June 12, 2009

Vancouver Convention Centre


The new Vancouver Convention Centre included about 17,000 tons of structural steel and 1,487 tons of steel joists.

Structural Steel

New Vancouver Convention Centre sports unique design

The unique design and shape of the new Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre was made possible by the fabrication of structural steel components by companies from B.C. and Quebec.

“One of the reasons steel was used on this job was because the spans were very long” said Michael Holleran, Canam’s engineering manager for western Canada and Ontario.

“To go with anything else other than steel was not feasible on this span.”

PCL gave the contract for the erection of the structural steel, joists and decking on the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre project to Canron Western Constructors.

Canam Canada was contracted by Canron to fabricate 3,000 tons of joists and steel deck for the expansion of the convention centre.

“The biggest challenge was shipping and erecting the very large and heavy trusses that span the exhibit hall,” said Harold Roberts, project manager with Canron.

“Some of the trusses were 21 feet deep and 100 feet long and were spliced together on the job site to make a span of about 200 feet. When you look at the expanse of open area and the ballroom, you see how enormous an area it is to erect.”

The use of the massive trusses allowed the construction of the largest waterfront convention centre in Canada.

The building has Canada’s largest ballroom, 52 different meeting rooms, a six acre green roof and an exhibit hall larger than the playing field at BC Place.

The project is technically an expansion, but it included the construction of a new facility, not far from the existing centre at Canada Place.

Holleran said the construction of the massive project required Canam to work closely with consulting engineering firm Glotman-Simpson Group of Companies to resolve some very complex problems at the project design stage.

“The key factors of building that affected us came early in the process because it was fast tracked,” said Rob Simpson, who is a partner with Glotman-Simpson.

“This means the project was tendered before the architectural design was finished. We needed to get a structural solution early that would deal with the major challenge of the large interior space and the green roof.”

Simpson’s firm did a careful layout of the wall trusses, which put the heaviest load on primary support lines. This allowed the structure to be adapted to the architectural design, as it was finalized.

The main challenges of this project couldn’t have been overcome without the use of Teckla steel software to model the project in 3D.

“The whole building was very tricky from design concept to 3D modeling. If it wasn’t for the 3D modeling, the building wouldn’t be up yet,” said Roberts.

Simpson agreed.

“We took some very complex information and moved forward quickly,” he said.

“Without the 3D model it would have been very difficult for contractors who are tendering to understand the building and tender efficiently.”

According to Simpson, if the design was done the old way, it would have taken a building full of detailers to finish the work in the same time. However, there would have been a lot more errors.

The convention centre has tripled in size, from 133,000 square feet (12,236 m2) to 474,000 square feet (43,608 m2).

This project required the fabrication of structural steel components, including bowstring and barrel joists and special bracing due to the unique shape of the building, which extends on three sides along the waterfront.

Roberts said the new convention centre was built with 17,000 tons of structural steel, 1,487 tons of joists, and the stairs and hand rails weighed 162 tons.

There was a total of 21,248 structural pieces. At the peak of construction, about 100-120 steel workers were on site and about the same number in the shop.

The structural steel was fabricated at Canron’s shops on Annacis Island in Vancouver and in Portland.

The joists were produced at Canam’s plant in Calgary, Alberta, and the steel deck at Canam’s Boucherville, Quebec plant.

Fabrication of the steel components was done from August 2006 to July 2007, and a total of 135 loads were needed to move these components to the construction site.

The steel erection started in October 2005 and finished in Sept 2008. The new convention centre opened on April 3, 2009.

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