The New Durham EMS Facility

This is what pouring concrete on a sunny winter day looks like! Beautiful shot of a concrete foundation pour, for the new Durham Region EMS station in Sunderland, Ontario.  If you’re wondering where Sunderland is, let’s just say it’s far.  From anywhere.  This was a cold day, but it didn’t prevent the progression of foundation work, with workers braving the elements to keep construction on schedule.  Situated next door to the Fire Department hall in the Township of Brock, the new EMS will serve the emergency medical needs of an increasing community.  Indeed, with coinciding residential developments under way nearby, the township population is about to see a considerable increase in the next couple of years, once new sub-divisions are completed.  Looks like emergency services will be ready and capable of handling the needs of the community, following construction of the new paramedic station.


A Building Goes Up

A building goes up! The exciting beginning of the new Seneca College King Campus expansion, with steel erection well under way.  DIALOG is involved as compliance architect.  See anything interesting in this photo?  Those are structural Sin Beams, innovating (for North America) steel technology, courtesy of SteelCon, with exclusive North American rights for “corrugated” steel web beams.  Check them out at  This corrugated profile of the steel on the beams allows for a considerably thinner web, without compromising the  structural integrity from compressive strength forces acting on it.  Not necessarily “new” technology, but definitely fresh around this area of Ontario.  Looking forward to seeing the progression of the new campus expansion and posting some more photos along the way.

Construction Progress Payments (Sub-Trade Back-up)

Construction Progress Payments (Sub Trade Back Up)2

Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

If you’re a contract administrator (as a Consultant), certainly you must have had the opportunity to assess progress completion percentages of construction work taking place on a given month. In assessing such “snapshot” dollar values in the time of the contract, you have to be fair and command an accurate knowledge of the activities on site, in order to recommend contractor progress payments to the Owner. This is not an easy task. Aside from being aware of all general contractor and sub-trade work, you must possess general and reasonable knowledge of quantitative work and how much that (progress) work is valued at.

General contractors have been asked more often, in recent years, to submit the electrical and mechanical trade invoices as back-up to the GC’s progress draw application. Upon such requests, several GCs may ask if this is mandatory under a Canadian CCDC-2 type contract. They may ask why this is necessary, or state that the Consultant should be able to determine, within reason, the value of work complete in any given month, without suck back-up information.

For CCDC-2 contracts (without additional supplementary conditions), it is not mandatory to provide all the trades’ invoices with monthly draw applications. The GC is, however, required to provide evidence and/or back-up that would justify the monthly draw request. Note that, where a schedule of values is agreed upon prior to the first application for payment, that schedule of values’ listing of work items should provide a good breakdown to the Consultants of all parts of the project, enabling them to evaluate the amount of work completed to date. In some instances Consultants, at their discretion, will request the mechanical and/or electrical trade invoices as an additional aid in determining the monthly percentage completion values. This should not be something feared by the GC. It should facilitate and even speed up the draw review process. Any discrepancies between the trade invoices and the GC’s application for payment should be explained in the material submitted.

It is an unlikely scenario, under CCDC-2 contracts, that this will lead to the GC being requested to provide other trade invoices, since they are usually not as complex as the electrical and mechanical scopes of work. Of course with other forms of contract, and in particular with PPP projects, the requirements may be entirely different.

From the Consulting aspect, one has to keep three key factors in mind: The fairness of the process to all parties, how much work is left to complete and the importance of not under-certifying (with the GC’s cash flow in mind).

Why Architecture Is The Mother Of All Arts


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

If you don’t make a living as an architect, you may not think of architecture as the most important art form today. You may be impervious to the concrete sidewalk you pace on, the roof above your tech gadget store, or the elevator ascending you to men’s wear on the third floor. Materials are not on your mind, your pathway not a thought, much less geometry and the spatial layout between common and private areas. But it all works for you. It was made that way, generally with years in the planning, and with a lot of collaboration.

If you’re not an architect, you may not notice the often present subliminal intent of a certain shape – the shape of a building, a stair, or the path that leads to it. ‘If you build it, they will come’, goes the saying. Well… they may. In order to attract, it must be appealing. Or ensure light strikes it the right way. Because creating a building is creating a feeling. It must play with your emotions, smile at you and embrace you as an invitation to an inspiring space. Cultural aspects of the neighbourhood, city or even larger scale influences may very well be the focal point of the parti.

