2020 Heavy Commercial
2nd Runner-Up

A $6.8 million police station in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada used ICFs for construction, and now the police department has a quiet, safe headquarters. Every detail in the new Saugeen Shores Police Service building was carefully chosen by the architect after consulting with the police chief and his officers. 

This Fox Blocks ICF project was completed in September 2019, and used 10,508 square feet of ICF for the exterior walls, representing 100% of the building’s 15,000 square feet exterior. Interior walls used 1,081 square feet of ICF block, leading to a total square footage of ICF usage of 11,580 square feet. A panic room accessed from outside in case of emergency was also built with ICF as well as a community use IT and meeting room.  

The building includes an office for victim services, probation and parole, controlled access parking for police vehicles, Ontario Police College training facilities, interview rooms, workout facilities, upgraded IT and phone systems, a huge secure storage area, and a courtyard area.

The architect, G.M. Diemert Inc., made the decision to build with ICFs. Diemert included many one-of-a-kind features not typical for police stations. ICF was chosen primarily because it is bulletproof. Windows sills were set at 42 inches to provide a “duck and cover” defense zone. The overall feel is a spacious, modern, comfortable, and safe building, with wide hallways, lofted ceilings, and curved walls. Recycling and sustainability was also important throughout the project. The Emerald Ash Borer has taken a toll on local ash trees. One tree that had to be removed due to the infestation became the community boardroom table that also incorporates electronics. Cell doors were removed from the former police station and re-used. Nice views, an internal courtyard, and a comfortable lunchroom were all designed to make the occupants feel good about being there. 

Residents who use Kijiji, Canada’s version of Craigslist, for buying and selling goods, can arrange to meet up in the 24-hour safe and secure internet exchange area. This area is also usable by partners who are handing off children in a joint custody situation and want a monitored place to meet. 

Passive security features include windows that cover all directions. The building was designed specifically for its location, with the potential to expand it in the future if needed. Ontario’s mayor Luke Charbonneau has praised the project for being completed not only on time but under budget.

The project as a whole took an entire year, but the ICF installation was completed in only 35 days. In fact, ICF construction saved twelve weeks of construction time due to weather conditions. 

Construction Challenges

The entire building was angled and curved, and almost no two walls were alike. Additional challenges included a 34-foot tower. Building and bracing 23 foot-tall curved walls in high winds and freezing temperatures proved difficult. 

“For the curved walls, we consulted with a few other ICF experts regarding the best method,” says Rob Vandenbroek, the owner and president at the project’s ICF installer, R. Vandenbroek Construction Ltd. in Walton, Ontario. “While there are several good solutions out there, we opted for the simplest method—bending the ICF to the required shape, running lath stripping then bracing. It was a bit time consuming and fussy but this held the curves extremely well even in such poor weather conditions.”

The first snow of the season fell on October 15, mid-way through the ICF build. Construction continued unabated, however, despite whiteouts, strong hurricane-like winds, and lake-effect flurries. “Bracing a 34-foot wall in order to complete the 34-foot tower in those conditions was extremely difficult,” says Vandenbroek. 

Additionally, there were detailed wet set bearing plates to attach and a flat steel roof system inside a 4-foot ICF parapet wall as well as the ICF curved wall. Top of wall to top of wall tolerances had to be exact to receive the flat steel roof system. The triple “Z” corners stopped at the outside corner but had to be connected back together at the lintels. The envelope was designed so that the ICF construction could be completed in full in the first round of construction before the other trades started on site. The parapet was stepped from 8-inch ICF to a smaller 4-inch form size to create a ledge on the inside to support the steel flat roof trusses. 

Simple Radius Walls

Using ICFs made constructing the radius walls simple due to the ability to run rebar continuously from the footings to the parapet, eliminating the need for a separately designed steel or wood parapet. Finished workmanship was exceptional, Vandenbroek says, with no blow outs or bulges and bracing that held up to the high winds. 

Thanks to the visibility and importance of the project, there has been a lot of media coverage of this building. Following the official opening ceremony, many attendees were taken on tours of the entire facility (with the exception of the secure storage area). 

Vandenbroek says Port Elgin and the town of Saugeen Shores are extremely happy with the success of the project. He says this project had been in the planning stages for many years before construction commenced. The project itself incorporated ideas from all stakeholders from around the community. “It’s a one-of-a-kind build and it was very exciting to see everyone rally like that,” he says. “Utilizing ICF for a municipal building is another stepping stone in making ICF construction the standard. With ICF integrity and the protection it offers, it should be.” 

Project Statistics 

Location: Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada
Type: Police Station
Size: 15,000 sq. ft. (floor)
ICF Use: 11,600 sq. ft. 
Cost: $6.8 million
Total Construction: 52 weeks
ICF Installation Time: 35 days

Construction Team 

Owner: Town of Saugeen Shores
General Contractor: Allen-Hastings, Ltd.
ICF Installer: R. VandenBroek Construction, Ltd.
Form Distributor: Fox Blocks
Architect: G.M Diemert, Inc.
ICF System: Fox Blocks

Fast Facts 

Curved and Angled Architecture
25-foot Walls with 34-foot ICF Tower
ICF saved 12 weeks on Schedule
Designed with Future Expansion in Mind


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