When it comes to the Canadian housing market, pundits, pros, and prophets all seem to be watching the housing bubble and exclaiming it will do one of three things: pop, expand, or level off. They’re 100% correct.

Whatever happens, Canada has been humming along strong with plenty of new home construction, in stark contrast to its neighbor to the south. Case in point: Mattamy Homes, based in Toronto, is Canada’s largest new home builder. Since the company started in 1978 with the building and sale of a single home in Burlington, Ontario, Mattamy has gone on to build more than 60,000 homes in 150 integrated communities, and counting.

Part of the “and counting” is a new, high-end, planned community being built in Oakville, Ontario, about 30 minutes north of Toronto. Phase 1-A of The Preserve is currently being constructed and almost all of the 550 homes that will be built there have been sold already. Additional phases will bring the total number of homes to 1800.

Saving the roads

Mattamy Homes selected TACC Construction Ltd., based in Woodbridge, Ontario, to prepare the 800-acre site for home building and to finish paving the network of roads. Depending on the season, the 35-year-old company employs more than 300 and generally works within an hour-drive radius of Woodbridge, an outer suburb of Toronto.

“We’re completing all the site development earthworks, underground, and all roadwork for this project,” states Frank Saracino, road superintendent for TACC Construction. “We have seven weeks to complete our portion of the project.”

With the tight timetable, TACC relied on technology to ensure productivity on the project. The company has been using GPS machine control on its earthmoving machines since 2008, but this was its first experience using the technology on its slipform concrete curb and gutter paver.

“We’re comfortable running our Topcon 3D-MC2 on our Cat dozers that were used on the site,” says Saracino. “The technology is incredibly fast and accurate so it helped us achieve grade tolerances without the dependence on survey crews pounding stakes everywhere. Our machine operators are used to having the site plan and progress data displayed on the GX-60 touchscreen right in their cab.”

To level and balance the site and strip the topsoil, TACC used Caterpillar 621 scrapers and the Cat dozers equipped with machine control.

Saracino continues, “What was new for us was using Topcon Millimeter GPS machine control on our Power Curber 5700-C. We like the Power Curber because it’s compact and designed for tight radius jobs, which made it appropriate for the subdivision with its meandering roads and cul-de-sacs. It was pretty amazing to see how efficient the Millimeter GPS Topcon system made the curber. We eliminated stringlines which saved us time, labor, and concrete waste, and it’s much more precise. The technology made the Power Curber at least one and a half to two times quicker than using traditional methods.”

TACC and DiCrete Construction acquired the new system from the local Topcon dealer, GeoShack Canada. GeoShack provided systems, set up, training, and support.

There were 11 kilometers of curbs throughout the development that TACC carved out and fine graded with ¾-inch stone as prep for the asphalt paver. It placed the concrete curb and gutter using its Power Curber 5700-C with Topcon Millimeter GPS machine control.

There were three mobilizations for curb and gutter work. DiCrete first laid a gutter footing or base stage which was 20-inches wide and 6-inches thick. There were two rebars placed in the base.

The next two mobilizations were stages of the 20-inch curb. Initially 9 inches of the curb were placed with the gutter base. After the road asphalt was paved the Power Curber came back and placed an 8-inch cap on the curb to finish it off to a proper height.

TACC used 45,000 metric tons of base stone and a total of 65,000 metric tons of stone throughout the project. The soil on the site was a mix of clay and shale which was weather-resistant.“It could rain one day and we’d be back working on the site the next day,” Saracino says.

Mattamy Homes hired its own engineering firm to create the original site plan that TACC adapted for use with the Topcon GPS machine control systems by creating their own 3D digital model. Both the earthmoving machines and the slipform paver used the same site model.

“Because our curb machine runs so efficiently and accurately with the technology, we’ve experienced a 10% savings in our concrete use,” states Angelo DiGravino, general manager for DiCrete Construction Ltd., Concord, Ontario. The Power Curber with the Topcon technology is running so fast we recently broke a production record. We poured 5700 linear meters or 5.7 kilometers (3.5 miles) in one day, which shows how proficient we’ve become in using the system.”

TACC Construction faced three production deadlines with this project.“We beat each deadline by two to three days, which is pretty impressive considering how tight the deadlines were,” Saracino says. “This was our first project where we were totally integrated with technology on our earthmoving and road construction. The technology provided seamless transition from task to task.”

DiGravino concludes, “We were given a tight timeline and achieved it. The project owner is happy with the time lines and quality of our work. If they’re happy, we’re happy.”

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee. Reach him through www.jeffwinke.com.

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