Functionality and ergonomics may be something you my not readily appreciate, or realize how much attention it deserved during design development. Pedestrian flow often dictates whether a building is successful or not. Way-finding signage, seating, light, colors and other interior considerations all require extensive planning, with the final outcome not necessarily arriving with everyone’s practical and artistic agreement.

But let’s consider safety, for a moment. Did you know that the public’s well-being is paramount, when architects and engineers design a building? In fact, public interest is clearly mentioned in both the OAA’s1 and PEO’s2 respective Code of Ethics, so next time you notice the height of that stair handrail or see how immense a ceiling seems above you, think about how much thought went into implementing such visuals.

If you are not an architect (or an engineer) you may also not fully grasp how many coordinating hours it requires to apply structural details, mathematics, code(s) requirements, electrical, mechanical and an array of other building operating systems that, together, work to compose a shelter of your liking.

Once you begin to touch on the above design considerations, maybe we can discuss how urban planning, aesthetics, art and even politics governed a given architect’s circle of influences in conceiving a building. Or perhaps how long it took to build, how many people were involved and what their relationships were like. All this WHILE making a profit…

This is why architecture is the mother of all arts. Any doubts?

1 Ontario Association of Architects,  2 Professional Engineers Ontario

Why I Love My Job


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

You hear this one a lot. If it’s not people voluntarily telling you why they love their job, it is you asking them if they do. For the purpose of this shared experience, I thought I’d follow suit and do the first, in contributing a few thoughts on why I have the best job in the land.

Waking up in the morning is an adventure. The day starts out with energy itself knocking on my door, an emancipation of the first daily assignments, which cannot be left for later. Cheerful faces meet me with an enthusiasm to work together, but not necessarily to finalize anything. Often, the sense of diligence and excitement gets carried away, further needing an additional push to complete tasks requiring a final stamp – with reminders in abundance, and then some.

My duties entail contract work. No actual contract exists between the participants, but negotiations are prevalent on a constant basis, with terms and conditions susceptible to interpretation from all. With this in mind, the feeding of information is vital to achieving a successful outcome of routine chores. Sometimes the challenge is great, but the reward even greater. Two-way communication frequently becomes three-way or even four-way. It gets messy, occasionally loud, with peaceful solutions an essential requirement for every resolution. The focus must be there, to never lose control, to never show a moment of weakness. Well, maybe once in a while. After all, we’re human, not machines.

In my line of work, one must be careful how to transmit thoughts and ideas to others. From time to time, it seems like walls have ears, no matter how vigilant you think you may be. If a lie is caught -white as it may seem – be wary, for trust may be broken with a tough road back to regain it. I never get discouraged, even though you need to work at it everyday. We’re in the business of building relationships mostly, not buildings, bridges or highways.

I have allowed myself never to over-react on a given circumstance. If what seems certain to be the answer to you, think twice – someone, with a totally different set of experiences, may be set to out-wit you, out-smart you, or perhaps pleasantly surprise you with their approach. This should always be welcomed, and with a smile.

Of course, I really have fun at my job. It allows me to be myself, to enjoy people and watch them grow. But the most important aspect of it is how I, myself, have grown. It teaches me new things every day and it allows my being to forge itself into a better person, due to the extraordinary interactions of knowledge and fast learning that surround me. I love it rain or shine, whether the sky is blue, red or purple, on weekdays, weekends or holidays. Because sometimes the sky is purple. Trust me.

The best job in the world? Being a Dad.

What’s Your Legacy?


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

Have you ever thought about the kind of work you’ll leave behind?  Does it ever cross your mind, what people will think of you when you retire or move on to a better place?  With life being so busy these days, I would say most of us don’t have the time to think too far ahead into the future, let alone after moving on.  Competition is fierce on just about anything, jobs are scarce and (when you are employed) many survive from paycheck to paycheck.

The Collins English Dictionary online describes ‘legacy’ as “something handed down or received from an ancestor or predecessor.”

What’s YOUR legacy?

From a professional aspect, most of us aspire to be successful. Receiving proper recognition from an employer for a job well done is always a goal, no one will deny it. That would constitute ‘success’ in my books. And commanding respect and admiration from fellow workers will definitely give you a comfortable sense of not only professional accomplishment, but also a certain feeling of social acceptance.

