Top Projects 2009: Institutional/Winner

Art Gallery of Alberta

Love it or hate it, there's no denying the originality of the Art Gallery of Alberta. Designed by Randall Stout Architects, Inc. of Los Angeles, the $88-million, steel and glass structure consists of 85,000 sq. ft of gallery, public and classroom space, including a 5,000 sq. ft atrium.


It's a structure with panache, with a striking stainless steel ribbon winding endlessly in and out of the building. All that steel and glass were a challenge, even for experts like Empire Iron Works Ltd.

"You have to make sure all the members are in the right place to ensure none poke out of the skin," explains Thorsten Gaul, VP, Empire Iron Works in Edmonton. Empire used electronic data from the architect with Empire's software program to digitally define the locations.

This was reportedly the first project in Edmonton to be completed without any paper drawings. All data was generated and transmitted electronically, posing a learning curve for construction management contractor Ledcor Construction Ltd. and the subtrades. However, it also helped the team avoid problems virtually rather than having to fix them in the physical world, and made it easier to construct a facility requiring things like climate control systems.

Says Bob Walker, VP of Ledcor Construction in Edmonton: "When you use this program, the computer will tell you if there are conflicts between the lights and the duct work and the air diffusers and the sprinkler heads. In the traditional drawings you just lay one drawing over another and hope that there's no conflicts."

Using electronic data is controversial among architects, raising the question of who is responsible for accuracy. The precision accuracy of construction on this project was exciting for everyone involved. Ledcor now uses the Building Information Modelling software Rhinoceros 3D, and this project will be used to train NAIT and University of Alberta students.

Using electronic data also allowed for easy communication between parties. Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers and trade contractors hailed from Canada and the United States, but despite their locations, all were able to see the complex geometry of the building.

BPTEC-DNW Engineering Ltd. in Edmonton and DeSimone Consulting Engineers of San Francisco provided structural engineering while IBE Consulting Engineers Inc. of Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Stantec Consulting in Edmonton did the mechanical. Stantec was also the Canadian consultant for electrical engineering, provided by Lam Partners Inc. in Massachusetts.


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