Ironworkers Blend Old With New in Award-Winning Toronto Project

Canada’s Professional Ironworkers have had a hand in shaping the country’s architecture since the late 1800s.

The bridges and skyscrapers that dot towns and cities from coast to coast all boast their handiwork. That’s the legacy of an ironworker and their contractors creating places of business, culture and residence for years to come through craftsmanship.

In Toronto, ironworkers working with Walters Group recently played an essential role in not only shaping a building’s architecture, but in preserving its history, with their work on the Queen Richmond Centre West (QRC West) project.

QRC West is a unique development in the city’s entertainment district. Its 302,000 square feet are a blend of office and retail spaces, with features like a rooftop terrace and windows that allow for fresh air without comprising the HVAC system. But what makes QRC West truly impressive is that it integrated two Toronto heritage buildings into its construction.

The existing structures were historic masonry and timber buildings. The central building, located at 134 Peter Street, had been home to a biscuit factory, a fashion showroom, an art gallery and a nightclub over its 100-plus year lifespan. Not wanting to destroy its history or the beautiful brick façade, team members strategized for over a year about how to incorporate the old in the new.

The solution? Easy – create a huge structural steel platform to “float” over the historic buildings and support 11 additional floors. Enter the ironworkers.

The project was complex. To protect architecture below while supporting a new tower above, “Mega Delta Frames” were created — 17-ton steel casings (or nodes) that connect eight structural columns to each other. Each frame supports more than 18 million pounds, or approximately 400 tractor-trailers.

The work required incredible precision on behalf of the ironworkers. Close to 50,000 pounds of molten steel had to be poured into the molds in less than 60 seconds in order to achieve consistent nodes, and welding had to take place on site. To minimize disruption to the bustling neighbourhood, ironworkers had to work a combined schedule of day and night shifts.

The result? Award-winning. QRC West won the 2015 Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) Award of Excellence, as well as the R+D Award from the American Institute of Architects.