A Family Approach

Heatherbrae Builders

Since it was formed in 1989, Heatherbrae Builders has evolved into one of British Columbia’s premier general contractors. Originating in Vancouver and working throughout the province, the team at Heatherbrae brings over 100 years of combined experience to projects across numerous sectors, including the educational, industrial, institutional, residential, renovation, heritage restoration and building envelope fields.

Founded by President/Principal Michael Knight, the business has enjoyed steady growth from the very beginning, mainly due to Heatherbrae’s hard-earned reputation for quality, on-time delivery. Along with sons David, Greg and Tim – who serve as the company’s Vice President/Principal and Project Manager/Principal – the Knight family has created a business that clients can appreciate and relate to.

“An important thing for us is that we are family-owned,” says Tim Knight of the 300-strong company. “We participate in employee profit sharing, offer good benefits and pay very competitive wages. Some companies are conglomerates, and owned by large pension funds or are publicly owned – people like us because they can talk to us. It is pretty linear. For some of those other companies, you have to go through all sorts of channels to talk to the bosses; to reach me, all someone has to do is pick up the phone. People like the family approach.”

Working as a quantity surveyor upon his arrival in Canada, Michael owned and worked for a number of companies prior to forming Heatherbrae. His sons David, Tim, and Greg gained practical, first-hand experience on job sites, with Greg and Tim working in the summers on projects and David gaining experience as a millworker. With the necessary tools and talent, the small company soon won respect in the community for being aggressive in terms of schedule and performing the work to exacting client specifications, and soon moved on to large-scale projects. “When Heatherbrae started, the company was doing about $2 million a year,” explains Tim Knight. “Last year, the annual revenue approached $150 million.”

With its team of in-house professionals – from office staff to estimators, project managers, assistants, superintendents, carpenters, foremen, safety officers and others – the company does all its own general contracting, formwork and framing for most smaller-scale jobs, and uses a team of select subcontractors for larger projects. Able to take on jobs up to $100 million, Heatherbrae also offers clients a range of specialized consulting services, such as construction management, quantity surveying, cost analysis, value engineering, and arbitration and mediation.

“We go anywhere to work in B.C.,” says Tim Knight. “We take on projects in Northern BC and have a permanent office in Nanaimo with over 50 full time office and field staff.”

CIRS: Sustainable Design and Construction

Approaching all new construction, renovation and heritage restoration projects with the same unwavering commitment to quality, service, and professionalism, Heatherbrae Builders has recently completed a number of high-profile projects, including the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Not only was this project LEED Platinum certified; it was a part of the Living Building Challenge and was in required to meet even more stringent design and operational standards than LEED. Better known simply as CIRS, the $23 million project saw David Knight act as Project Manager, working with consultant Busby, Perkins + Will Architects. Completed in July of 2011, CIRS is dedicated to research, collaboration and outreach projects that support workable solutions for the challenges of urban sustainability.

“The building is fundamentally a study of environmentally-friendly construction practices,” says Tim Knight of CIRS. A four storey, 58,000 foot structure, CIRS “has pushed the boundaries of sustainable construction materials and building techniques—radically reducing material consumption, emissions, energy and water usage.” Set atop a concrete base, the building is constructed mainly of wood and glass, and is intended to be a high-tech teaching and research facility, a “living laboratory” for the 16 groups based within its walls. It is, in many respects, a living, breathing entity.

With the goal of creating an environment which contributes positively towards productivity, health and happiness, Heatherbrae constructed the building with a number of sustainable features in mind, ranging from an abundance of natural light to high indoor air quality. Along with being kind to its inhabitants, CIRS also benefits the natural environment through a green roof with native shrubs, a massive green wall which serves as a solar shield on the structure’s southwest side, and a green screen with planters and vines which serves as a habitat for birds and insects. Stormwater is collected and diverted to plants. For Heatherbrae, it was a challenging endeavour to blend architectural necessities with sustainability requirements, but one which resulted in a landmark project for the University of British Columbia.

