Getting a foothold in Quartier Concordia
At the bottom of a hole the size of a soccer field, Concordia is gradually changing shape.
This construction site will become Concordia’s new JMSB building, a 15-storey complex of classrooms and offices. The building was designed in the same style by the team of architects that worked on the EV building, allowing a consistently modern look for Concordia at Guy and De Maisonneuve streets.
But while we must wait until the summer of 2009 for the ribbon cutting ceremony, the process of erecting a modern office building in the heart of the city is fascinating in its own right.
Before beginning its upward climb, a project of this scale requires several months of excavation to allow the foundational concrete to be poured directly onto the bedrock. There, about 35 feet below street level, builders found a specimen of the grey limestone, a sedimentary formation common in the St. Lawrence Valley some 400 million years old.
In order give the new building a firm footing of concrete to rest on, this rock first had to be blasted by dynamite and scraped away by excavators. As one would imagine, dynamiting at a busy downtown intersection required extraordinary safety precautions, which Christian Jacques, foreman for J.E. Verreault and Sons, explains.
The dynamite specialist drilled a line of holes six feet into the bedrock where the charges are placed. Next, a series of safety “carpets”, each made of hundreds of compressed car tires, were placed over the holes to prevent flying rock fragments. The power needed to break apart these rocks meant that no chances were taken: for each blast, a call was made to the metro station and service was temporarily suspended. At last, construction workers cleared the work site and a series of horn blasts warned workers and pedestrians that dynamiting is about to begin.
When it finally came, you could feel the wave from the explosion reverberate through your rib cage. The layers of rubber carpets—each weighing about a thousand pounds—were momentarily lifted into the air before landing heavily again. And then the machines went to work.
Hydraulic rock grinders targeted what the dynamite missed, and skilled operators used excavators to lift hundreds of pounds of rock into waiting dump trucks, which hauled the material away, to be used in one of the province’s innumerable summer road construction projects.
After a while the whole operation began to look like a finely choreographed mechanical ballet: the rolling excavators were the most nimble performers, using their long hydraulic arms to sweep boulders effortlessly out of the way or, in a remarkable display of teamwork, to help push dump trucks up the steep incline to the street after depositing a heavy load of rock.
Regrettably, the excavation is now complete but for potential spectators there are a host of other sights to behold. And there’s only one way to go from here: up.
Tony Vanvari, Concordia’s Director of Major Programs, explains the process of laying down the foundation.
“It’s a smaller plate and a narrower building than the EV, so it’s more complicated to build,” “Already they’re pouring the concrete footings and the tunnel to the EV building under Guy is halfway done.”
Vanvari admits that sometimes he likes to stand by the fence and watch “progress being made.” He is not alone; one can usually find a handful of curious spectators lined up along the fence on De Maisonneuve witnessing the spectacle of urban transformation.
To see the building’s progress, check out images from the university’s webcam:
The Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering has created a site explaining the details of the construction, seen here: