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Behind the fence at the new St. Paul’s Hospital

Some of the 400 tradespeople currently working on the new St. Paul’s Hospital project. To date, nearly half of all new employees on the project self-identify as a member of an equity-seeking group.

The new St. Paul’s Hospital on the Jim Pattison Medical Campus will reshape BC’s health care landscape and leave a lasting mark on the province – an impact that’s already being felt.

From the excavation of 150 Olympic-sized pools of material to 13-hour concrete pours, the scope and scale of building the new hospital are HUGE.

“When we had some major seismic concrete pours, we basically seconded the entire road system in the Lower Mainland,” says Bruce Norman, project director with PCL Construction, the hospital’s design-build partner. “For our main seismic footing, we had 340 trucks cycle through the site and it took us 13 hours to pour. You won’t see that scale of construction everyday so that’s been pretty unique.”

Trucks line up at the construction site in preparation of BC’s largest concrete pour (for a vertical project) in June 2022.

Coordinating an event of this scale required detailed planning which has been a hallmark of the project. From transporting large construction cranes to scheduling hundreds of workers, figuring out logistics is key in keeping momentum going on site.

“This is the largest project that I’ve ever been involved in,” says Kevin Little, senior manager of design and project delivery with the New St. Paul’s Hospital Project Team. “Just the scale and the logistics of it is really incredible. Everything that goes into what we do here every day is so well coordinated.”

The concrete floors for levels 1 and 2 of the new St. Paul’s Hospital are now complete with teams working on levels 3 and 4. By the end of the year, the hospital should be up to floor 7. (Photo taken May 25, 2023)

Norman says the team’s diligence in acquiring the goods and services needed, and supply chain management, has been crucial to the project’s success to date. “When we buy a widget, we don’t just buy one; we buy thousands and thousands of them. So knowing our supply chain, the amount we need and how long it takes to get things is one of the biggest challenges for a job of this magnitude.”

‘A lasting legacy on the local workforce’

A project of this size needs a workforce to match. Currently, up to 400 tradespeople work on the hospital at any given time with that number expected to quadruple as the project progresses.

By the time construction is completed in 2026, PCL estimates that more than 10,000 tradespeople would have worked on the hospital at one time or another.

Concrete pumps and crews pouring concrete at the new hospital (June 2022).

“We’ll have thousands of workers funneling through the door by the time the project is over so the project will leave a lasting legacy on the local workforce,” says Darrin Joss, PCL’s general superintendent for the New St. Paul’s Hospital Project. “The impact it has on the local workforce, apprenticeship in all trades, development of supervision, and development of management is really impactful for the whole city and the entire Lower Mainland.”

Like many industries, recruitment has been a challenge on the project due to the sheer number of people needed on site. But once hired, PCL points out the passion and engagement of those working on this project has been astounding.

“Many of the workers were born at St. Paul’s Hospital, have family members saved by staff at the hospital or have family members who work there,” says Norman. “The passion we see in the actual workers themselves and what they’re building is much different than building a bridge or some other type of infrastructure – because this is personal and passionate.”

Watch the video on what it takes to build BC’s largest ever hospital redevelopment project.

Related stories:
Walking into our future: new St. Paul’s Hospital mock rooms
‘Embraced by nature’: BC landmarks inspire interior design of new St. Paul’s Hospital

Story by: Justine Ma, New St. Paul’s Hospital Project