TELUS World of Science

Although British Columbia experiences small earthquakes on a regular basis, the province is considered a high-risk area, and will very likely experience significant, damaging quakes sometime in the future. Since many older buildings in the province were never constructed to withstand the forces of a massive quake, they need to be updated, and a good deal of Heatherbrae’s business over the years has been creating seismic upgrades to existing structures.

“Science World was essentially a huge seismic upgrade and addition,” says Tim Knight of the $35 million project, completed late last year. Working with consultant Cannon Design for the owner, ASTC Science World Society, the massive project involved a full four-phase interior and exterior renovation of Science World. Originally constructed for Expo 86, the state of the art structure started showing its age years later in the form of leaks and other issues that needed to be addressed. Working alongside specialized consultants, Heatherbrae was faced with the challenge of maintaining the overall architectural design while strengthening Science World and bringing it up to present-day earthquake-specific building codes.

“The extent of the seismic remediation was unknown at time of tender and became an extremely challenging part of the project,” said Tim at the time. In order to stabilize the shoreline, Heatherbrae performed compaction grouting over 200 round columns through the existing structural deck into the ocean floor. Designed and developed using a fast track, design build approach, the project also saw Heatherbrae provide costing and construction advice to support ongoing design development and adjustment by the design team to meet a phased and uncertain overall budget. With sunlight harvesting technologies used to produce electricity and heat water, a green roof, LED lighting throughout, solar flush valves, specially-coated glass which limits heat, and a great many more innovative features, Science World stands as a testament to Heatherbrae’s ingenuity and sustainable construction techniques.

Much like the seismic remediation work undertaken on Science World, many other structures have benefitted from Heatherbrae’s expertise in the field, particularly heritage restorations and schools. “A lot of schools were built long ago, and they were not constructed to withstand earthquakes,” explains Tim. “These building components have to be updated to withstand seismic activity.

A prime example of this work is the Willows Elementary School. Completed last year, the $7 million project for Greater Victoria School District 61 was a full seismic upgrade to the existing structure. With a phased tendering scheme, Heatherbrae facilitated an adaptive design process for the project; it was allowed to evolve as the team became more familiar with existing site conditions. This enabled both the clients and the design team to maximize design input and consideration, while keeping the project on schedule and on budget. Staff and students at the Oak Bay District area school had to relocate for the 2009 to 2010 year to another nearby dormant elementary school while engineers and construction crews incorporated a combination of steel frames and concrete elements into Willows Elementary School in order to meet and exceed seismic upgrade requirements.

Working with First Nations

Over the years, Heatherbrae has embarked on a number of successful projects with members of British Columbia’s First Nations, such as the Saulteau First Nations Community Centre in Moberly Lake, the Four Host First Nations Pavilion in Vancouver, and the Lil’wat Nation Teacherage Four-Plex in Mount Currie. On this latter project with the Lil’wat Nation, Heatherbrae acted as construction manager for the $1.3 million Teacherage Four-Plex and the Pquanalhew Child Care Addition, built to provide a space to prepare early childhood educators to staff the new daycare facility.

“We do a lot of work with First Nation communities,” says Tim. “We train local band members, and they work alongside us. Taking them on as apprentices, we have them as an active partner in the construction,” with upwards of half a project’s crew often comprising local band members.

No matter the project – from schools to seismic upgrades, historic buildings to residential properties – Heatherbrae Builders continues to approach all jobs large and small with the same blend of quality, professionalism and precision as when the company was founded 23 years ago.

June 21, 2018, 11:31 PM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

About forty skilled Central and South American workers from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica came to British Columbia, Canada as temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in 2006. This story incited Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) call for reforms to Canada’s TFW program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). LiUNA, a powerful voice within the construction industry with over half a million members – 110,000 of whom are in Canada – has been the only Canadian union to address the issue.