Construction 101

Some answers to questions we get about the construction industry.

Project Management

What is the Difference Between Design-Build and Traditional Project Delivery?

Under a traditional delivery method, the project is typically broken up into three distinct stages: Design-Bid-Build. During the Design stage, the architect and engineers are contracted directly to the owner to complete the project drawing and specifications. Once the design is complete, the project moves into the Bid stage, where the tender package is sent out to contractors for pricing. At the end of the tender period, the general contractor bids are reviewed by the owner and design team. Once the successful contractor is selected, they enter into a CCDC-2 Fixed Price (or similar) contract with the owner starting the Build stage of the project. Throughout the Build Stage, the architect acts as the owners representative and all communication between the general contractor and owner/engineers flows through the architect. 

Alternative to the traditional delivery method, in a Design-Build, the owner and prime contractor (Design-Builder) are in a single contract, with the architect and engineers being retained directly by the Design-Builder. After the contract is awarded, the owner then works with the Design-Builder, architect and engineers to complete the project design. During the design process, the Design-Builder will compile Cost Plans at predetermined design-development milestones to ensure the project is still within budget. Once the design is complete, the project may be tendered by the Design-Builder. See our services section for more information.

How do Commercial Buildings get a LEED Certification?

Commercial buildings can obtain four different levels of LEED Certification. The highest level a building can achieve is a Platinum rating, followed by Gold, Silver and Certified. The level a building achieves is determined through 7 separate categories; Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation and Design Process and Regional Priority Credits. Through these categories, a building can achieve a maximum of 110 points. To achieve a Platinum rating, a building must be awarded 80 or more points out of the possible 110, Gold requires 60-80 points, Silver 50-60 and the minimum amount of points required for a building to be LEED Certified is 40.

How do we Deal with Construction Waste?

Construction companies will typically use two types of bins on site; metal recycling and general waste. By recycling the metal off-cuts (and existing metals on site if the project is a renovation), it allows construction companies to divert waste from landfills.

Does Using a Design-Build Delivery Method Provide Cost-Savings to the Owner?

In a Design-Build delivery method, the mechanical and electrical consultants can be under contract with either the general contractor or mechanical and electrical subtrades, rather than under a contract with the Architect as they would be in a traditional delivery method. By doing this, it allows the three major construction entities (general contractor, mechanical subtrade and electrical subtrade) to have direct input on the buildings design before it is finalized. This allows for cost-savings ideas to be incorporated into the drawings at the design-development stage, rather than after a tender has closed.

Does Construction Management Fall Under Architecture?

In a CCDC 5A/CCDC 5B, the owner may retain a General Contractor or an agent to act as the Construction Manager (CM). The Architect can be contracted directly by the owner or the Construction Manager.

How are Commercial Buildings Constructed?

Commercial Buildings can be constructed through multiple delivery methods, such as Traditional (Design-Bid-Build), Design-Build and Construction Management, and out of multiple different materials. However, the construction of all new buildings follow a similar order of operations:

  1. Substructure: This includes the required building excavation and foundation work along with the slab on grade.
  2. Superstructure: This is the structural framework of the building, it can be constructed of steel, wood, concrete of any combination of the three.
  3. Exterior Envelope: This includes all the exterior finishes, such as metal siding, curtain walls and insulated metal panels. The exterior wall framing, insulation, air/vapour barriers, and exterior door and windows are also part of this.
  4. Interior Framing: This is all the interior partitions in a building, along with the rough-ins for the mechanical and electrical systems.
  5. Interior Finishes: This includes everything from drywall, to flooring, millwork, and lighting fixtures.
  6. Siteworks: Depending on season and weather, this can take part at almost any stage of the project. Included in siteworks is sidewalks, asphalt, landscaping and site servicing. 

How do you Limit Change Orders During a Construction Project?

The most effective way to limit change orders during a construction process is to maximize the amount of details in the IFT (Issued for Tender) and IFC (Issued for Construction) drawing sets.

