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Mountain View County is a rural municipality in Alberta located north of the City of Calgary in the heart of the vibrant Queen Elizabeth II Highway corridor.
New Ag Shop: FAQs (Updated August 4)
Posted: 2015 July 27th
Mountain View County has enlisted Scott Builders Inc., to design and build a 7,000 square foot Agricultural, Lands and Parks Services Shop. The shop is proposed to be built on County property just northeast of the County administration building (referred to as the Greenfield site) and has a Council-approved maximum budget of $2.11 million.
Q: Why is the budget $2.11 million when the average on-farm shop can be built for much less?
A (Part 2): Last week we outlined some of the initial expenses associated with the construction of a new Agricultural, Land and Parks shop adjacent to the County office. The accepted design-build proposal is for an estimated $1.8 million (plus GST), below the maximum budgeted amount.
It's important to remember that the shop, even though it will be home to the Agricultural Services Department cannot be built to the same standard as an on-farm agricultural use shop because the uses are different. The shop will be built under the County's Commercial and Industrial Design Guidelines.
Under these guidelines the shop construction must follow the Alberta Building Code (ABC) in the strictest sense: blueprints, engineered drawings, preliminary studies on the site, adherence to fire codes, compliance with energy codes, a development permit, building permits, electrical permits, sewage permits, etc.
For an on-farm shop the Alberta Building Code does not apply if that shop meets the ag use definition as outlined in the provincial code. Essentially, if the building is being constructed on a farm site to serve the needs of the farm, it will be exempt from the ABC. A plumbing and health permit will be needed if they include a toilet and sink in their shop, but otherwise ag buildings including your standard wood-framed equipment and maintenance shop, are exempt. In MVC, if they meet the definition of a farm and acreage building, and meet required property setbacks, a development permit is also not required.
Under the building code and Occupational Health and Safety regulations, there is no way for the proposed MVC Ag Shop to meet the ag building standard because the use of the County Ag Shop is not similar to an on-farm ag shop. As a public facility with high human occupancy (farm shops are classed as low human occupancy) the MVC Ag Shop will be required by law to meet the higher standards of the commercial and industrial guidelines, plus Occupational Health and Safety guidelines and provincial fire code, which cover the safety of all the people who will construct the building and those who will staff it following completion.
The differences in just the number of studies and permits legally required for a project like the Ag Shop, means considerable cost savings to the average individual producer who isn't required by code to perform the same studies when building their farm-use shop.
Adherence to the standards and codes legally required to build this shop will also mean different materials, fixtures and expertise needed than on a farm site where producers can do much of the work themselves.
The foundation system for the County shop will be an engineered deep foundation system of helix piles, cast in place or a steel driven pile system. The typical on-farm structure does not require this type of foundation unless the individual producer chooses to do so.
When it comes to the electrical design of the facility, three-phase installation is typical for commercial facilities versus a single phase system for a typical farm shop. The framing of the building will also be structural steel and due to quality assurances and controls, all aspects of construction require an engineer review and sign-off before it can be handed over to the County for use.
Other aspects this facility requires that a typical (low occupancy) farm shop does not include:
- Fire-rated walls between rooms
- Heating system designed to prevent contact with explosive vapours
- Enhanced insulation requirements to meet new energy code
- Floor and curb installations that are impervious to chemical spills
- Pesticide storage that meets the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and the Alberta Agrichemical Warehousing standards
These items aren't extras or add-ons but either requirements of building code or the County's own standards for Commercial/Industrial development. The County - along with the contractor - will work to ensure that all standards are met while ensuring that it remains cost effective. When the facility is completed, it will be an investment that should last 50-plus years with appropriate care and maintenance, while serving the agriculture, land management and parks management needs of the County.
For comparison sake, the facility will cost approximately $225 per square foot, almost exactly the same cost for the new Didsbury Fire Hall the County is currently building in partnership with the Town of Didsbury. The two buildings will be built to the exact same standards according to the Alberta Building Code.
Next Week: What services Agricultural Services provide out of the facility?
Questions/Comments: Contact MVC Ag Services at 403-335-3311.
Q: Why is the budget $2.11 million when the average on-farm shop can be built for much less?
