Canadian Consulting Engineer

Apotex, Etobicoke

March 1, 2006
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The most recent expansion of Apotex's facility in Etobicoke, west Toronto, broke ground not only literally, but figuratively as well. Apotex. was founded in 1974, and is the largest Canadian-owned pha...

The most recent expansion of Apotex’s facility in Etobicoke, west Toronto, broke ground not only literally, but figuratively as well. Apotex. was founded in 1974, and is the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company. Its Etobicoke plant on a site bounded by highways 427 and 407 is for manufacturing oral solid dosages.

AMEC acted as Apotex’s design consultant to provide electrical controls and mechanical engineering, construction management assistance, start-up and commissioning for the 350,000 sq. ft. expansion.

Apotex decided to act as both customer and constructor. This move shortened the time from design to start up and allowed Apotex to meet the rising demand for its products; ultimately reaching its target to increase production capacity from 1 billion to 5 billion dosages per year. The FDA-approved facility was constructed in just 24 months.

Given that the majority of Apotex’s business is in generic pharmaceuticals, which produce lower profit margins than branded products, productivity is critical. To avoid downtimes, the “N+1” principle of redundancy was applied to all systems inside the expanded facility. For example, if three transformers were required to keep the facility pulling maximum electrical power, then Apotex requested AMEC to provide four transformers.


The 15,200 sq.ft. laboratory space is designed to run entirely on uninterruptible power supplies. In general, the facility pulls in a total of 6 MW of power through a dedicated line from the local utility, which is capable of delivering 15 MW.

All the power, lighting, environmental and air systems had to accommodate the various chemical compounds that require a precise environment. Since some ingredients used in the products are light sensitive, for example, the lighting systems for the dispensing rooms and processing are designed to limit ultraviolet rays. In fact, all lighting in the processing areas meets specific performance requirements: no toxicity, no leakage, no corrosion and ease of cleaning.

The expansion includes a 5,000,000-cu. ft. high-bay warehouse that stores the raw materials. To ensure the temperature and humidity can be precisely controlled at all times, AMEC used sophisticated numerical modeling techniques to design custom HVAC systems to meet Apotex’s specification.

There are 59 air-handling units in the facility, each with a variable frequency drive, providing a total of 1.4 million cfm. An air-locked corridor separates the warehouse from the production area. Along this corridor are dispensing rooms designed to have 100 changes of air per minute in a downward draft, ensuring workers don’t accidentally inhale airborne particles of raw material.

To accommodate hazardous materials generated during production, a hazmat bunker was built. Made of solid concrete, the explosion proof bunker has highly specialized environmental monitoring equipment and a fire-suppression system with hydrogen sensors.

Owner: Apotex

Mechanical & Electrical Design: AMEC (Robert Walton, Steve Martin, Craig Woodall, Dominic O’Hara, Lisa Chan, P.Eng., Rahat Khan, P.Eng., Orlin Lukov, P.Eng., Ken Howells, Dexter Lestage, P.Eng.).

Architect: Whitney Bailey Construction support: Vanbots

Other key players: Tickner & Assoc. (safety), Barnes Huntington (purified water).


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