The Qikiqtaaluk Corporation’s (QC) new hotel and conference centre is going up in record time, as room modules stack up like giant Legos.

The Qikiqtaaluk Corporation’s (QC) new hotel and conference centre includes four storeys of modular hotel rooms, complete with beds, televisions and flooring, built in China by a company partially owned by Canada’s Bird Construction.
Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

The modular system wasn’t in the original plan, as QC’s director of project development and partnerships Sheldon Nimchuk explains.

“A few years ago we encountered some timeline challenges in getting approvals in place to move forward with the project as we had been planning. As you know, up here a month is a year when you rely on sealift,” he said.

That would have meant a delay of at least one year for the opening but, as it happens, QC’s Canadian construction manager, Bird Construction, acquired 50 per cent of outstanding shares of Stack Modular Structures Ltd. and 50 per cent of Stack Modular Structures Hong Kong Limited in 2017.

Workers prep a module to add to the already growing stack that will result in the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation’s five-storey hotel in Iqaluit, set to open in spring 2020.
Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

“Stack is a modular construction company with production operations in China. Stack produces steel frame modules for permanent construction. The modules are suited for the hotel, senior housing, office space and general housing sectors in the North American market,” according to a Bird news release from that time.

Bird suggested QC consider the modular option.

“That provided an opportunity to bring us back to our original planned occupancy dates,” said Nimchuk, adding modular construction seems to be an increasing trend in the hospitality industry.

“We engaged early on with the authorities having jurisdiction. These materials meet and exceed the CSA standards, and, in fact, during the inspection period there are third-party inspectors inspecting the modules.”

The modules are constructed of structural steel.

Three factors ultimately contributed to the decision: attractive cost, quality of product, especially high-quality soundproofing, and the ability to install an energy-efficient building envelope.

“So both on soundproofing, which we hope future clients will appreciate if we achieve what we think we’re going to achieve, and from an insulation value, on an energy-conservation and a comfort level, we think we’re going to have a superior product than what we might have had in the conventional approach,” said Nimchuk.

QC also weighed temporary construction jobs versus opening earlier and having the permanent jobs available for a local workforce.

“We still have, in the ground floor area, the conference centre, 50,000 square feet of construction happening, including exterior building envelope. So there’s still a significant amount of work to attract as much Inuit labour force that we can that’s available in a town that has a lot of construction happening at the moment,” he said.

Holloway Lodging Management Services, a Nova Scotia-based firm, will run the business and Nimchuk says in the fall the call will go out for roughly 65 full and part-time positions.

Nimchuk says QC is working on an Inuit employment plan.

“Certainly, that’s going to be a real challenge, yet a testament to our success to offer as many Inuit opportunities to work in their hotel and to try to capture the enthusiasm,” he said.

The structural steel modular constructions for the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation’s hotel and conference centre sailed from China to Iqaluit in roughly 55 days, helping to ensure the business was not delayed by a year.
Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo

The five-storey complex, which includes the four modular storeys, will comprise 94 rooms, 12 of which are suites. Each room came from China already fully fitted out with beds, televisions and flooring.

The hotel will include a restaurant with capacity for 80 to 86 people and a lounge with capacity for 150 to 170 people, pending licensing assessment.

The conference centre as a whole will hold 550 to 600 people, and will be divisible into three smaller spaces.

“Our interior design objectives are to work towards representing the 13 communities of the region. And our objective is to try to create an opportunity to purchase (art) directly in the communities so that we have a little bit of opportunity to provide some economic development at the community level,” said Nimchuk.

If everything goes as planned, the hotel and conference centre will be open for business in spring 2020.

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