BuildEx Vancouver expert panel tackles a daunting project

Top row front left: Chris Maskell, NFCA c.e.o.; Kirk Schutz, project manager, PCL Constructors Westcoast; Rick Wagner, president, Maxwell Floors. Bottom row from left: Sherri Wildman, Canadian architectural manager, Ardex Americas; Anthony Gallo, western regional sales director, Nora by Interface; Monica Baillie, senior architect and principal, Landmark Architecture.

Their own perspectives

Early in 2019, the NFCA applied to speak at Vancouver Buildex 2020. The subject: getting the specification right for flooring installations and how starting the conversation early in construction can save time, money and avoid delays for everyone involved. Buildex accepted the proposal but came back with a suggestion — could NFCA expand on the idea by assembling a panel of experts to discuss the topic from multiple perspectives using a cross-section of the construction industry.

The result was a panel consisting of key members of the construction team involved in the ongoing Vancouver General Hospital Operating room renewal project — a high profile, complex project involving the renovation of 16 operating rooms. A major challenge for this project was the existing 40-year-old concrete slab, best described as ‘a dog’s breakfast,’ which had to be remediated. Thousands of deep cracks and fissures had to be filled and hydraulic cement underlayment poured to correct the slabs. To add to that, this had to be done with live operating rooms working 24/7 immediately below the slab. Stressful for everyone to say the least!

Team built on collaboration and communication

And so the construction manager (Kirk Schutz, PCL Constructors Westcoast), the flooring contractor, (Rick Wagner, Maxwell Floors), the hydraulic cement underlayment supplier (Sherri Wildman, Ardex Americas), the floor covering manufacturer (Anthony Gatto, Nora by Interface) and the specification writer (Monica Baillie, Landmark Architecture), all agreed to participate on the panel and talk about their experience on this project and why this team worked so well together.

Early on, the specifications were written to guide concrete management accurately and ensure the provision of an acceptable concrete surface to the floorcovering contractor. Accurate, updated information was written into Division 3 to alert the construction manager to what was needed. Monica Baillie reached out to NFCA and suggested working on updating the spec for flooring on this project, recognizing the significant issues that can develop if acceptable concrete surfaces are not properly planned for in advance. As a result, line items addressing surface porosity, concrete surface profile, flatness and quantifiable moisture testing were placed in Division 3 where they belong. This ensured that these important requirements were picked up early by the construction manager, triggering necessary budgeting, scheduling and action.

During the Buildex panel presentation:

Wildman explained how getting in early to discuss in detail the subfloor challenges helped with product selection and getting the right products specified.

Gatto confirmed that the number-one issue related to flooring claims remains moisture-related issues. Avoiding expensive moisture-related repair work requires proper quantifiable moisture testing and that it’s about time the construction industry took this seriously.

Wagner talked about how the bond tests failed — much to the surprise of everyone present on site — and how the team had to re-think the process and perform the tests again.

Meanwhile, Schutz shared some of the challenging details experienced and planned for on this project, such as the complexity of the slab remediation and how thousands of cracks and fissures opened up in the existing slab when they began to prepare and clean its surface.

NFCA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP) was also included in the Division 3 specification, ensuring early discussions around what was needed by the floor covering contractor for an acceptable slab surface. QAP reports detailing site metrics such as relative humidity, ambient room and slab surface temperature, along with input relative to critical bond (pull) tests, were a useful early warning tool instead of just bad news being delivered too late.

Communication promotes success

This was an example of a positive outcome on a complex, high-profile project where those critical conversations were had by the construction team, several months in advance of the flooring installation start date.

The National Floor Covering Association (NFCA) promotes industry standards for resilient, carpet, hardwood, laminate, cork and bamboo floor covering installations.

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