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Newfoundland embarks on $326 million mental health and addictions hospital

Grant Cameron
Newfoundland embarks on $326 million mental health and addictions hospital
PHOTO COURTESY GOVERNMENT OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR — The latest work on the construction of the new adult mental health and addictions hospital includes the installation of underground water and sewer services as well as the construction of the concrete foundations.

The arm on a large excavator claws at the ground and scoops up a bucket of soil. The operator swings the machine to the left and dumps the load into a neat pile. He quickly resets the shovel and goes back for more.

It’s a typical workday along Prince Philip Drive at Clinch Crescent in St. John’s, N.L., where crews are installing water and sewer lines and concrete foundations for a new adult mental health and addictions hospital.

Heavy equipment has been on site since last summer when the Agnes Cowan Hostel was demolished and early work began.

The project includes building a 240,000-square-foot, six-storey, 102-bed hospital onto the existing Health Sciences Centre (HSC) to replace the aging Waterford Hospital, a new 60-bed hostel to replace the one that was demolished, and a parking garage with 1,000 spaces and charging stations for electric vehicles.

Avalon Healthcare Partnership was awarded the $346-million contract to build the hospital. The partnership consists of 13 construction, engineering and architecture companies, including Australian infrastructure firm Plenary Americas and St. John’s-based Marco Group.

Guelph, Ont.-based Newton Group Ltd. was awarded the contract to design and build the parking garage structure of the massive project.


A view of the Health Sciences Centre and construction site of the new adult mental health and addictions hospital in St. John's, Nfld.
PHOTO COURTESY GOVERNMENT OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR — A view of the Health Sciences Centre and construction site of the new adult mental health and addictions hospital in St. John’s, Nfld.


For the hospital building, crews have begun putting up the steel shell. The building is expected to be completed in 2024. The facility has been designed to have a modern look with green cascading terraced courtyards that are oriented to Prince Philip Drive.

The form of an inpatient tower has been angled to ensure daylight enters patient spaces. The vast majority of patient and hostel bedrooms will receive direct sunlight, and social spaces such as the lounges, television and dining rooms have been arranged to receive direct daylight regardless of the floor.

The hospital has been designed to achieve better energy efficiency through technical detailing such as optimizing the exterior envelope to reduce energy consumption. Elevator cores have been placed to reduce distances that must be travelled by staff. The forensics unit has also been placed on the ground floor to improve safety and security for staff, patients and visitors.

As for esthetics, modern features like an art studio and therapeutic mall terrace have been incorporated into the design.

The facility will have four direct connections to the HSC to help with patient transfers and allow the public and staff to travel efficiently between the zones of each building. The site plan also connects the natural amenity of the wetland to the pedestrian routes of the hospital and HSC.

There will also be a new truck turnaround space at the existing loading dock of the hospital to improve operations. The hospital has been designed to achieve LEED Silver certification.

Over the course of construction, more than 400 jobs are expected to be created with 200 workers expected onsite at peak construction.

As part of its contract, Avalon was required to host a job fair for skilled labourers looking to work on the project, develop an apprenticeship training program for local apprentices and come up with a plan to assist with hiring tradeswomen. In June, 98 per cent of workers onsite were from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Avalon was awarded the hospital project in 2020 after nearly two years of procurement, although it had been underbid by Spanish-based firm Sacyr Infrastructure Canada which submitted a bid that was $41 million less. Three bid teams had been shortlisted for the project.

Government Opposition had questioned why Sacyr’s bid was rejected, but then Transportation and Works Minister Derrick Bragg indicated the approval process went through four stages and involved three committees and explained the evaluation was complex and involved input from 65 experts in their fields.

Cost of the project accounted for only half of the total evaluation, and the Avalon Healthcare proposal scored higher on the technical side.

Crews are also working on the parking garage which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The three-bay, five-level parking structure consists of a full height mesh-guard façade, two stair towers and one elevator tower using Newton Group’s in-house prefabricated CANADACAR Parking Structure Building System.

Based on a European design, the system has been modified to meet CSA specifications. Technicians manufacture the key steel and concrete components of the parking structure in the company’s steel and precast plants.

The segmented, modular design of the system allows for a high degree of customization when it comes to individual client preferences. The high degree of automation also means a much smaller workforce is required onsite to assemble the parking structure.

In building the parking garage, the system loads precast concrete decks onto cambered steel beams, which are then fastened to perimeter column steel works in order to generate free span module parking bays. The steel structure, including all assemblies, is hot dip galvanized to protect it from the elements.

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