A builder's dream
Contractor proud of role in building new school

Terry Kruger
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 25/00) - Clark Builders looks back with pride upon their role of bringing to reality the dream of a modern school to house Ecole Allain St-Cyr.

From working outdoors in bitter cold to making the architects' vision come alive, Clark -- the general contractor -- drew upon all their experiences as a Northern builder to get the $3.9-million job done one schedule.

Leading the building team was project manager Dave Bonnell and superintendent Norm Vallerand.

"One of the major challenges was basically getting that thing to a state where we could get out of those (cold) conditions," explained Bonnell.

Construction started in August 1998 and substantial completion was achieved in June 1999, allowing classes to begin in September.

Vallerand said while each project presents its own challenges, working in the cold always proves difficult.

"Electrical tools, when it's 40 below, they don't work the way they're supposed to," he said. "And when guys are up on a scaffold, after 45 minutes they have to come down and get warm."

Through it all, however, the workers pushed on with a sense of purpose. As many as 45 people were at work on the building during construction.

"The catalyst to success was the commitment and skills of these tradesmen and women," said Bonnell.

"There was a sense of pride in their work.

"We were proud to be a part of bringing a vision to life."

And for Vallerand, there was the added significance of helping build a new school to serve Yellowknife's francophone community.

"We see that school as a real milestone on the part of French-speaking people," he said.

As much as there is satisfaction in working on a building that means so much to a community, there is also the challenge of using building skills in bringing an architect's vision to reality.

The unique challenge in building Allain St-Cyr was its key-shape design.

Using structural steel, glass, concrete, wood, and specially-selected acrylic walls, the general contractor worked hand-in-hand with the architect to construct the building's unique angles and shapes.

"There's always ongoing communication between the builder and the architect," said Bonnell.

The school also generated business and income for Yellowknife.

"That project utilized the Yellowknife labour market in terms of trades and suppliers," said Bonnell.

A variety of local contractors were involved, from structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, to roofing, glazing, flooring, mechanical and electrical services.

Clark Builders is a grown-in-the-North construction company that has since expanded to Edmonton and Calgary.

In addition to commercial and industrial projects like the RCMP building, the City of Yellowknife baling facility and other local projects, Clark has been called-in on international specialty projects in Russia and China. Clark has also been a contractor for St. Pat's and Range Lake schools in Yellowknife.