A new urgent care centre in Regina that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week has reached 60 per cent completion thanks to the help of several Ukrainians fleeing their war-ravaged homeland.
“We’ve always had a pretty strong relationship with Ukrainian workers,” said Drew Nicholas, project manager with Graham Construction, who are overseeing the build.
“We have long-term employees from Ukraine that have been with us for a while. They had family members and friends who were being displaced and looking for new opportunities. We we’re able to touch base with them and bring them on board.”
There are a few Ukrainians working throughout Graham right now as a direct result of war displacement. Nicholas said there are two working actively at the Regina urgent care centre site.
Despite the language barrier, the Ukrainian workers have brought their all, every day, he added.
“They’re good people and they’re hard workers. Like I said, we’ve had some Ukrainian workers that have been with us for a while, so they have been able to speak the language and translate, make sure that directions are clear and there’s a clear line of communication.”
Nicholas said the biggest challenge for the project is one familiar to builders everywhere.
“One of the issues we’ve been facing, and I think it’s pretty common in the industry, is labour shortages,” he said.
“We rely heavily on people. They are our best resource. We can’t build anything without the right people onsite, but it’s been hard to find enough labour lately.”
Nicholas noted the labour shortage has been acute for this project.
“We’re mostly hiring carpenters and labourers,” he said.
But the problem is impacting most contractors.
“We work very closely with all our subtrades to ensure that they’re staffed properly. I think all of them have experienced issues with shortages.”
Construction started in March 2022 and the building is on track to be complete in 2024.
The urgent care centre is a 17,000-square-foot, one-storey building. The project is part of the Government of Saskatchewan’s $2 billion economic stimulus program launched in the wake of the pandemic.
Construction is about 60 per cent complete.
“The building is fully enclosed and we’re working on getting the interior all finished up,” said Nicholas.
“Our focus right now is on the electrical and plumbing rough-ins, HVAC systems, getting everything in the walls and the ceiling spaces before it gets all closed up. We have drywall ongoing, about halfway done, finishers are following closely behind followed by the painters.”
Nicholas said the site is pretty much a sequence of trade workers finishing their various indoor responsibilities, one after the other.
So far more than 200 workers have been onsite and another 100 are expected before construction is finished.
Part of the relatively problem-free construction has been the result of technology.
“We’re using 3D modelling software which is great to visualize how everything comes together. It’s good to identify any issues that might come up early on. You can see where there could be conflicts or gaps and address those before constructions starts.”
Nicholas said tech helps mitigate costs by avoiding rework and scheduling delays.
“We’ve also been using a 360-degree camera as we progress through construction. It allows us to set up in one room and one click of the button takes a picture of the entire room. We do it periodically so we have a time record of each room.”
“This is helpful, for instance, to go back and look at your pictures to see where the plumbing was in the wall or where electrical is in the wall. You’re reducing the risk of hitting something hidden behind the drywall.”
Another helpful piece of technology has been the SmartBid program by ConstructConnect.
“It’s really good for managing and enhancing communication with our subtrades. We rely heavily on our subtrades to provide expertise in their specific fields and it’s really impossible to keep up with all the innovations in each discipline.”
As the building is going to be an important medical centre, the Graham team is extremely focused on cleanliness and safety for future occupants.
“One critical element of working in a health care facility is taking into consideration infectious control measures. The patients are vulnerable to environmental conditions. So, you want to ensure that you’re providing a safe place for them to come receive medical attention,” Nicholas said.
“There’s a lot of consideration in that as early on as the design process, picking the right materials, designing the system so that there’s no future potential for contamination or bacterial growth. It’s a huge aspect of a health care build.”