Thunder Woman Healing Lodge an example of strong IPD fundamentals


For the team building Thunder Woman Healing Lodge in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario, incorporating green and sustainable elements is an integral part of the project, but the availability and cost of materials creates challenges.

The project, currently in the pre-construction phase, is designed as a net-zero mass timber facility.

Once constructed, the seven-storey lodge, located at 2217 Kingston Road, will provide transitional housing and comprehensive support services for formerly incarcerated Indigenous women.

“There is an overrepresentation of incarcerated Indigenous women in Canada and this halfway house must meet that demand,” said Tim Laronde, National Director of Indigenous Strategies at Chandos Construction.

According to the project’s website, the building, which will be the only facility of its kind in Ontario, will integrate the tradition of Indigenous healing lodges, a community residential healing space and a transitional rental housing program under one roof.

It will provide 12 beds for women leaving federal and provincial corrections or out of court on bail, all of whom will participate in the Thunder Woman Healing program and receive comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration support.

It will also have 12 affordable transitional housing units for women who have completed the healing lodge program but need more time and support to become independent.

Currently the team is working on some details to make sure everything goes according to plan.

“We are trying to figure out how to tick all the boxes and meet the requirements at the same time,” said Fadi Shlah, project manager at Chandos Construction, the construction manager for the project.

The team participates in value engineering workshops with the goal of ensuring the project meets net zero emissions and sustainability goals while meeting government funding eligibility criteria.

“We’re trying to balance that with getting the project done and I think we’re very close, but that was definitely a challenge we faced,” Shlah said.

“The fact that we (Chandos) are so strong on the IPD contract model has helped us. We gathered 25 designers and contractors in rooms to organize these value engineering workshops. It’s everyone who thinks and tries to get out of it for the benefit of the project.

The building envelope, structure, mechanical and electrical elements of the project are under review.

“Embedded carbon is one of the things we want to try to keep, but there are discussions about moving from solid wood to steel,” Shlah said, adding that would be a cost-cutting measure.

The surfacing system the team has chosen is a long-term item from Spain, he noted.

“It goes from Spain to Calgary and then to Toronto, so we’re trying to source a similar product locally,” Shlah noted.

The building was designed in consultation with the community.

“When we have Indigenous projects, a lot of the design of the building is done in consultation with local communities and local elders just to make sure there is the Indigenous theme in the design of the building itself” , said Laronde.

The building will include design elements that reflect Aboriginal culture.

“It has very interesting argon triple pane glazing and coating as well as colors,” Shlah said. “There are also very personalized carpentry with beautiful decals. The construction palisade will feature artwork created by local Aboriginal artists.

For any Aboriginal project, Chandos contacts associations likely to support the construction from a commercial point of view.

“That’s the part where native sourcing comes in,” Laronde said.

“At the same time, we are always trying to encourage indigenous labor and create opportunities for indigenous people who may want to get involved in the construction industry.

Chandos also has a prequalification process for subcontractors.

“We worked with the client to refine this prequalification process on this job,” Shlah explained.

“It’s a long list of things that we pre-qualify our contractors on and one of those metrics is Indigenous engagement, in this case. We work with the client to find the best way to hire someone who we are confident will be able to execute and also have that engagement with the community.

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