By Rachel Mercado
Brantford Gymnastics Academy (BGA), located in Brantford, ON, is a national high-performance club and training gym where qualified coaching staff work closely with athletes to strive for improvement and excellence. The facility is fully outfitted with national professional-grade equipment and has been home to more than 15 national medalists, eight national gold medalists, 93 provincial medalists, and 39 provincial champions over the past two decades.
In early November 2016, dark smoke filled the air over the city’s north end as BGA was engulfed in flames from an electrical fire. The fire took more than three hours to control and completely destroyed all equipment (including bars, mats, and vaults) as well as the entire building itself. It caused a devastating total of $1.2 million in damage to the building and its contents.
BGA was able to secure temporary housing in a building owned and built by Lanca Contracting Ltd., a full design-build general contractor. The building, which was erected earlier in 2016, was the only facility in Brantford that offered the necessary area and clearance height for the gym’s programs. One week post-fire, BGA was open and operational.
In March 2017, the design-build contract for the rebuild of the new BGA facility was awarded to Lanca, and the company officially began construction in September of that year after receiving the necessary permits from the city. The Lanca team knew a custom-designed metal building would be the best option to meet the insurance requirements, given metal’s innate advantages of resistance to fire and material compliance with current building codes. Moreover, a pre-designed metal building would work well within with the ambitious construction timelines that the owner set forth. This is attributed to the fact that, with metal buildings, site work and other building preparation happens concurrently as the building is being manufactured to the owner’s exact specifications and, upon delivery to the job site, the building is ready for erection.
The contractor was able to design a building that delivered all BGA’s wants and needs while keeping the project within a predetermined budget. While a quick completion time intuitively leads to fewer (costly) labour hours, the single-source nature of metal buildings and their associated metal components lessens the chance for job delays, which then results in quicker final project delivery and move-in for the owner.
The new facility was erected on the same location as the previous building and the BGA owner was steadfast on preserving the width of the building. The amount of floor space required for the academy is vital to the gymnasium’s equipment and operational layout; any less would emanate a closed-off, crowded aesthetic that would hinder the gymnasts’ training and performance. Noting this as a priority, Lanca was able to maintain the existing width of the old structure while lengthening the building footprint by designing and stipulating the pre-engineered Robertson building system to the exact width of the building while simultaneously offering the maximum amount of interior floor space.
The new 1207-m2 (13,000-sf) building—nearly double the size of the previous gym—used a standing-seam Double-Lok® roof system composed of metal single-skin panels from Robertson. The metal standing seam roofing panel system attached to the sub-framing of the building, using a variety of concealed, interlocking clips that provided minimum panel penetrations. Overall, a standing seam system was the appropriate choice for BGA that provides both a high degree of weathertightness and assurance for a weathertight building envelope.
Further, the decision to incorporate a metal roof in the redesign of the new BGA was reinforced as a metal roof encompasses integral advantages over other materials, including (as previously mentioned) fire resistance as well as low maintenance, energy efficiency, and durability. Further to this last point, steel has the highest strength-to-weight ratio than that of any other conventional construction, resulting in a stronger, more cost-effective buildings that require less material and assembly. Although it takes a skilled crew and specialized labour to erect a metal structure, the numerous advantages that steel has over other traditional construction materials as well as the future cost savings the owner will realize made steel the only consideration for this project.
This new construction method, which incorporated fire-resistant steel, insulated metal panels (IMPs), and concrete, gave the owners peace of mind with the facility rebuild.
To comply with property line boundary requirements, one of the exterior walls on the building is clad in 101-mm (4-in.) Metl-Span ThermalSafe® IMPs, specifically designed to achieve a one-hour fire rating by incorporating a thicker steel veneer and a rock-based mineral fiber insulation, comprised of volcanic rock and slag, which is a by-product of the steel and copper industry. This fire-resistant IMP functions as exterior fire-resistant separation walls and is a popular choice for arenas, gymnasiums, and all types of high occupancy structures. In addition to its non-combustible core, the IMP offers superior thermal performance and protection from the elements across the entire wall area, and the advanced mineral wool core provides enhanced insulated values that result in significantly lower heating and cooling costs for the owner.