A (Part 1): The answer to this will be broken into two parts; the first being this week and the second being next week.
First thing to clarify is the figure quoted above is a maximum budget, meaning Council's direction and expectation is once the keys are turned over to the County the project must have come under the maximum budget. This means the contractors plans for contingencies and over-runs will have to be handled under that number. This is part of the reason why Council opted for the design-build concept.
The proposal accepted by Council is for project completion (turn-key) at an estimated cost of $1.8 million plus GST. This will include all the amenities approved by the County in the original request for proposal.
Right out of the gate this facility has to meet a higher quality and standard than the typical farm shop because of services and needs that are different. As a facility that is dedicated to municipal services and servicing the public, the shop will have meet the requirements of the Alberta Building Code, many of which do not apply to typical farm accessory buildings. The shop also falls within the County's Commercial and Industrial Design Guideline standards and as such must adhere to the Safety Codes Act.
This means that blueprints and engineered drawings are required to meet these standards. Preliminary studies are also needed to initiate the development, such as environmental phase 1 ESA (environmentally significant area), a biophysical impact assessment, a geotechnical study, and a site survey.
There will also be costs, included in the total project cost, with developing the Greenfield site. Lot preparation (1.5 acre site), access road construction, parking lot for fleet and staff, loading area, security gate, perimeter fencing, and servicing are all examples of some of those costs (up to 25 per cent of total costs) associated with meeting standards. It is also possible that the existing septic system and water well at the County office will not be suitable to handle the additional capacity presented by the Ag, Lands and Parks Services shop; a cost that must be factored in to the overall cost estimate.
Additionally, provisions have to be built in to allow for future expansion and development on the site.
For the most part, these are the standards and guidelines that must be adhered to just to develop the site. These standards are much stricter than the rules and regulations governing the construction of agricultural facilities for the typical producer. Ag standards are set up to be cost effective for the average producer. The County shop is more in line with the industrial or commercial outlets where producers will purchase their mechanical and herbicide needs.
Next Week: Part 2! We'll outline some of the specific needs in the building itself that pertain to storage of pesticides, Occupational Health and Safety regulations, the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and more that add to the overall cost of construction.
Q: What does design-build mean and what's the next step in the process?
A: Essentially design-build means enlisting one firm to develop the site and building plan, and actual designs based on the features asked for by the County within the budget proposed. Additionally, the same firm is then in charge of overseeing construction of the project.
The next step in the process now that Council has directed administration to enter into a contract with Scott Builders, is for the company to prepare their site plan and designs for the actual shop. Currently, that schedule calls for those plans to be presented to Council for review at their next regularly scheduled meeting on August 12. Once the plans for the shop are approved a schedule for construction can be set.
Q: Why was the County Office chosen as new shop location?
A: There are a few reasons why the Greenfield site at the County office has been chosen.
Firstly, the County already owns the land at the office location so there is no need to acquire land through purchase or lease to locate the shop, keeping those additional costs at a minimum. Secondly, the land is already appropriately zoned (Institutional), serviced, and with road access to handle the growth presented by the ag shop project.
Also, as mentioned in last week's FAQ's, the shop also brings the Agricultural Services administrative and field staff to a central location, promoting improved efficiency and quality of service to the public. It also centralizes public access to pick-up rental equipment and other products offered by Ag Services along with access to administrative functions like payments.
Q: Why is the County wanting to build a new Ag Shop?
A: There are several practical reasons for a new shop. Currently the administrative functions for the department are located at the County office while the field staff is located at the Didsbury shop location. Allowing a more cohesive environment should build efficiencies and improve quality of service due to a centralized location.
The Didsbury Agriculture Shop is used for work space and chemical storage, however, there is a limited space for any other storage in the main building as well as demonstrated logistical problems with the shop layout. The other buildings at this location are only available for storage and work needs on a part-time basis. They are either shared with other departments or rented out to other organizations.
Additionally, there is not enough room at the Didsbury location to store the larger pieces of equipment that the Agricultural Services department utilizes.
Chemical storage is also a major consideration. While the current shop does meet legislated requirements for chemical storage, it has an overall impact on what other activities can occur in these areas.
Other questions? Contact our Ag Services Department at 403-335-3311 for more information.