Piling Canada

State of the Art

Written by Vanessa Kunderman
May 2015

Bermingham contributes to the construction of a culture-boosting art gallery in Saskatchewan

Saskatoon has always been a can-do city. In the 70s, when Saskatoon wanted to host the Canada Winter Games, the flat prairie province didn’t even shudder at the thought of building a mountain for skiing.

When the idea for an agrarian-inspired world-class art gallery came across the desks of city council, the Remai Art Gallery was an unquestionable new project.

Saskatoon has always had strong cultural interest; the orchestra, theatre and street festivals are just small blades in this province’s massive crop of culture, and according to www.remai.ca, “74 per cent say Saskatoon’s growing city needs a cultural facility.”

Thanks to the Energy Boom from recent years, Saskatchewan’s population has tipped over the one million mark, with most of the inhabitants flocking to Saskatchewan’s largest city, Saskatoon. The booming population has further increased the province’s lust for the arts, even more so than its colourful history.

Named for Saskatchewan philanthropist, Ellen Remai, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certified Gallery is a piece of architectural art, itself. With high-performance, eco-friendliness and sustainability at its core, the gallery has already accumulated architectural awards.

The real task at hand was building the structure.

Bermingham retained designer Matthew Janes of Isherwood and Associates to design a key component to the project: the shoring wall. Despite the vast beauty of the land- scape being the main influence and inspiration for the design of the new gallery, the province’s flat topography poses risks for flooding. The Remai Art Gallery is nestled in along the Saskatoon riverfront and the wall was a necessary component to the gallery’s practicality. As one of the largest shoring walls being constructed in Saskatoon at the time, the project garnered its fair share of attention.

Bermingham was brought on the project to construct the caisson wall which facilitated construction of the foundation for this new art centre. The working area needed to remain dry, creating the need for the watertight structure thanks to the risky landscape. The foundational details that Bermingham saw to fruition are just a small part in the construction of the highly anticipated gallery, but without them the project would never get off on the right foot, let alone stand tall.

The undertaking not only expanded Bermingham’s visibility in Saskatchewan, but it proved they were capable of much more than just identifying as a pile driving and drilling company.

“Everybody out there in the drilling community was there watching us drill. It was really incredible,” said Bermingham’s contracts manager, Andrew Weltz. “It was interesting to see just how many people were captivated by the project – we were quite flattered.”

The wall was built entirely with a tied back secant pile wall (contiguous caisson wall), and was completed in an organized yet non-linear fashion. Bermingham drilled meticulously so that the existing gallery that lay adjacent to the new property wouldn’t become damaged.

Widespread flooding quickly became an issue during the springtime construction to protect the gallery, underscoring the need for the wall. Clifton Associates installed piezometers on the property to thoroughly monitor the water fluctuations. The piezometers were imperative to the project in order to assist Bermingham in making sure the groundwater didn’t exceed the necessary levels.

Despite the extreme flooding and the organization required to maintain the water levels, Weltz says the biggest challenge wasn’t the flooding; it was the geotechnical difficulties. The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crosses right through southern Saskatchewan, littering the soil in boulders and cobbles, thanks to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

“We overcame it through determination and perseverance,” said Weltz, “And, of course, having the right drilling tools was a big component.”

The mess of heavy stones were annihilated thanks to the Bauer BG36 drill, and a 70-tonne crane-mounted CMV drill fixed on a Kobelco BM700. The prairie geology bowed down to the machinery and the expertise of its operators, including Edward Christensen and Steven Buzzel, who operated the caisson drill rigs, and tieback driller Jaime Watson, site superintendent Frank Saleh and anchor foreman Eric Rivest.

Vertical drilling of 880-millimetre diameter caissons decorated the property. Seventy-nine smaller diameter tiebacks were included to aid the wall in lateral support. The tiebacks were 150 millimetres in diameter and nine metres in length.

After declaring that the Remai Art Gallery would house the largest Picasso collection in the world, the gallery was immediately thrown into a word-class categorization. There were 405 famous Picasso linocuts donated to the Remai Art Gallery, in hopes that the prairie showcase would draw international acclaim. Having the Bermingham name attached to the project meant an even brighter spotlight on the company and their potential future projects.

“This job definitely helped to expand our exposure and visibility in Saskatchewan, from the industrial, infrastructure and residential markets to the institutional market,” said Weltz.

Bermingham is no stranger to large-scale projects. The Sir Adam Beck Power Station Cofferdam was a high- profile North American civil engineering endeavour that Bermingham attached to their belts in 2006, as well as 4.5 kilometres of interlocking pipe pile combi-wall in downtown Toronto. Most recently, Public Works Canada’s one-kilometre long loading dock in Sept Isles, Que. was built to accommodate the world’s largest ships – Chinamax vessels that carry Quebec’s iron ore directly to China.

With the anticipation from a different demographic for the Remai Art Gallery’s spring 2016 launch, Bermingham’s inclusion in more large-scale artistic projects seems imminent.

Despite the high-profile project’s ambitious and challenging schedule, Bermingham completed the caisson wall in three short months.

The Remai Art Gallery is one of numerous projects to assist in Saskatchewan’s objective to develop the river and downtown areas in Saskatoon. 🍁

Category: Projects

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