Regardless of whether or not we deserve praise for our work endeavors, we all want to leave a positive lasting impression on others. But how many of us carry ourselves with a sense of care for what our industry peers will think, long after we’re done doing our work?

When I first entered the architecture work force, I had no idea if I was going to stay long at a certain position, or even if my boss would like me to the point of wanting to keep me around. Heck, I myself didn’t even have the slightest clue as to whether I would enjoy my first job for several months in a row! Yes, that’s normal. I remember talking to graduate friends of mine in the industry, and they had the same worries. Legacy? We were worried about being able to afford that first mortgage – that was our “legacy” concern.

But as I’ve become more experienced in the architectural field, and with a more stabilized employment condition, the legacy thought does come to mind more often. Not that I worry too much about it. But I do care about what kind of professionalism transpires from my services and what lasting impression is left with industry peers I come in contact with. Yes, I represent a company – but most of all, I represent my character, my own personal philosophy and my unique way of solving technical issues with a touch of professional experience, as well as social interacting skills.

By solving problems successfully and to everyone’s satisfaction, you’ll automatically create your own contribution to the industry, no need to try any harder. Just concentrate on your job, be diligent and your legacy will become evident.

And remember to have fun.

5 Smart Steps To Build Or Renovate Your Home


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

If you own a home, chances are you’ve been faced with the need to renovate or build additional space to your dwelling. Construction is not cheap, it takes time and it should be carefully planned, especially for larger renovation jobs. Four or five years ago, my wife and I put ourselves to the (large) task of demolishing and rebuilding our home, turning a bungalow into a larger two-storey house. Being in the design/construction industry, we planned it all ourselves, but not without considerable time and effort. Here are some useful tips, if you’re thinking of embarking on such an exciting experience.

Hire an architect

If you want to extensively renovate your house, say add a second storey or significantly modify an existing layout, there is no doubt you will be better served by hiring a planning and design professional. An architect or a Licensed Technologist OAA, in Ontario, will provide you with the necessary guidance and services to help ensure your project is completed on time and on budget. Let’s face it, when it comes to residential construction, be it a new home or major renovation, costs tend to escalate and, in terms of schedule, you don’t want to be doing this for months and months on end. Most architects can run a project from beginning to end, from designing and acquiring the construction permit, to closing out the work when all trades leave the site.

A good architect should be familiar with the local planning and approval processes and will be aware of the most current methods and materials of construction. If, by any chance you have a contractual disagreement and a dispute arises on site, the architect will look after your interests from an Owner’s perspective, in representing you in dealings with the Contractor. Approach working with contractor as a collaborative relationship – they are the building experts and often have great ideas also.

Act as the General Contractor

If you’re running a tight budget, you may want to consider coordinating the effort of all contractors (trades) yourself. The management aspect of a renovation project is very important, so make sure you have firm control of coordinating schedules, deliveries and, especially, any interfacing work between two or more trades. It is not an easy task. This is more suitable for home owners with reasonable knowledge of the industry, but it is definitely not something that a well organized individual (with somewhat limited knowledge of construction) can’t do. If you decide to go down this route, give yourself plenty of planning time and get familiarized with different construction options and materials. Regardless of your knowledge of the industry, it is highly recommended to take some time off work, to do some planning, meeting and organizing the trade work sequence.

Do as much work as you can

Being familiar with the construction industry, and how materials are assembled, will definitely give you an edge in terms of doing some of the work yourself and saving money in the long run.  The labour aspect of construction is what usually “breaks the bank”, since physical assembly and/or installation of materials is what causes cost escalation in renovation work. And renovating means unexpected costs, as we all know. So, if you’re handy, and if you can afford the schedule to be a little stretched, doing some of the work yourself may pay off in the end. Some of the advantages are having control of the work quality, dealing with fewer contractors and, of course, saving a considerable amount of money on labor. Examples of some of this work would be selective demolition, painting or installing hardwood flooring, all depending on your knowledge or ability to undertake such work yourself. We did about 95% of the interior finishes ourselves, from installing drywall, to flooring, painting, light fixtures, baseboards, etc.

