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Super Mall Gets EIFS Job

Vaughan Mills may be the biggest exterior insulated finishing system job ever in the retail building sector in Ontario, but it is more than size and the fast-track schedule that kept EIFS contractor Granolite Company Ltd. on its toes. Meeting the demands of the super mall’s 15 anchor tenants, each with its own design team, dished up plenty of headaches for the firm.

“It was essentially like doing 15 contracts, rather than just one, because no two stores were alike,” points out Nic Faienza, Granolite’s project coordinator of the 200,000 square foot EIFS job. What’s more, the designs for a number of the anchors weren’t near ready by the time the EIFS contractor started work this spring at Vaughan Mills, a 1.2 million square foot shopping center that opened in November in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan.

Granolite’s work was in two tenders: the base building, and a separate tender for anchors based on a design concept with adjustments for various revisions to each anchor design. “Each anchor pretty much had its own design input,” points out Geoff van der Lee, senior project manager of Ellis Don Corporation, project manager of the big mall.

But that is not unusual in the world of big box retail developments. “There was nothing they (Granolite) were doing that was out of the norm with EIFS construction or design,” he says.


What is unusual, however, is the grand scale of the project. No big box project is anywhere near as immense as Vaughan Mills, one of the largest shopping malls in Canada. Moreover, no big box development in Toronto has had as many as 15 design teams. “The thing was,” van der Lee adds, “that it would have been nice to get sets of drawings from the (anchor tenants) designers that said how to build it, rather than just a concept that we had to figure out how to build.”

To meet each anchor’s design requirements Granolite faced a multitude of change orders throughout its seven-month contract. The key to satisfying all the tenants in addition to meeting the deadlines was communication, says Faienza, noting that his management team talked with the designers and builders daily and conducted pro- progress meetings weekly.

EIFS was selected over competitive wall systems partly because it offered the most design flexibility and it allowed tenants to select from a range of colors for their façade. It is not just the mall’s huge scale that sets it apart from other big box retail—it is color. The façade features more than 60 different hues.

Lots of Players

The only bump along the road for Granolite was with anchor tenant Nascar, a car-racing fan’s dream super store. Its designers specified that the corporate logo—a checkered flag—be splashed across the facade of the store, Faienza says. “The biggest challenge was transferring the design from CAD onto the (EIFS) wall. Instead of drawing it on paper as a draftsperson would, our paper was the wall.” Working closely with the architect, Granolite devised an EIFS color scheme that matched the checkerboard pattern to a tee. For all the color variations Granolite worked closely with Future Acoustics, which did EIFS color changes on the fly.

In the Toronto EIFS market, a 60,000- to 70,000-square-foot contract is considered large. Vaughan Mills required 200,000 square feet of EIFS. That is the largest contract ever for Granolite, which required a crew of about 60 during peak construction. Granolite was in a race against time to complete the job on schedule. To ensure it met the tight timeline, Granolite subcontracted metal studs and sheathing installation to Select Drywall & Acoustics. Ellis Don’s van der Lee applauds Select Drywall for coming through with last-minute installations.

Other plaudits go to the following:

Consulting engineers Atkins & Van Groll Inc., which assisted with developing a connection detail at the heads of the wall to speed up EIFS installation;

DeGussa’s SenerShield® air barrier applied by roller or spray. It cut 10 to 15 percent off the installation time of conventional air barriers;

Bailey Metal Products Ltd. and Roll Formed Specialty provided just-in-time deliveries of steel studs. “There really was no time for waiting on this job, especially when a change was called for,” Faienza explains.

Having the capacity to produce all architectural details in-house (through Granolite’s company Gran Trim Inc.) also ensured timely completion. GranTrim manufactured precoated foam mouldings and trim. If Granolite had outsourced the work, completing change orders on the fly would have been difficult to impossible, Faienza says.

An EIFS Marriage

When the big mall was in the design phase, several cladding systems were reviewed before field-applied EIFS was selected. While precast concrete or panelized EIFS cladding had some advantages, either would have created nightmares because of the anchor tenants’ demands for individuality. “Field-applied EIFS was born for this job,” Faienza says.

Another benefit to field-applied is it requires fewer joints than panelized EIFS: one joint every 40 to 80 feet compared to one every 20 feet for panelized. “We know that if there was a weakness in the EIF system, it would be in the sealants (caulking) used at the joints, so we wanted to go with a system with the fewest joints,” Faienza points out.

The wall system is a combination of two systems: DeGussa Wall Systems for the EIFS and DeGussa Building Systems covers expansion joints, sealants and waterproofing. The two systems were married to create a “true single source, full-façade warranty,” says Christopher Gater, Eastern Canadian sales manager of DeGussa Wall Systems.

The system provides continuity between the trades (EIFS installers and caulkers) because both are part of a team, points out Faienza, noting such a comprehensive warranty is unheard of in Canada. “The warranty played a role in us getting this job,” he says.

The wall system combines a secondary weather barrier and two-stage caulking consisting of a backer rod and caulking separated by a space for moisture drainage. Next, there is another backer rod and a finish sealant on the front of the panel. “It’s a true full-range rain screen system,” Faienza observes.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The rain screen system’s performance was evaluated by CCMC (Canadian Construction Materials Centre), a division of the National Research Council. Tests done on a completed wall system and one without caulking involved 180 cycles of heat, rain, cold and pressure. During each cycle water was applied uniformly for two hours at the top back side of the wall, then allowed to completely drain over a four-hour period. The system performed well, and the finish coat remained well-adhered to the base coat, which resisted delaminating from the substrate, Gater says.

This type of moisture drainage system is becoming more of an industry standard in Ontario, and other parts of Canada are following suit, say Gater and Faienza.

That moisture drainage system will be tested often if weather continues to follow the trend of this past summer. “We had the perfect storm here. I don’t think we had three rain-free days in a row all summer,” Faienza explains. That is unusual in Toronto. Known for its hot and humid summers, the city experienced one of coldest and wettest summers on record.

“We probably lost about 20 percent of our production time because of the rain,” he adds. “The joke is that it was like living in England this summer.”

One aspect of construction that went without a hitch was site access. With unlimited space, the contractor installed a multi-level scaffolding frame along the side of each anchor, allowing a crew of 10 to work on several levels at a time. On tight sites, Granolite will use a two-man elevating platform scaffolding system. It is the type of system that would have slowed the construction pace considerably at Vaughan Mills.

Vaughan Mills is a development by two companies: the Mills Corporation, a developer of retail and entertainment complexes in the United States, and Montreal-based Ivanhoe Cambridge. Along with 15 anchors, the mall features 200 specialty stores, restaurants and entertainment venues.

About the Author

Don Procter is a free-lance writer in Ontario, Canada.

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