements, and not all of them are pretty, at least not to start. Take a vent shaft, an absolute necessity for the subway to vent air and for fire safety. One of these vent shafts had to be located right in the middle of our new SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal.

design becomes experience

Who says vent shafts have to be ugly? At vivaNext, we know that the design of a place becomes the experience. SmartCentres Place Bus Terminal is a new breed of bus terminal – beautiful, airy and open, not at all like the stereotypical bus terminal of yesteryear.

In the middle of this, the eyesore of a square, unattractive vent shaft simply would not do. Since the vent shaft was already the centrepoint, we transformed it into the centerpiece, designing it as an artistic element of the bus station.

catching the light

The vent shaft will still be there, masked by a far more elegant exterior. Flat, stainless steel metal panels punched through with a flower pattern were fastened together to create a curved shape, almost diamond-like in appearance.

In the sunshine, it will catch the light. At night, it will be lit up from the inside. Through it all, the air from the subway will vent, serving its purpose, and proving that, yes, vent shafts can be beautiful.

safety in waiting

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Bus rapid transit (BRT) systems like viva use a variety of design features to make travel faster, but the primary feature is dedicated transit lanes that allow buses to bypass regular traffic. BRT systems around the world take different approaches as to where those lanes go. Some use separate lanes beside the roadway. Here in York Region, the vivaNext system uses median rapidways that run down the centre of the road.

median benefits

A major benefit of median rapidways is how they minimize conflicts with driveways and business access. However, this design requires passengers to wait for their buses in the middle of high-volume thoroughfares – such as Highway 7 West at the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre rapidway station. Utmost consideration was given to design strategies that ensure the safety of passengers while they wait for their buses.

crash-load strength

The VMC Station’s most crucial safety protection are the white concrete barrier walls which run the length of the station on both sides, separating the waiting area from traffic lanes. With the wall’s white architectural concrete finish, curves that echo those on the station roof and tapering design that flows into the planters and ramps near the crosswalk, this wall is a key aesthetic feature of the new station. But don’t be fooled by its good looks: this wall is a brute.

It’s designed to withstand crash loads, the potential forces involved in a traffic collision. Crash-proof walls have to meet strict criteria on factors such as design, materials and construction. These specifications are set by Ontario Provincial Standards, and before we received approval to begin construction, every element of the design was scrutinized to ensure it met or exceeded those requirements.

standard scrutiny

Design standards dictate things like the height and thickness of the wall, how much rebar – steel reinforcements – is incorporated, how much it will weigh, and how the wall will be fixed to the base. Standards apply to the type of materials used for the concrete wall, the aggregate used to mix the concrete, the steel used in the rebar, even the coatings on the steel. Likewise, standards dictate the construction itself, ranging from how the concrete is cured to how edges are finished.

Although safety comes first, we made sure it looks good, too.

So now you know all the thought that went into protecting you while you wait for your YRT/Viva bus, we hope you admire the design of the station, relax, and enjoy this impressive new addition to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

a modern take on the ancient dome

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Here’s a question: what do some of the most impressive structures in the world, including many of the great cathedrals of Europe and the Pantheon in Rome, have in common with our new bus rapid transit station at the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre?

The answer: they’ve all followed the same basic construction technique for building a dome, which has been around for at least 2,000 years.

Domes have traditionally been reserved for a select number of important buildings which need to be impressively open and dramatic. Another reason there aren’t a lot of domes is because they’re more difficult to build compared to standard rectangular buildings. We loved the idea of creating an open and airy space for the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre rapidway station, making it big enough for viva buses to drive right through. We also wanted it to be special, and symbolic of Vaughan’s new downtown.

Although building materials may have evolved over the past 2,000 years, the general approach for building domes hasn’t really changed. First, strong, deep foundations are constructed to take on the full weight of the dome. Then, a temporary support structure is built. Gradually the permanent exterior shape is created up around the support structure until the dome is closed at the top. Once the dome is complete and able to support itself, the temporary support structure is removed, piece by piece.

Ancient domes would have had wooden temporary support structures, with the outer dome made of stones added one at a time. Although the materials we used are modern, we followed the same classical construction technique. First we built a steel temporary structure. Over that we installed the station’s outer dome, a steel frame welded together one segment at a time.

