Construction steps up for Emily’s House in Toronto

Construction steps up for Emily’s House in Toronto — April 26, 2012

The building industry in the Greater Toronto Area is stepping up to the plate to help build Emily’s House, the first children’s residential hospice to be constructed in the city of Toronto and one of only six in Canada.

Being undertaken by the non-profit Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care, the facility will be housed in a renovated heritage building on Gerrard Street East as well as a new 6,000-square-foot addition is to be constructed at the rear.

The centre has launched a $7.5 million capital campaign to secure the necessary funds to cover the costs of construction and furnishings. Executive director Rauni Salminen said about $1.3 million remains to be raised.

Donations of various types have been made by Priestly Demolition Inc., Royal Mechanical Inc., C&T Reinforcing Steel Co. (1987) Ltd., Anchor Shoring & Caissons Ltd., Maplecon Earthworks, TVG Construction Ltd., Hunter Electric Ltd., Coreslab Structures Inc., Steelcon Group Ltd., ThyssenKrupp Elevator and Buttcon Ltd., the project’s general contractor.

C&T Reinforcing Steel President Sam Costa, who sits on a committee of volunteers who are overseeing the project on behalf of the centre, said it is important for the local construction industry to support the project.

“If there ever was a time to step up, this is it,” Costa said, noting that all of the firms that have been asked to provide donations have done so. Some are donating services/materials or even writing cheques.

The 10-bed hospice project is being undertaken by a team that includes Toronto’s Hilditch Architect, a firm with expertise in healthcare and community support projects and a well-established track record of working with not-for-profit organizations.

The firm has worked closely with the centre since being contacted in 2005, initially to identify potential sites that could serve as a future home for the hospice and later to develop a functional plan and schematic layout that could facilitate the facility’s complex programmatic requirements.

Approvals were required at numerous levels, to get the project off the ground.

Involved agencies included the Ontario Heritage Trust, the province’s lead heritage agency, as well as the city of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services, which advises city council on matters related to the Ontario Heritage Act and acts as a professional resource to the community and property owners.

Located adjacent to a landscaped park on the grounds of the former Don Jail, the project involves renovation of the 5,200-square-foot, three-storey Governor’s House, which was constructed in 1888.

Exterior stabilization work was required to repair damage to the roof and exterior walls. Some interior demolition work had to be undertaken as well. Brickwork was cleaned and repointed.

Existing original wood windows and frames will be repaired where possible and new wood window sashes will be provided in the second phase of construction. The exterior walls will be insulated on the interior to provide increased occupant comfort.

Heating and cooling will be provided by water-cooled heat recovery pumps working in conjunction with a fluid cooler and high-efficiency, gas-fired boilers.

Medical gas and oxygen will be piped to each bedroom headwall.

Excavation for construction of the addition is scheduled to get under way shortly.

Careful co-ordination and tight construction tolerances will be required throughout, given that the site and building footprint are “quite constricted.”

Structural steel, concrete, elevator, mechanical and electrical subcontracts have been awarded to date.

Salminen said the genesis of the project was a needs assessment conducted seven years ago by the centre, which provides home hospice services for people living with life-limiting illnesses.

“We realized there was a real gap in hospice care for children and families,” says Salminen, one of the founding members of the Philip Aziz Centre.

“These children either had to be cared for at home or be hospitalized. We realized we needed to do more.”

Pediatric palliative and respite care will be provided 24 hours a day in a home-like setting at Emily’s House. The hospice is scheduled to open in December.