Created 112 modular washrooms with 36 variations in a high-rise commercial tower in Calgary, Alberta. These washrooms were a feat of engineering and design, both accommodating demanding logistics and timelines and accentuating the aesthetics of the building in which they were housed.
Feature Walters was responsible for the design, prefabrication and installation of washrooms; integrating the units with the precise and detailed architectural vision that ran through the entire building.
These washrooms were the hubs of what we called an “intercontinuous material theme.” That means that every line continues forever. Seams in the window glass panes flow into the base-tile grout lines, on to the floor tiles, out from the washrooms down hallways, into elevators and into the lobby.
Because these washrooms were prefabricated in Toronto and shipped to Calgary, this project required much planning before fabrication began. Maintenance access panels had to disappear into the lines of the washrooms. We engineered a patent-pending integration of ceiling lighting, sprinklers and air ducts which allowed us to keep the ceilings at nine feet (rather than the seven and a half feet a conventional design would have necessitated.) We developed innovative joins that allowed seams in glass, tile and steel – all of which give and distort differently – to remain perfectly aligned with one another. While the industry standard is to get such lines accurate within an eighth of an inch, we were working to hairline precision.
We did all of this with prefabricated units. This made the challenge more difficult but it meant we could eliminate on-site time and expense to bring in plumbers, electricians, drywallers and other trades. We estimate we saved 500 person-hours by planning and fabricating in advance.
Walters rarely does the same job twice so the fact that we were building 112 units gave us an opportunity to progressively optimize our processes, getting faster and more efficient as we continued production.
How did we keep those lines and seams so perfectly aligned? Glass bends and distorts in place, so we created corner joins that would absorb these variations, ensuring that any changes would still result in the glass seam being centered on the base tile seams. We were dealing with other materials as well: Variances in the stone used for the vanities was tucked behind the glass, while steel maintenance access panels were precision aligned to blend into the seams.
The original architectural drawings had stacked mechanical – lighting, sprinklers and HVAC all on different levels. This increased the mechanical space above the washroom. We developed a lightbox plenum that also allowed the intake and outgo of air, which removed 24 inches of mechanical space. Touches like this made the difference between a standard and a luxury facility.
As with all our jobs, we used only certified tradespeople in our plant – glazers, tile setters, electricians and plumbers. In addition, we had our prefabricated washrooms UL and CSA tested and certified before they were installed. Effectively, these rooms were like a commercial appliance that has already been certified by a government agency.
And like any good appliance supplier, we delivered. But of course, because we were shipping entire rooms, we engineered our own delivery and installation system. Using HDBIM coordination, we built a product that had to fit within a half inch of steel in every direction, and shipped and installed it without having to take a single field measurement.