Keep a tight control of your budget

From a financial point of view, and if you endeavor into a sizeable home renovation, keeping a tight budget is very important. If you know the industry yourself, you should have no problem in asking technical questions of others in the field. And even if you are not so familiar with construction, chances are you have friends or family members in the industry, who can provide you with some advice. And that includes financial advice on the current cost of certain materials, labor rates and even construction trends that may change your initial budget on planned costs for the renovation. Always have a budget and stick to it. You may change your opinion on certain material and spend more than initially planned. That’s OK, as long as you don’t make it a huge increase in overall expenditures. And try to cut down on something else, to offset the overall burden. As a general rule (of mine), be ready to spend 20-30% more than planned, especially on extensive renovation work. In our case, we ran over budget by less than 10%, which was great, considering the size of the job.

Don’t sway from original design and commit to completing the job

We’ve talked about architects, contractors, getting involved in the work and the importance of finances in renovating or building a home. But an equally important facet of construction is the sense of creating spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. After all, that is why buildings get renovated; because they need improvements or a complete overhaul in these two areas. Before you undertake a project such as a home renovation, hopefully you’ll have a design, a set of drawings and the work planned out ahead of time. Coming up with a design can be a rigorous and timely process. Discussions with your spouse, web research and advice acquired from industry experts will all form the basis for your final design. You may indeed choose to change a couple of layout elements here and there. That WILL happen. Nonetheless, try to stick to original ideas and follow through on your design intent. Significant deviations will only lead to added time on the project and likely higher costs for carrying out the job. Lastly, make sure you commit to completing the project, by setting an end date. It may be adjusted, but don’t let it extend too long. When you’re involved in a project that is your own home, it is easy to let time slip and take much longer to complete it. Don’t fall into that trap. Get it done!

Have you designed or built your own home? What were your main obstacles? Feel free to share your ideas, experience and successful projects.

Photo credit: Ted DuArte, 2013

Time Is Money


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

Construction makes the world go round. It is, undoubtedly, one of the main forces behind job creation and purchasing power and thus, a catalyst for a thriving economy. In the last few years, the great city of Toronto has witnessed a significant boom in the construction industry, both in the residential and commercial sectors.

Massive towers are going up everywhere, and the increase in construction of townhouses, semis and detached dwellings does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. In these last few years I’ve always felt the economy in our city was better off than in most cities in North America. Much due to the boom witnessed in construction.

But times ARE tough. For everyone. And that means Owners – even though they’re able to invest in building or improving existing facilities – Consultants, Builders, Suppliers, and other players in direct connection with the built environment. It seems like the pressure comes from every side. Everyone’s busy. Time and money are obviously the most critical aspects of construction, and attached to any budget comes the pressure for building it as fast as possible. After all, money being invested needs to see a return on expenditure. And fast. Because if you’re spending millions to make billions, the sooner the better. Time IS money!

Architects do not escape this frenetic pace. Pressure to inaugurate a new facility on a fast-tracked schedule is felt in both the design and construction stages. Architectural designers and associated Consultants know this, and experience it in almost every project they are involved. When it comes to the contract administration aspect of an architect’s role, there is no exception. With such projects, time is so vital that every word and design detail is scrutinized by a Contractor, in search for document discrepancies, errors and omissions. Architectural firms and associated consultants must work in constant collaboration to produce contract documents that are as free of discrepancies as possible.

In my experience, from both the public and private sectors, lawyers are often engaged in construction contracts right from the outset, depending on the complexity of the project. Clarifications, insurance, jurisdictions, delays, lack of information and claims are just some of the issues surrounding the involvement of legal professionals in construction jobs. And when they get involved, you must be prepared for schedule and budget delays, which will cost everyone. So, do your best, keep in constant contact with your Consulting partners and be proactive and diligent in anticipating potential roadblocks. And don’t feel shy about involving your contractor in certain design or constructability discussions. It may be well worth your while and save you time AND money later on.

Photo credit: Ted DuArte, Pearson International Airport, 2006

Setting The Record Straight


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

As an architectural professional, and from my own experience, keeping records is the most important factor in determining cause and resolution of construction claim disputes. And if you keep accurate records, you’ll stand a good chance of coming out on top of the dispute, if the issue ever reaches a court of law.

For the last 18 years, I have carried a black note book, where I write everything I do on a daily basis. It contains meeting notes, site observations, and even thoughts that come across my mind during work. Writing things down regularly will not only help you remember previous events and assist you in performing your current work, but it will also provide you with a (hopefully) solid account of an issue that happened weeks prior, that is now crucial and in dispute between two parties.

