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Thunder Woman Healing Lodge an example of strong IPD fundamentals

Angela Gismondi
Thunder Woman Healing Lodge an example of strong IPD fundamentals
CHANDOS CONSTRUCTION - Chandos Construction is building a new, seven-storey residential building in Toronto for the Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society that will provide transitional housing and support for formerly incarcerated Indigenous women. The design includes mass timber and net-zero elements and will be built in collaboration with Indigenous trades.

For the team building the Thunder Woman Healing Lodge in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ont., incorporating green and sustainable elements is an integral part of the project, but the availability and cost of materials is creating challenges.

The project, currently in the pre-construction phase, is designed as a mass timber, net-zero facility.

Once built, the seven-storey lodge, located at 2217 Kingston Rd., will provide transitional housing and wraparound supports for formerly incarcerated Indigenous women.

“There is an over representation of Indigenous women in incarceration in Canada and this transition house is to deal with that demand,” said Tim Laronde, national director Indigenous strategies with Chandos Construction.

According to the project website, the building, which will be the only facility of its kind in Ontario, will incorporate the Indigenous healing lodge tradition, a community-based residential healing space and a transitional rental housing program under one roof.

It will offer 12 beds for women leaving federal and provincial corrections or before the courts on bail, all of whom will participate in the Thunder Woman Healing program and receive wraparound supports for rehabilitation and reintegration. 

It will also have 12 affordable transitional housing units for women that have completed the healing lodge program but require additional time and support to gain independence.

Currently, the team is working through some of the details to ensure it moves ahead as planned.

“We’re trying to figure out how to tick all the boxes and meet the requirements at the same time,” said Fadi Shlah, project manager with Chandos Construction, the construction manager on the project.

The team is taking part in value engineering workshops in an effort to ensure the project meets net-zero and sustainability targets while also meeting eligibility requirements for government funding.

“We’re trying to balance that with getting the project to go and I think we’re very close, but it’s definitely been a challenge that we’ve faced,” Shlah said.

“The fact that we’re (Chandos) so strong on the IPD contract model has helped us. We’ve brought 25 designers and subtrades into rooms to do these value engineering workshops. It’s everybody putting their heads together and trying to come out of this for the benefit of the project.”

The building envelope, structure, mechanical and electrical elements of the project are being reviewed.

“Embodied carbon is one of the things we want to try and keep but there are conversations about switching from mass timber to steel,” said Shlah, adding this would be a cost saving measure.

The cladding system the team chose is a long lead item from Spain, he noted.

“It goes from Spain to Calgary and then to Toronto, so we’re trying to source a similar product locally,” Shlah noted.

The building was designed in consultation with the community.

“When we have Indigenous projects, a lot of the design of the building is done in consultation with local communities and local elders just to make sure that there is the Indigenous theme within the design of the building itself,” said Laronde.

The building will include design elements that reflect Indigenous culture.

“It’s got very interesting triple pane argon window glazing and some cladding as well with colours,” Shlah said. “There is also some very customized millwork with beautiful decals. The construction hoarding will feature art created by local Indigenous artists.”

With any Indigenous project, Chandos reaches out to associations that may be able to support the build from a business perspective.

“This is the part where the Indigenous procurement comes in,” said Laronde.

“At the same time, we’re always trying to encourage Indigenous labour and creating opportunities for Indigenous folks who maybe want to get involved in the construction industry.”

Chandos also has a prequalification process for subtrades.

“We worked with the client to fine-tune that prequalification process on this job,” Shlah explained.

“This is a long list of things that we prequalify our subtrades on and one of those metrics is Indigenous engagement, in this case. We work with the client to figure out the best way to hire somebody that we’re confident is going to be able to execute and have that engagement with the community as well.”

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