By Dave Carpenter

As Manager, Capital Projects, Town of Oakville, Nick Valerio played a central role in the recent completion of the Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre that’s received high praise in this community west of Toronto. That said, Valerio is quick to point out that the new community centre would have never come to fruition if it weren’t for the project’s key partners, namely, Diamond Schmitt Architects, Crossey Engineering Ltd., the project’s general contractor Graham Construction as well as several key members of the Town of Oakville Facilities and Construction Management and Recreation departments.

Opened to the public this September, the new community centre is a considerable upgrade that is located on the grounds of the former Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital which stood for over 50 years (Oakville Trafalgar’s current hospital, opened in 2015, is now located at Dundas and Third Line in Oakville). The new Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre includes a gymnasium with 10,000 square feet of active space, an aquatic centre with a 25-lane lap pool, heated and cooled by an environmentally-friendly geothermal energy system (LEED certified). The Centre’s grounds also include a 0.6 Hectare fully-accessible neighbourhood park, landscaped with a pavilion, planted coniferous trees, picnic tables and play structures.

The Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre project was approved to move forward as an IPD Project (Integrated Project Delivery), which sees the Town of Oakville (the ‘owner’) in a tri-party agreement with the general contractor, and the centre’s architect and engineer. The three partners collaborated on the centre’s design, the validation of that design and the project’s costs.

The Project Team along with all trade partners would gather weekly in “Big Room” meetings collaboratively working towards a suitable yet efficient design that met the owners’ requirements and at the same time was aesthetically pleasing for the surrounding neighbourhood. This initial period of time involved countless hours of input from all team members to validate drawings to ultimately move on to the “go or no-go” construction phase. Once the approval was provided to move into the construction phase, the usual process of permit approvals and site mobilization were followed by the trades.

“All the trade partners in this process share the risk and the reward with a common goal to capture the owners’ requirements with the architect’s vision. The result I can confidently say speaks for itself.. This is the third IPD for us. We’re finding success and collaboration because everyone has a stake in the successful delivery of the project by bringing together different individuals and all their different input into the project from the onset.”
Two-years out from officially breaking ground back on September 26, 2018, the centre stands out as a truly impressive feat for those, such as Valerio along with his team and recreation staff, who all played central roles in its creation and the Oakville Trafalgar community as a whole, given the scale of the project. However, it’s no surprise that the undertaking came with its challenges.

COVID-19 Protocols Evolve Into Opportunities for New Business

Once the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold in Winter-through-Spring of 2020, the Town deemed the Community Centre’s construction non-essential. However, during the closure, the project partners continued meeting and planning remotely.
“We would continue our “Big Room” meetings to talk about progress and plans with timely decision making. We kept the material orders moving and deliveries on time. We kept that rigorous activity and decision making moving forward so we knew that when May 5 rolled around, when we lifted the ban, we’d hit the ground running,” Valerio says.

When the municipal government granted permission to resume the centre’s construction on May 5, the entire project team adhered to strict on-site health and safety laws, such as extreme hand-washing, the mandatory wearing of masks and rigorous ‘on-site’ COVID-19 screening.
“Trying to keep the site safe was a big challenge,” Valerio says. “The rigorous construction activity that was once prevalent prior to COVID-19 was difficult to manage once the site was active again as we all had to adhere to strict COVID-19 measures. In the end, the project found its groove once more, thanks to IPD’s collaborative approach which forces you to think outside of the box and think productively,” Valerio says. “We understand the effort that’s needed when you have tight site guidelines: where workers can be at the same time, instilling extra precautions like masks, all with an impact to project budgets at the same time. As a result of this, we’re preparing future capital projects with the understanding there’s a new way of completing projects – we have to be diligent.”

Community Centre Footprint presents Challenges

“The site was difficult, in that we were stuck with the footprint we had when the old hospital was there,” Valerio says. Site demolition in and of itself was a major undertaking but with continued diligence and dealing with minor unknowns, it was completed in time for the construction of the Community Centre. “Through structural investigations and numerous repairs, we managed to keep the existing parking structure, which now not only serves the Centre but blends in with the building and surroundings.”
Beyond the sheer scope of the new Community-Centre project and the limits in terms of the total physical construction space the Project Team had to work with, we had another challenge on our hands: sustainability. All new Town of Oakville construction buildings are mandated LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

To meet the required LEED certification for the community centre, the team oversaw the construction of a geothermal system and borefield with all the piping neatly buried underneath the park area (up to 650 feet deep) with surrounding temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius. The system serves as the heating cooling source for the community centre and replaces the need for an evaporative cooling tower, along with a reduction in heating equipment which all helps in the lowering of electricity, natural gas and water usage.

The community centre will be home to a solar photovoltaic centre at its rooftop, which produces 320,000 photovoltaic watts of electricity annually.

“It’s an overall cleaner and greener approach to heating, cooling and providing power to the building, and it’s built in a robust manner.” Valerio says. “We have to think long-term about lifecycle costs and incorporating robust systems into the way we build our facilities – that’s Oakville’s approach.”

The Oakville-Trafalgar Community Centre’s expansive new indoor Aquatic Centre also stands out as a hallmark of the city’s commitment to sustainable innovation. The Aquatic Centre features a therapeutic, warm-water pool, a 25-metre lap pool with six lanes at a depth of 12 feet, and an area for synchronized swimming. Furthering the Town of Oakville’s commitment to environmentally-friendly practices, the project team selected a Natare System for the new aquatic centre. Based out of Indianapolis with a 25-year warranty, the low-maintenance-system is a stainless-steel structure positioned behind the centre’s pool that comes with a carbon footprint that’s 10 per cent that of concrete.
“These types of pools only ever have to be drained when you absolutely have to do any major custom work or maintenance which shouldn’t be often,” Valerio says. “Once they’re filled, they’re filled, which means we’re reducing our carbon footprint through low maintenance life-cycle costs.”

Points of Pride

Nearing the completion of the project, Valerio’s both happy with the new community centre’s fit and finish, and even more so, how the facility reflects Oakville’s community as a whole. “In the gymnasium and the swimming pool and basically throughout , you can see how diverse the facility is which is a reflection of our community members, it’s a place that brings the community together, especially during these difficult times,” he says.

“I think being an individual who’s grown up and lived most of his life in Oakville and who has the pleasure to work for the town, I can fully appreciate being involved and being able to bring a project to closure that gives back to the community. It’s a good feeling.”