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New industrial centre rises from construction debris

Jean Sorensen
New industrial centre rises from construction debris

The new, $350-million Richmond Industrial Centre, spread over 170 acres off Blundell Road, is rising up on the remains of construction debris.

It was made possible through a unique arrangement with the B.C. Ministry of Environment, the City of Richmond and a development company. When built out, the city will see a once degraded site return to its natural setting reflecting the native vegetation found around the Fraser River.

"It was a former peat moss area where the peat moss was mined out," said Tom Land, president and chief executive officer of Montrose Property Holdings Ltd., the development and parent company of Ecowaste Industries Ltd., which recycles construction site debris. "We are making something good from a property that was left in horrible condition."

Ecowaste Industries is still working on a portion of the site as it continues recycling inert construction debris into compost, bark mulch and crushed concrete with remaining materials considered unsalvageable going to landfill, more specifically the land that makes up the industrial park.

The materials are infilling the old peat moss site with the first phase complete, capped off and pre-loaded from the remainder of site acreage.

"At present, there are 40 acres prepared for two buildings and they will be 500,000 square feet each for a total of one million square feet," Land said. "And, by 2020-21, we will have reclaimed all the land."

The reclamation and development plan for the site calls for doing it in phases until the 12 planned buildings are constructed. Land said there is an acute shortage of industrial warehouse space in the Lower Mainland. The location of the facility, which is near airport and trucking routes and close to major municipalities, made it an ideal location.

But, the industrial park plan moved forward under a new development regime.

Normally, a developer would have to wait until the whole site was infilled and remediated to meet environment ministry requirements. Land turned to PGL Environmental Consultants whom he credits as instrumental in devising a new development strategy for the park. Senior environmental consultants Keith Gagne and Simone Mol took the idea of doing it in phases to ministry officials to see if a compromise couldn’t be reached.

"I would say it is unique in that the landfill is still operating and we are going to be doing construction (on the same site)," said Gagne, adding the ministry had to be convinced the concept could work.

The City of Richmond also had to agree to allow the business to keep operating.

The solution sees the land treated in parcels, even though it is not subdivided that way. As the land in the various phases is infilled, capped off, pre-loaded and run through a battery of environmental tests, it will be released for construction.

Gagne said once ministry officials realized the process could allow both landfill and development to continue on the same site, they were on side.

"They realized that it could be done and were willing to work with us on something that was outside the box and was not the usual process," he said.

PGL continues to do site monitoring of groundwater and vapour conditions.

To ensure that the new system would work, PGL provided extensive consultation with the ministry and completed a dynamic risk assessment (soil, groundwater, soil vapour and ambient air investigations) based on the landfill’s design, operating and closure plan to get the necessary approvals.

Land said he is currently seeking a tenant for the first building with Colliers International appointed as the marketing agent. He expects most tenants will be large companies drawn from Toronto or the U.S.

Services were going into the site in August as the park is central for distribution. The civil engineering onsite is being handled by Associated Engineering Ltd.

Land is hopeful construction on the first warehouse will begin this fall after the job contract is tendered.  Omicron Canada Inc. has been hired as development manager with Omicron Architecture Engineering Construction Ltd. providing the design and the construction management. The geotechnical engineering is being performed by GeoPacific Engineering Ltd.

Omicron’s assistant development manager Brendan Reeves said the warehouses and small offices would be state-of-the-art and the construction materials would likely be concrete and steel.

Land said he did not want the Richmond Industrial Centre to have a sterile feel that is often germane to industrial parks. He’s allocated approximately 30 acres to green spaces and landscaping will play major role in the park’s development with Connect Landscape Architecture supplying the design.

Connect partner Ken Larsson said the plan for the industrial centre draws from the foreshore and backshore of the nearby Fraser River.

"We are reintroducing a number of natural systems that promote wildlife and are also drought tolerant," he said, adding the complex’s landscape is not to look "like it belongs at Wal-Mart."

The buildings will not have green roofs, but instead trees that grow to tall height will be planted to provide both a buffer to surrounding areas and also to provide shading, especially around parking areas. A surface water management strategy sees collected water filtered through swales while a pond is sited at one end of the property. Long grasses are also planted throughout the complex to provide habitat for wildlife.

"We did some statistics for the City of Richmond and based on our findings at large box developments, the landscape design here is five times greater than what you would normally find," said Larsson.

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