The concrete construction required for the Elora Mill Hotel & Spa‘s major reconstruction is not a typical run-of-the-mill job — literally.
The 19th century grist mill has been a part of the Elora, Ont. community for more than 175 years, first as an operational mill, then as a country inn.
Today, the site is being completely revamped into a hotel and spa with the help of Putzmeister truck- and trailer-mounted pumps to place concrete within the mill’s risky location. Towering above the falls of the Grand River and Elora Gorge, the Elora Mill & Spa offers picturesque views, but its natural surroundings challenge the setup of concrete pumps.
To meet the feat head on, Premier Concrete Pumping of Orangeville, Ont. is utilizing concrete placing equipment with the latest technology to efficiently set up and pump concrete in restoring the historic site.
In December 2010, the property was acquired by Ancaster, Ontario-based Pearle Hospitality, who orchestrated an extensive revitalization plan. Their intent was to maintain the heritage of the property’s five structures, while adapting them for new and sustainable uses.
In spring 2017, Premier started pumping concrete for the new spa — a three-story building overlooking the river, complete with a glass solarium on each level. Blending into its historic landscape, the building will offer a state-of-the-art fitness facility, change rooms, relaxation area and an outdoor infinity pool and hot tub on a viewing deck.
Unique concrete pumping obstacles
The concrete footing, foundation and walls for each floor of the spa’s 697 square metre structure were pumped using five different truck-mounted boom pump models. In seven trips to the jobsite, 382 cubic metres of concrete was pumped in total.
Each boom pump tackled unique setup obstacles, as the spa’s rectangular building was built with one side next to the river, one side at the edge of the gorge and one side next to difficult terrain, leaving only one side accessible.
However, Premier owner Eric Duiker was not concerned about sending different boom pump operators to set up and pump concrete on the difficult site.
“All our operators are ACPA certified and highly experienced, some have been with us as long as our company has been around,” Duiker said.
The concrete pumping company was established in 1989. Today, the company’s diverse fleet includes 11 boom pumps, two Telebelts, four Thom-Katt trailer pumps, a BSA trailer pump and two separate placing booms. When it was necessary to reach under an existing floor to pump a slab on grade for the spa’s basement, the five-section 31Z-metre truck-mounted boom pump with its unfolding height of 5.72 metres was required.
“The Putzmeister 31Z had the low unfolding height, plus five instead of four boom sections that allowed us to maneuver the boom through a doorway and under low heights to access the entire area,” Duiker said. “It was perfect for the job.”
Slowly, but surely
The 40Z-meter also had a special assignment in a tough-to-access area. The boom pump had to reach up and carefully extend over the corner of the 10.67-metre-tall building to pump the concrete required for an outdoor patio.
Although the Putzmeister pumps had no problem pumping the 3,625-psi small stone mixes during spa construction, no records were set for speed, as only one ready mix truck at a time could discharge concrete, as each pump had to setup on a narrow path on a dead end.
Next came the reconstruction of the existing inn, which will result in 30 large guest rooms, averaging about 46 square metres each.
The suites will be perched above the gorge, providing stunning views of the landscape. As major consideration was given to preserving as much history as possible, the old brick facade of the hotel remains while the inside was fully gutted.
Meanwhile, a significant new addition to the hotel will increase the size of each floor by about 186 square metres. To handle the intricate project, various trailer and truck-mounted pump sizes were needed to accomplish numerous specialty concrete placing tasks in restoring structures, compared to starting over and building new.
Early on, the Thom-Katt TK 50 trailer-mounted pump was relied upon to pump a lean mix for filling voids in the old inn’s basement. About 27.43 metres of 100 cm delivery line had to travel down a stairwell to access the area.
“The contractor would have used gravel, but there was no way to get 60 yards down the stairs as well as get it compacted, so they elected to pump a low strength fill to level the floors before pouring the slab on grade,” Duiker said.
The trailer pump then showed up a second time to smoothly pump the slab on grade, in the same basement with a standard floor mix. This provided a finished product on top of the low strength fill. Another popular choice to place concrete has been the 40Z, with its long 39.10 metre vertical reach and Multi-Z boom versatility.
Its first tasks was reaching the top of the building, where a solid concrete cap was pumped to attach new roof trusses.
The building design and reconstruction is putting green initiatives at the forefront. Energy efficient technologies include heat recovery ventilation systems, high efficiency appliances and LED lighting throughout.
Plans also include a hydro turbine that will harness the current of the Grand River to create one mega-watt of electricity — enough to power the entire development upon completion. Insulated concrete forms are being used to assist with the energy efficiency process.
The block forms are stacked, reinforced and then filled with concrete, creating solid monolithic concrete walls.
The insulated forms help reduce heating and cooling costs in addition to providing a noise barrier to block out the loud sounds of the rushing river rapids for guests relaxing at the spa or spending the night at the hotel. The forms are being supplied from Fastform Insulated Concrete Forms of Orangeville.
An evolving business
Just as the mill site has a history of change, so does the Duiker family business. In 1988, Archie Duiker started a formwork business, installing forms for residential and commercial projects. The business grew quickly, and a truck- and trailer-mounted concrete boom pump were purchased to place concrete for the company’s own forms.
The following year, they formed a separate concrete pumping company called Orangeville Concrete Pumping, which later became Premier. About two-and-a-half years ago, Archie retired; and his son Eric, who grew up in the business, assumed ownership. Meanwhile in 2013, Marcia Duiker, Eric’s wife, bought the Mississauga-based CanCrete Equipment Ltd., who supplies concrete placing equipment to Premier.
“In southern Ontario, insulated concrete forms are a common approach for multi-story construction,” Duiker said. “With building codes changing, ICF construction is gaining popularity all over.” This unique project would have been labour intensive if not for the longer reaches and innovative technology of today’s boom pumps.
“I don’t know how else this project would have been done. With ICF, you basically need to pump everything because it has to be precise,” Duiker said.
While the estimated 1,500 cubic metres of concrete required to complete the mill’s development is not exorbitant, the project is big for the community.
“The project itself is what is so incredible, and we’re proud to be a part of its history,” Duiker said.