A judge will always look at written records as a strong contending factor, against spoken word from an opposing disputing party. I especially take detailed notes of phone conversations, when not followed up with e-mails. A lot of times, it is much faster to pick up the phone to solve some issues in construction. But you also don’t have the time to spend your whole day in front of the screen detailing what you spoke on the phone earlier. Unless it is a serious item that could result in severe financial, or otherwise, damage to the project. My shelf now has 15 of those black books and I can pretty much go back to them if needed, to figure out what I did or discussed with a contractor on any given day. Some contractors are actually very detailed in keeping their own records. But I find that not many have such a knack for detailing site events that later turn into disagreements.

One other important note is the need to follow up on claims as soon as they arise. If you let time slip between first occurrence and an actual detailed written account of the event(s), your chances of compiling inaccurate data are much greater. Especially if you failed to record the event altogether. To that effect, the claim may now be much larger and complex than when it first came to be, and you’ll have a bigger problem to deal with. Hard to play catch-up in those circumstances. So, use the black book abundantly and your memory won’t have to play catch-up. If you set the record straight.

Article first published in Construction Claims Network, LinkedIn Group, in August, 2013. Re-edited by author for

Swimming With Sharks


Ted DuArte, Lic Tech OAA, MRAIC, LEED® Green Associate

One for the bucket list. How many of us would swim with sharks? Not many, I assume, since there is such a classic fear stigma attached to human encounters with the water beasts.


Six years ago, my wife and I were about to arrive at the tiny remote Heron island, in the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It was located a few miles from the continental shore of Gladstone,  so we decided to fly into it in style, via helicopter. The alternative would have been to board a modern, fast, ferry that probably would have docked us at Heron an hour after departure. Opting for the heli turned out to be a worthwhile experience. A bit more expensive, but what a ride! First time ever in a helicopter, it was a memorable half hour journey over a sea of blues and turquoises that travel brochures just don’t do justice.

In case you’re wondering where Gladstone is located, I can tell you it’s approximately 550 km North of Brisbane, a beautiful city we had visited three days before. The flight to Heron took place late afternoon, with the sun still shining bright, on whatever day of the week it was. No, we didn’t mind what day it was, or what month, for that matter. Being half a world away from home, the sun is all we cared about, and the Pacific waters were serene, as if the world didn’t care a thing.


We arrived at the island, slowly descending on the helipad, both of us still glued to the window, appreciating every second of the amazing coral scenery. We got off the chopper and walked towards a reception area that seemed to be deserted. Walked in, and to our surprise, there was someone inside to greet us. The host girl asked us where we were from. We said Canada. So she mentioned that out of the forty or so island employees, four or five were Canadian. Incredible! We’re everywhere 🙂


So, after checking in we decided to walk for a bit towards the water which, by the way, is not longer than five minutes, from any point on the island.We heard some noise made by several people, appearing to be in their twenties, all on or approaching a pier that ended with a drop of 15 or 20 feet into the water. The sun had now started to set, but shining bright and glorious in a mix of water solitude. One by one, a few guys and girls dove off the pier and met the ocean as if they were kids again. My wife and I approached the end of the pier and, to our amazement, we saw a shark! A blacktip. Then another… and more!

But witnessing the resort employees diving unceremoniously into waters containing four or five of these predators completely took us by shock. The divers quickly assured me the sharks were harmless and that they would not attack.


But they’re SHARKS, I thought!

Blacktip reef sharks do not usually constitute a threat towards humans but, according to Wikipedia, can become aggressive in the presence of food and have been responsible for a number of attacks on people.

Nonetheless, after watching their actions for a few minutes, I quickly realized they were right and no harm would descend upon fun loving creatures seeking to refresh themselves. The islanders, that is. After a couple of days, we too braved the beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef, in the company of sharks big enough to instil fear in any human being. Snorkeling was quite an adventure, with a couple of five foot long beasts sharing our waters and sizing us up, trying to decide if we’d provide for a good dinner. Let me tell you, it was quite an amazing experience. All of a sudden, the kind of stuff you see only in documentaries is really happening right there in our presence, with our own safety precariously in jeopardy. It gets your heart pumping, it is exciting and it makes you respect these creatures. A lot!

It was simply a remarkable event, for us to share THEIR waters. Because they let us.

And how about you? Have you ever had a heart-pumping encounter, that you weren’t counting on? Do you have a “bucket list” story to share? Send it in, I’d love to know about it.