Erickson Tower: When Building Envelope Renewal Also Means Rebuilding Trust

Building envelope performance is intertwined with the residents’ comfort and overall well-being. When we came in to renew Erickson Towers’ building envelope, we realized that it’s more than just construction work. 

Erickson Tower is a 20-level, cast-in-place reinforced concrete apartment building constructed in 1981.It’s located within lush hills in Burnaby, British Columbia at Lougheed Village, and a short stroll away from Downtown Vancouver.

Before the New City crew came in, Erickson Tower underwent two construction work: a replacement of the roofing membrane in 2014, and plumbing piping in 2016. The feedback —from residents, engineers, and strata—was not the rave review they were expecting.

By the time the Erickson Tower’s building enclosure rehabilitation program rolled out, there were already qualms about general contractors. This is not unique to our project at Erickson Tower. After all, it’s quite tricky for anyone to recover from less-than-good experiences—once bitten, twice shy.

Renewing Erickson Tower’s Building Envelope Components

Erickson Tower’s owners and managers wanted to strengthen the property’s moisture-sensitive substrates and concrete structures. They also wanted to improve the thermal comfort of its residents and modernize the property’s look.

Upon our assessments, we found that many of the building’s components didn’t meet the latest building code. Some of the structures, like the main entrances, were over specified, which created accessibility issues particularly for the senior residents. The usual remediation work was no longer viable, as the scope of repairs was already beyond what can be considered routine maintenance. 

What Erickson Tower needed was to turn back its clock while also putting on a new face. The project scope included waterproofing; building envelope renewal; exhaustive repairs; and protection, removal, and reinstallation of fixtures, equipment, furniture, and other structures.

Recalibrating Priorities

One of the biggest challenges we encountered was the intricate scope of work involved to bring all the renewal, restoration, and remediation work into completion. We came across many components that we can’t retouch or restore until we’ve repaired or revamped a structure connected to it.

For instance, we had to renew a part of the building’s envelope near the ground floor area before we can load concrete then do the waterproofing. Before we can work on the envelope, however, we had to set up the scaffolding first, but it should not get in the way of the courtyard where construction was being done. We also had to take it down as necessary as work gets done on the courtyard.

There were many unforeseen conditions and new developments that we needed to recalibrate our priorities and address conflicts in schedules. There was a lot of prep work done —removing a lot of concrete, installing additional shoring, getting substrates back, to name a few. We accomplished 80% of all the work to ensure the remaining 20% is done correctly.

Rebuilding Trust

We came into Erickson Tower and were met with skepticism due to their experience with a previous contractor. We not only had to prove ourselves in terms of our craftsmanship: We had to earn their trust back —the residents, engineers, strata council members, and other stakeholders. 

First, we initiated activities to help residents understand the how’s and whys of a specific work being done in a particular area of the building. While engineers and trades instinctively understand the technical aspects, many residents may not be aware of them. Many grievances from occupants usually spring from misunderstanding and unfamiliarity, so keeping them in the loop helps alleviates their unease.

There were two notable examples during our work in Erickson Tower —accessibility issues in the sliding doors, and condensation in the units. We had labor help the residents open and close the main doors while we worked on them, and we worked with a consultant to conduct air circulation measurements and verify our findings. We also had conversations with the residents on what was happening and how they can deal with moisture-related issues in their units.

Quality Craftsmanship Delivered 4 Months Ahead of Schedule

We overcame many complications —schedule conflicts, workload priorities, and a tricky scope of work. We turned the initial misgivings into long-term relationships, built on the back of the quality craftsmanship we delivered. Best of all, we accomplished the project four months ahead of schedule!

The key was to be proactive —this may sound clichéd, but we’ve been able to finish early and earn everyone’s trust by planning ahead and being responsive to everyone’s feedback.

The building’s new, modern look definitely got the attention of people in the community! So much so that Erickson Tower playfully drew some before-and-after comparisons with other buildings nearby!

I am especially proud of our partnerships with our trades and subcontractors who made it all happen. Many of these professionals were very specialized with their own unique skills and approaches, so their inputs can help improve how we do things. It’s these hands-on and human relationships that helped us succeed in the project.

If you’re interested to learn more about our work at Erickson Tower, check out our case study! We share an in-depth look into the project scope, before-and-after photos of Erickson Tower’s transformation, and the notable lessons we learned and challenges we overcame during the project.

Kai Liang, Project Manager

Kai Liang, Project Manager

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