Another effective way to limit change orders is to conduct face-to-face meetings during the design process. This is especially effective in a Design-Build delivery method as all major parties, from both the design and construction teams are present and can provide input into the design.

Sustainable Design

How do Green Buildings Reduce their Energy Demand?

Green Buildings can reduce their energy consumption in a number of different ways. The most common way to reduce energy consumption is to utilize high efficiency electrical and mechanical systems. In addition to these high efficiency systems, items such as solar panels, passive heating, and higher R-Value building envelopes can also be incorporated into the design of the building to help reduce the overall energy consumption.

Are Solar Panels Passive or Active?

Solar panels are considered an active system as they convert the suns energy into a usable form, in this case electricity. In contrast, passive systems utilize the design, materials and placement to optimize the suns heat or sunlight without having to convert this energy.

Is it Expensive to Design a Green Building?

The design costs of a green building are much the same as a traditional building. However, depending on the systems incorporated into the design of the building, additional consultants may need to be approached, such as solar consultant for the design of a photo-voltaic (solar) system.

Are Green Buildings More Expensive and Complex to Construct?

A green building is typically more expensive and complex to build, but the operating costs are lower. However with the updates to the Energy Code, high-efficiency mechanical/electrical systems, and building mounted renewable energy sources becoming more readily available, the cost of building green is becoming closer to that of a non-green building.

Building Components

How is Steel Used in the Construction of Buildings?

Steel is one of the most versatile materials used in construction. It can be used as the structure of the building, exterior cladding, roofing, railings, architectural accents and the like.

How do Construction Companies Select Building Materials?

To determine the materials that will be used on a construction project, numerous factors must be taken into consideration:

1. Where is the project being construction? If the project is taking place in a major city, it is easy to procure most if not any type of building material, however, if it is a remote project, the use of locally available materials may be the only way to make the project feasible.

2. What type of climate is the project in? This plays a major role in material selection as the type of climate is directly related to the required R-Value of the wall assemblies determined through the design. 

3. What is the end use of the building? A building designed to be used for manufacturing that has forklifts being operated inside typically requires a much more durable construction materials to be used than what is found in an office space.

4. What is the owners budget? Budget is the most important factor in the selection of the building materials as only materials which fit into the owners budget can be selected.

What is a Curtain Wall?

A curtain wall is non-structural building facade or envelope typically composed of aluminum and glass. By being a non-structural element, it allows for the aluminum to be much lower gauge and larger glazing spans. Because of this ability to have larger glazing openings, it makes curtain walls perfect for spaces that require as much natural light as possible, such as atriums, lobbies and office spaces. 

How are Slabs Cast on Steel Beams in Composite Construction?

During composite construction, the suspended slab is formed and shored from the underside. After the forming is completed, the rebar is then placed and the concrete is poured. Once the concrete has set-up and achieved the minimum strength the forms are stripped and shoring removed. This process is then repeated for each consecutive floor.

Are Bracing Systems only Used in Steel Construction?

While steel construction does utilize bracing systems, almost all types of construction require some form of bracing bracing. This can come in the form of both temporary bracing, which is used during framing/building erection and removed before the building is finished, and permanent bracing, which stays in place after the building is complete.


How Long do Buildings Last?

A typical building has a lifespan of 40-50 years, however, through careful design and material selection, buildings can last up to 100 years. 

How Many Restrooms are Required in a Commercial Building?

The number of restrooms required in a building is determined based off of the buildings occupancy rating. For example, a building with an occupancy of 1-25 people of each gender will require one male and one female washroom, or two gender neutral washroom. Whereas a building with 51-75 people of each gender will require two male and three female washrooms, or five gender neutral washrooms.

How do General Contractors and Subcontractors Differ?

In construction, the general contractor is the party responsible for the overall coordination of all construction activities on site and is in a direct contract with the owner. To complete all or a portion of the work, the general contractor hires subcontractors, who are specialized contractors focusing on individual aspects of the construction, such as installation of masonry, structural steel, plumbing or electrical.