Constructing the research station

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The Canadian High Arctic Research Station

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) will provide a year-round presence and complement the network of research facilities across Canada’s North.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) is leading the construction of the CHARS campus in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Once complete, CHARS will be Polar Knowledge Canada’s (POLAR) headquarters. Visit Introduction to Polar Knowledge Canada to learn more about the organization.

The construction of the station began on the Plateau site in summer 2014. The location for the station was chosen in February, 2013 following consultations with Cambridge Bay community members, including elders and hamlet staff, and an assessment of the station’s requirements.

CHARS will be opened in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.

The CHARS campus consists of the Main Research Building, the Field and Maintenance Building and two Triplex Accommodation Buildings for visiting researchers and scientists. The key rooms in the station will include research labs, centres for technology development and knowledge sharing, and facilities for teaching, training, and community engagement. To better understand how the station will look when finished, visit the CHARS design and floor plans.

Visit the Flickr gallery: Construction of the Canadian High Arctic Station to take a look at the construction progress to date.

Design and construction

The construction management approach

To determine the method that would be used to design and build the station, PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded through an analysis—which can be found in the CHARS feasibility study—that the best approach was construction management. This style of construction overlaps the design and construction phases, meaning construction can begin as the design advances, speeding up the process.

A high level of attention to planning, scheduling, managing and monitoring is required for a project as complex as CHARS. Construction management also provides CHARS with maximum design input and control, which will ensure that the facility is able to support POLAR’s Science and Technology program.

The construction manager

The construction manager for the station is EllisDon Corporation, in joint venture with NCC Dowland Construction Ltd.

As part of the construction management approach, the construction manager was awarded the contract of both construction advisor and general contractor through a fair and transparent competitive process. A request for proposal was posted on the government’s electronic tendering service.

The construction advisor ensures construction moves forward smoothly and is cost-effective. Efforts were undertaken to improve the efficiency of the construction and design of the station. This process was done in collaboration with the design consultant (Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et associés in joint venture with NFOE et associés architect), INAC, and Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The construction manager works with the design consultant to estimate costs and establish the construction schedule. He/she is responsible for the operations of the entire construction process, including:

  • planning
  • budgeting
  • coordinating
  • supervising the construction of the facility

The construction manager promotes appropriately sized packages of work. This makes contracts more accessible to local companies and trades, and encourages local job and skills development to provide opportunities to beneficiaries of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA).

The design consultant

After a fair and open competitive process, the design consultant contract was awarded to Fournier Gersovitz Moss Drolet et associés and NFOE et associés architects, operating as a joint venture. Both firms have extensive experience in architectural design and construction in the Arctic—including science and research facilities— and in the leading edge application of sustainable development practices. The two firms, based in Montreal, Quebec, provided full architectural and engineering designs.

The design phase of CHARS began in 2011 and the complete design was submitted in fall 2014.

The station’s design was developed through the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) approach. IQ was developed in Nunavut and articulates the pillars of traditional Inuit knowledge:

  • Piliriqatigiingniq – collaborative relationship;
  • Avatimik kamattiarniq – environmental stewardship;
  • Qanuqtuurungarniq – resourcefulness / problem-solving; and,
  • Pilimmaksarniq – skills and knowledge acquisition.

As part of the construction management approach, the design consultants will continue to advise for the remainder of the project.

LEED gold certification

CHARS is striving for a gold certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), even though this designation is normally and more easily applied to southern environments.

In order to achieve LEED gold, the Labs21 Environmental Performance Criteria—a program with the goal of more sustainable, high-performance, and low-energy laboratories—was applied to the CHARS campus.

Working towards LEED gold means that the station will include features such as:

  • bike racks
  • low-flow fixtures
  • ongoing monitoring of building systems
  • wastewater and waste management
  • managing light pollution
  • energy reduction
  • maintaining high level of air quality

Local benefits of construction

Inuit Benefit Plans (IBP) have been used as the key mechanism to deliver on NLCA obligations in procurement related to CHARS, including the construction of the buildings, purchase of equipment, and leased housing. Canada’s procurement obligations, as specified in article 24 of the NLCA, will continue to be respected in the building of the station.

This approach includes putting in place an Inuit Human Resources Plan that identifies:

  • targets for Inuit labor force participation
  • an Inuit Skills Development Plan for on-the-job training
  • an Inuit Business Plan which provides for contracts to be awarded to Inuit-owned firms

As of February 2016, there has been $52 million in direct economic benefit to Inuit through job creation and/or training through the Inuit Benefits Plan.

Inuit-owned or Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) registered firms participating in the construction of the station include:

Other firms working on the station include:

Canada’s procurement obligations, as specified in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, will continue to be respected in the building of the station.

Cost of the station’s construction and research activities

Architectural design, construction, equipment, and furniture for the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, as well as the implementation of the Science and Technology (S&T) program are valued at about $250 million until 2017-2018.

  • INAC is responsible to deliver on the architectural design, construction, equipment, and furniture for the station for an expected total of $204 million.
    • As of February 2016, over $52 million of the construction budget has contributed to the Inuit Benefits Plan through contracting, employment, and training.
  • The remaining $46 million for the Science and Technology program’s implementation was started by INAC and is now being administered by POLAR.

After construction is complete in 2018, $26.5 million per year will support the ongoing program and operation of the station through POLAR.

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