With the outer steel structure fully installed and all the structural welding complete, we carefully removed the temporary support structure one piece at a time, which took a couple of weeks. After this process was complete, construction inside the station began.

All the weight of the station is supported by the subway structure underneath the station, and 25 metre-deep piles or caissons which extend underground to the same level as the subway.

With its glass and steel shell exterior and high-tech comfort and amenities inside, we know you’re going to love using our new station for its modern look and functionality. But you can be proud of the fact that, from an architectural standpoint, it’s joining a pretty special group of buildings that have been built to stand the test of time.

rain, rain, go away

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Our new rapidway station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is ready for the rain, innately designed to handle a downpour and keep those pesky puddles off the road.

Large structures like the new bus rapid transit station shed a lot of rain during storms. With the size of the station’s roof, the volume of water collecting from even light rain storms would be enough to create some pretty major puddles.

Water management has been a key design consideration for the station since day 1. Letting runoff drain freely onto the roads isn’t an option since the station is right in the middle of Highway 7. Here’s the rundown on how we’re managing runoff.

Water management strategy includes features built into the station’s design, and the design of the road and storm water management systems around the station.

Gutters run along the curved station roof between the skylight and the roof panels, designed to collect and funnel water to the ends of the station. At that point, brow gutters – shaped like eye-brows – will drain the water into downspouts on the sides of the station, which then drain safely into underground catchbasins connected to the storm water management system.

But that’s not all! Water from the middle portion of the roof, below the roof gutters, will drain off the roof onto the road. Generally at our vivastations, the road design ensures water doesn’t become puddles.  A very gradual slope away from the station to the curb lane directs the water into a series of curbside storm sewers and catch basins.

However, the VMC station is so much larger than the other stations, there’s simply too much water to direct across the road. Instead, we drain the water closer to the station.

We’ve built up the road surface so that its highest point is 1.2 metres away from the station.  Water draining off the station will be naturally directed back towards the station, running along the curb into a series of catchbasins and into the storm sewers.

We know that rain gutters and catchbasins aren’t the most glamourous features of the new station, but on a rainy day, we’ll all be glad they’re there.

what’s gravity & slope got to do with it?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

While we’re building the rapidway projects, it’s not unusual for us to be talking a lot about retaining walls. If you’ve ever wondered why so much of our work seems to involve retaining walls, the answer can be summed up in two words: gravity and slope.

Simply put, retaining walls prevent soil from sliding down a slope. If a slope is very gradual as you might see on a lawn or wide flowerbed, for the most part the soil and earth pretty much stays put. But where there is a slope over a short distance that creates even a difference in grade, the force of gravity will make the soil slide downwards.

stopping soil slippage

The steeper the slope, the more likely it is that the soil will slide. If you have a lawn that’s even a few centimetres higher than an adjacent driveway or sidewalk, you’ll know that without some kind of edging, eventually the dirt will flow down onto the pavement.

Retaining walls are like edging; they’re structures that keep the soil in place where grades need to change within a short distance. And retaining walls can be short or high. For example, a curb is essentially a very short retaining wall.

where retaining walls fit in on the rapidway

In many stretches along our rapidway construction zones, the adjacent land is either higher or lower than the roadway – in some cases the difference is only a few centimetres, in others it’s a metre or more.

Because we’re widening the road, that difference in grade level now has to be made up over a shorter horizontal distance, making the slope steeper than it was before. In areas where the resulting grade difference between the road and the land slope is very steep, a retaining wall is needed to keep the soil in place.

where design is king

Some of our retaining walls are essentially high curbs; others are high structures requiring handrails and complex foundations.

Every one of our rapidway segments has a significant number of retaining walls, each requiring its own design, approvals and construction process. In all cases, retaining wall construction takes place once utilities have been moved out of the way, and needs to be finished before road widening can be started.

With so many retaining walls forming part of the new streetscape, design considerations are of major importance. A lot of effort goes into ensuring that the new retaining walls contribute to the aesthetics of the streetscape as well as be functional.

Different materials and finishes are used for different walls, from pre-formed wall blocks similar to what you’d use in your own garden, to poured concrete with decorative exterior designs.  Design approaches vary depending on how high the wall is, what kind of foundation it requires, and what it is adjacent to. And if the wall or adjacent slope is especially steep and the wall is next to a sidewalk, it will also get a specially designed handrail.

So the next time you see a bulletin advising about retaining wall work, think of gravity and slopes, and you’ll know that’s why we’re building these additional structures.

For information on ongoing vivaNext projects, be sure to subscribe to email updates, and follow us on Twitter. Questions or comments? Comment below or email us at contactus@vivanext.com.

#MyYongeStreet Selfie Contest

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

#MyYongeStreet Selfie Contest

Get your selfie stick ready, the #MyYongeStreet selfie contest launches on Monday, August 14!

We’ve partnered with the Town of Newmarket and the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce to bring the summer of selfies to Yonge Street. Enter for a chance to win weekly prizes or one of three grand prize shopping sprees. We’re proud to support the businesses that make Yonge Street a great place to stop, shop and dine.

here’s how it works

Take a selfie with your purchase from a business on Yonge in Newmarket, share the image on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #MyYongeStreet, and you’ll be automatically entered into weekly random draws for a chance to win one of three Yonge shopping sprees. You can also submit your image to contest@vivanext.com for a chance to win.

contest dates:

  • Monday, August 14 through to midnight on Sunday, September 3, 2017

it’s easy to enter:

  1. Visit a business within the Yonge Street rapidway construction area in Newmarket [between Savage Road/Sawmill Valley Drive and Davis Drive].
  2. Take a ‘selfie’ with your purchase in the business on Yonge.
  3. Post your selfie on Twitter or Instagram, or email to contest@vivanext.com, using the hashtag #MyYongeStreet.

prizes!

  • Each week, three lucky winners will receive $100 to be spent in the store where the winning selfie was taken.
  • There will be three grand prize draws for Yonge Street Shopping Sprees valued at $1000, $750 or $500.

To learn more about the contest, visit vivanext.com/selfiecontest.

keeping our workers safe

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

keeping our workers safe

2017 is a huge year for the vivaNext program, with rapidway and terminal construction projects under design or taking shape in Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and Vaughan.

Underlying all this construction activity is one constant priority: keeping the construction crews safe.  Obviously, our contractors aren’t unique in their commitment to safe work practices – worker safety should be a top priority for any organization. This priority is backed up with the force of law. With a few limited exceptions, every worker and work space in Ontario is required to meet the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario [OHSA].

Under the OHSA, all companies have to develop a health and safety policy, setting out management’s commitment to providing a safe workplace. To ensure this commitment is then followed up by action, the OHSA requires employers to develop and implement a safety program to implement the policy. Safety programs are required to address general safety precautions such as worker training, fire prevention and first aid, as well as procedures and requirements addressing the specific workplace hazards company workers may face.

At a minimum, vivaNext contractors are required to follow the OHSA rules, and to take all possible steps to ensure the safety of their crews. Supervisors and crews involved in roadwork are trained in safe practices working around heavy equipment and active traffic lanes, and on the precautions needed for work involving trenching. There are multiple and stringent requirements for work around utilities.

Safety on structures like our new Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] station at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [VMC] calls for very extensive safety training. Workers working up high, like the welders, painters and crews installing the steel frame and glass, are trained in and must follow rigorous safety procedures at every step of their work. Explicit requirements are established to manage multiple activities being carried out in one area, to prevent workers accidentally encroaching into the space where other activities are underway.

Safe work requires every step to be planned in advance, and supervisors and crew are all expected to look out for each other, and to immediately flag anything they think might be unsafe. Any incident, no matter how minor, is carefully analyzed to identify potential lessons learned, to avoid it happening again. Everyone working on our projects, including our contractors, trades and all of us at vivaNext, is encouraged to point out anything they think might be a potential risk.

By empowering everyone to make safety their own personal priority, from the individual worker to the members of the senior management teams of vivaNext and our contractors, we can know that we’re doing our best to keep the crews who are widening our roads and building our stations safe and sound.