A construction company behind major Winnipeg projects like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, IKEA and True North Square is now using its expertise in modular building to create innovative solutions to deal with COVID-19.
PCL Construction has more than 50 years of experience building modular units in the Manitoba market and another 114 years as a general contractor in the commercial, institutional, industrial and civil markets across North America. That experience puts it in the perfect position to answer the call for critical infrastructure that can help health care providers and businesses eager to get back to work, safely.
“We are building modular ICU or isolation units in our facility in Winnipeg. We are building walk-up and drive-thru portable virus testing centres (PVTC) in our manufacturing facilities in Toronto and Edmonton in collaboration with Microsoft, Life Labs, WZMH Architects and the Camillion group,” says Sean Barnes, Vice President of Special Projects with PCL.
The made-in-Canada ICU prototypes that are also being called, "Quaran-tin cans" use retrofitted sea containers and can be customized to fit medical equipment and people, while keeping them at a safe distance from one another. PCL is getting a lot of inquiries about its two-bed or five-bed units from remote communities, health authorities and the Red Cross.
“It was a direct response to the pandemic. PCL and one of our partners, Thor Plumbing & Heating, worked with us to come up with the prototype and we’ve moved into a space that allows us to build and scale-up quickly if we have to,” says PCL District Manager, Monique Buckberger.
“What we’ve been thinking about is how our business and all businesses may need to adapt to a work environment when the virus is still in our society. Our portable virus testing units were built with four prototypes. We thought it might just be hospitals that would be interested, but what we’ve found is that large manufacturers, utilities, sports and entertainment organizations are calling too,” adds Barnes.
The units can be installed by forklift and fully operational within 30 minutes.
“One of the advantages is that they are easy to ship. You can pop it on a transport or a slide-on deck, it can go on rail or on a plane and it’s self-contained. From order to build and delivery to site, it takes two weeks. They are essentially a plug-and-play container,” says PCL District Manager, Monique Buckberger.
Each unit can be outfitted with DC (low voltage) systems to operate computer equipment and WiFi, and can be powered by a rooftop solar system. It can be outfitted with air-conditioning and heat, plus use IOT (Internet of things) sensors to run estimates on waiting crowds and thermal screening for fever.
“A large industry that needs to get hundreds of people in and out of their facilities on a daily basis and keep their plant and people safe would need to increase testing. These are high-tech solutions that we can provide,” says Barnes.
With 12 operational centers across Canada, PCL says it has the capacity to meet COVID-19 testing centre demands now and are now looking ahead to other projects that can help companies get back to work safely in the future.
“There are many other things that we have identified and are working on to assist health care providers and business to future-proof facilities to reduce the risk from the virus as we return to work,” says Barnes.
PCL is getting some of those forward-thinking ideas from staff and as a 100% an employee-owned company, many are also shareholders.
“It’s fun to see how creative the people who work for us really are. There are so many good ideas floating around we are using an idea management software system to capture them all,” says Buckberger.
“It makes me feel very proud to work for a company that encourages entrepreneurial behaviour and when people come up with good ideas, it allows us to do some pretty cool things,” says Barnes.
PCL Construction employs 165 people right now in Winnipeg, with 4,000 more across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Australia.
If the innovation and interest for what the company is doing now is any indication, both Barnes and Buckberger says it will be an opportunity to grow even more in the future.