The adjacent wall to the southern neighbours’ property did not require fire resistance as it did not sit on the property line, and this allowed BGA to clad the balance of the exterior walls with 101-mm Metl-Span Tuff-Cast™ IMPs that have an attractive, stucco-like appearance with a tilt-up look. This panel combines the superior thermal efficiency of IMPs with the modern masonry look of stucco or finished pre-concrete walls that is often used in both new and retrofit construction.
Inside the facility, the faces of the Tuff-Cast panels feature a white lightly corrugated profile that creates the appearance of symmetry within the room and provides a feeling of openness between its exterior walls and 7m (20ft) clear ceiling height. These panels further have a standard FM Approved Class 1 foam core and offer excellent insulating values. The metal and foam composite construction create a rigid panel far stronger than the individual parts. This increases the span capability of the panel and reduced the need for secondary structural components.
Nathan Lancaster, CEO of Lanca, said the IMPs “provide the benefits of good thermal performance and reduced sound transmission.” He also praised the material’s fire resistance and esthetic benefits, saying, “It is an attractive metal panel that exhibits the natural beauty sought by many owners and designers. In designing the building, we knew it was important to match the professionalism and vibrant attitude that many people associate with Brantford Gymnastics Academy and its members.”
Lancaster continues, “What this durability results in is nearly zero maintenance in the long run while still enjoying the benefits of an IMP urethane core and energy efficiency, which features unsurpassed thermal efficiency,” said Lancaster. “Who says that beauty and functionality have to be mutually exclusive?”
In addition to the metal panels, the building used conventional construction materials and nearly 464.5 m2 (5000 sf) of glass on the exterior, which allows an abundance of light on the two Olympic-sized floors where competitive athletes are able to tumble and train
BGA purchased brand-new, top-of-the-line gymnastics equipment from all over the world to ensure exceptional quality in its training programs.
Internally, the design of the space, in conjunction with the metal panel system, allowed the HVAC designer to ensure the airflow was quiet and manageable for athletes as young as four years old to remain comfortable in the cavernous space upon entry and during training, when their core temperatures inevitably rise
The interior space was laid out in conjunction with the owners and the architect. The layout of the training facility was designed by the owner, along with its equipment supplier, to maximize the efficiency of the space. This allowed for an inset trampoline and two additional foam pits with climbing rope and bars above. The interior floor and wall texturing utilizes an acrylic modified cement-based coating allowing for comfortable, non-slip surfaces underfoot as well as low-maintenance, easy-to-clean surfaces on the walls. The coating further adds texture for acoustics and, of course, an amazing colourful finish to the inside space.
Other features of the design include 278 m2 (3000 sf) dedicated to office/administration areas, a colourful party room, a glass-encased viewing area on the mezzanine overlooking the floor, and changerooms for the athletes. The first-floor changerooms and main entry feature heated concrete floors so that athletes moving from boots to bare feet are comfortable before entering the training space, and the second-floor viewing area’s glass wall is dual-pane, which ensures safety and provides a wonderful viewing space and open feeling to both spectators and athletes. While the main viewing area is located on the second floor, there is another viewing area on the lower level that is wheelchair accessible and welcomes family members to view classes in a safe, comfortable space.
Lanca also used a striking red for all the building’s trim and downspouts that brings a vibrant, modern feel to the facility. Careful consideration was given to the HVAC system. Constant air movement was required to ensure athletes in leotards were comfortable by keeping their muscles warm and cool enough once moving. Enclosed destratification fans permit air movement, are whisper-quiet, and give no visual distraction during any activity. With health and safety in mind, BGA also mandated that for the HVAC return-air system to minimize air pollution within the gym and keep humidity and dust/chalk concentration to a minimum. The system also eliminates odours by recycling the air and consistently drawing fresh air from outside, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
In late November 2017, six months after Lanca was awarded the contract and several weeks ahead of schedule, BGA opened the doors of its new facility to the public The efficiency and vigilance of the Lanca team to order the metal building system and components, hand-in-hand with the quick construction time of steel, made delivering the project early possible.
Lancaster says, “It truly is a second home to these athletes, and I’m glad that Lanca had the opportunity to be a part of it.”