GE Forefront in Canada. Courtesy Doublespace Photography.
Thornton Tomasetti provided structural and construction engineering services for the superstructure of a new gas engine production facility, also known as the “Brilliant Factory,” GE’s first in Canada. The 450,000-square-foot, long-span facility incorporates assembly lines, machine shops, shipping, storage and office space. The facility combines front line, innovative machines with data science and analytics and has the ultimate goal of enhancing efficiency and streamlining production. Its primary function is to manufacture reciprocating gas engines, components for compression, mechanical drives and power generation. The foyer will showcase advanced manufacturing techniques and audio-visual exhibits about the history of GE and its engine products.
The building has a structural grid of 25 meters by 25 meters on a large spread foundation, with a ground floor slab 300 millimeters deep. The floor is designed to support heavy moving equipment and fixtures, including the largest engine, which weighs 92,500 kilograms, on wheeled trolleys and air pallets. Customized pits with depths varying up to two-and-one-half meters below the floor slab are throughout the building and had to be waterproofed due to a high-water table on the site.
The front office features a timber deck roof with 24-meter span queen post truss supports. The chords of the trusses were designed as composite steel / glulam members with steel tension rods below.
The girders and columns, which support cranes for moving engines and other manufactured components, were designed with stringent strength and deflection properties. The largest crane has a capacity of 120 metric tons.
The exterior precast walls are loaded for wind and seismicity and connected to the roof diaphragm at various locations. By functioning as part of the lateral force resisting structure, this design eliminated the need for additional steel bracing. Additionally, installation of these walls was staged to reduce the amount of temporary bracing required during steel erection.
The project was constructed in approximately 20 months. To advance the project schedule and allow for early ordering of material while design was underway, the engineers provided advanced modeling services, which were transmitted to the steel contractor for the production of shop drawings and fabrication.
The structure is designed to meet the GE Brilliant Buildings standards and LEED certification. It includes sustainable features and an interior space with generous amounts of natural light. A series of saw tooth skylights on the roof of the building provide daylight in the front office, center office and the central manufacturing assembly space.
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