Women's College Hospital

Breaking down the walls at a hospital that broke down barriers for women’s health

Client: Walsh Construction
Unique Details: A mere six feet. That was the distance between the newly built hospital and the demolition of the old. Priestly put innovation to work, creating an iron curtain to protect the new building from debris. This project also required preservation of key historical elements from the old building and extensive asbestos remediation.

Women’s College Hospital was the first institution in Canada to specialize in medical education specifically for women. The hospital moved to its current location at 76 Grenville in 1935, followed by expansions in 1956 and 1971. In 2006, it received a new mandate, and plans began for a new hospital complex on the same site. By 2013, the first new building was complete, and it was time for the old to come down so that redevelopment could continue.

During the first phase of redevelopment, a new tower was built on the east side of the site. When Priestly arrived to begin tear-down of the remaining buildings, it had to do so a mere six feet away from the new hospital, already fully operational.

With a demanding 12-week schedule, Priestly got to work. The first challenge in this vintage building was to dig deeper into the structure to determine the full extent of asbestos remediation requirements. They found more than the initial hazardous abatement review could see, adding time to the project.

Priestly was also responsible for salvaging key historical elements of the building for use in the new structure, including the handrails of the main staircase, and a marble statue that would resume her greeting duties in the new facility.

With these delicate tasks complete, the crew began with destruction of the south podium to make room for their machinery to move around the site. Next up was the north podium, allowing Priestly access to the main tower from both sides.

In order to protect the new hospital building, Priestly installed an “iron curtain” - a steel wall to keep debris from coming in contact with the new building, and they used plenty of water, sprayed continuously to keep dust to a minimum.

Starting at the top of the tower, Priestly removed sections of the roof, slab by slab. After that, they could break out some of the exterior beams and crane them out as they moved down through the building. Once the building was down to 4 storeys, the team could bring in the bigger equipment and move more quickly with traditional demolition techniques.

Priestly handled all aspects of the project and met the deadline, clearing the way for crews to begin digging the foundation for phase 2 of the redevelopment project.

See months of work in just a few minutes:

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