Canadian Consulting Engineer

AWARD OF MERIT: Nortel Networks Manufacturing Facility Kanata, Ontario

October 1, 2001
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Category: Project ManagementJ.L. RICHARDS & ASSOCIATESIn September 1999, at a time when the Internet was expanding and sales were increasing dramatically, Nortel Networks realized their optical compon...

Category: Project Management


In September 1999, at a time when the Internet was expanding and sales were increasing dramatically, Nortel Networks realized their optical components production facilities could not keep up with demand. The company decided to build a clean room manufacturing facility — “Palladium 1” — of approximately 13,900-m2/150,000 s.f. in Kanata, Ontario. The catch was that the building was to be ready for start-up by May 2000 — in eight months’ time.

For even an office or warehousing enterprises this time frame would be difficult. For a Class 100 to 10,000 clean room facility, which is a unique and complex facility, the time frame was daunting. They generally take four times longer to build than standard building projects.

Although all the building components in a clean room facility are familiar in the construction industry, the extent of the systems — cooling, filtered air circulation, exhaust and make-up air ventilation, electrical power, vibration isolation, ESD grounding, smoke control, lightning protection, humidity and temperature controls — far surpasses that used in offices or commercial spaces. Air circulation, for example, has to be 40 times greater in a Class 100 clean room than in an office. The environment must contain less than 100 particles, at 0.5 microns in size or greater, in one cubic foot of air. For comparison, office space would have air quality ranging from 200,000 to 400,000 particles per cubic feet.

The sophisticated process systems that are needed produced further challenges. These include many types of compressed gases that must be stored and distributed to each individual tool in the labs. As well, the processes required liquid chemicals such as solvents, acids and bases that need to be stored and distributed to the tools. There had to be a deionized (DI) water plant that generates and stores DI water needed at the lab benches, and a liquid waste treatment plant that treats four to five different waste streams.

The final building plan has a large area of clean room laboratories, flanked by a building services area at one end, and an office and support area at the other. However, the use of the facility was unknown at the time the consulting team started the conceptual design.

The need to close in and weatherproof the building before winter resulted in the use of a high bay, single-storey structural steel building. This type of structure is unusual for clean rooms because concrete is usually preferred in order to dampen vibrations. A vibration consultant advised on the isolation mechanism for each piece of equipment.

Prime consultant J.L. Richards & Associates of Ottawa and the rest of the project team managed to achieve the daunting goal using fast-track design and construction techniques, and by working in an atmosphere of close co-operation and trust.

During an early partnering session the team of designers and Nortel’s representatives decided on methods to deal with bottlenecks, and all participants also signed a mission statement: “Empower our team to meet the challenge of building a complex facility within a daunting time frame and achieve customer satisfaction within a framework of trust and cooperation.” Daily meetings were held and a 30-day payment schedule used.

Nortel insisted that a costing tendering process be part of the system. A simple decision tree for the selection of all equipment and systems was developed. It consisted of progressive yes/no questions:

Does the proposed system achieve the desired design standards and meet with Nortel’s requirements?

Does the proposed system fall within the construction schedule?

Is the proposed system cost effective?

It was essential that the answer to all three questions be “yes,” otherwise another avenue had to be investigated. If none could be found, then the contractor had to adjust the schedule to adopt the system into the process. Under no circumstance was the end date to be affected.

The preliminary budget was $53 million which included base building systems, services and fit-up of the clean rooms. Nortel was so satisfied with the project, they subsequently asked J.L. Richards to help with an even larger clean room facility on the Palladium site. CCE

Project name: Palladium 1 – Optics Manufacturing Facility

Owner: Nortel Networks

Award-winning firm: J.L. Richards & Associates, Ottawa (prime consultant — design and contractual administration of architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical systems, site services, approvals and permits)

Project team leaders: Dale Craig, P.Eng., Brian Davies, P.Eng., John Elliot, P.Eng., Lee Jablonski, P.Eng., Dennis Weitzel, P.Eng., Terry Vivyurka, P.Eng., Steve Parenteau, John Graf, P.Eng., Randall Romanin, T. Peter Hannah

Other key players: HOK (program and project managers), Trimega (process engineers), RWDI (acoustics/vibrations), Golder Associates (geotechnical), Leber Rubes (code), PCL Constructors Canada (construction managers), Modern Niagara (mechanical contractor), Univex Canada (electrical contractor)


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