Canadian Consulting Engineer

2020 #CCEawards Showcase: BCIT North Campus Infrastructure Project

November 16, 2020

“Sustainability seemed to be a major driver and, from a social point of view, the project improved campus life.” – Jury

BCIT North Campus

Photos courtesy R.F. Binnie & Associates.

Category: Project Management

Award of Excellence Winner: R.F. Binnie & Associates

As aging electrical infrastructure at the north campus of British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Burnaby, B.C., neared the end of its serviceable life and posed a critical risk of failure, R.F. Binnie & Associates provided project management services and acted as the owner’s representative in delivering upgrades.

Consequently, BCIT became the first educational institution anywhere in Canada to earn an Envision award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI).


The project management process

With annual enrolment of approximately 50,000 students, BCIT is one of the largest post-secondary institutions in its province and has ambitious plans for future growth. In 2015, however, a condition assessment of underground utilities found much of the existing infrastructure needed to be replaced. To address these findings, BCIT set up the North Campus Infrastructure Project (NCIP) to deliver a $50-million upgrade, ensure reliable power supply and distribution and establish a foundation for future development.

Binnie’s project managers addressed business continuity (competing construction and cutovers without affecting scheduled campus programs, courses and services), safety (co-ordinating with BCIT’s campus programs), risk management (tackling unknown conditions with underground infrastructure) and stakeholder management (extensive communications). On a regular basis, the team also needed to balance the benefits of additional, maintenance-deferring improvements against scope creep and increasing project costs. Binnie tracked risk items throughout the project while ensuring the budget could be maintained.

The project managers focused on creating personal connections with key stakeholders, meeting with each of them at the start of the project to understand their priorities, constraints and requirements relating to to their individual buildings and programs. This became an iterative process, maintained throughout the project life cycle, sharing information effectively and efficiently.

Binnie and the project team successfully completed the project—including the installation of nine new electrical substations, 5.5 km of new linear infrastructure and corresponding streetscape and landscape improvements—several months ahead of schedule and on budget.

Integrated design

The project posed a high degree of difficulty in terms of completing the necessary scope within a short timeline while keeping the campus fully open and without affecting scheduled courses and activities. To address this challenge, BCIT and Binnie worked together to implement an integrated design model for delivering the NCIP.

The goal was to accelerate the design process and mitigate constructability challenges by ensuring the early involvement of the general contractor. Indeed, Binnie worked with BCIT on a detailed request for proposals (RFP) to ensure the right general contractor was brought on board, based on expertise, capacity, innovation and value.

Earning the Envision Award

BCIT also wanted the project to have a positive impact on staff, students and local communities, which led into working toward goals established through ISI’s Envision framework.

As such, sustainability was front and centre through all phases of the project. By way of example, BCIT emphasized improving stormwater management (SWM) infrastructure on the campus, including the integration of rainwater gardens. There were also environmental benefits through the implementation of efficient lighting and transformers.

BCIT looked to ISI to have the NCIP verified against the Envision framework, which measures sustainability in such categories as climate, resilience, nature, resource allocation, quality of life and leadership. ISI’s design tools were used to identify sustainable approaches throughout all phases of the project.

There were also social and economic elements that contributed to meeting ISI’s framework, including increased campus walkability (covered walkways, new green spaces, an outdoor event/activity space and the transformation of English Street to English Walk), an improved streetscape (accommodating pedestrians, cycling and vehicular traffic on Carey Avenue and Smith Street), improved operational efficiencies (reductions in unplanned maintenance costs) and alignment with the BCIT Campus Plan, BC Jobs Plan and BC Skills for Jobs Blueprint.

In 2019, the NCIP became the first educational institution in Canada to earn an Envision Award. It won at the gold level.

BCIT English Walk

Rain gardens and seating areas for students were added along the new English Walk.

Award-winning firm (project manager): R.F. Binnie & Associates, Burnaby, B.C. (Richard Bush, P.Eng. PMP, MBA; Jhonathan Martinez, P.Eng., PMP).

Owner: BCIT.

Other key players: Stantec (prime consultant), Pinchin (environmental and hazmat consultant).


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