In November 2008, Nuttall Restoration was contacted to restore a medical building following a high voltage electrical fire in Moncton, NB. The fire took place in the main electrical system located in the mechanical penthouse of the seven-storey building. This caused smoke damage to the upper three stories of the building and a loss of the main power source including heating and elevator service to the entire building.

This project presented a number of challenges starting with a forecast of record cold temperatures during the first 72-hour period, followed by winter conditions for the remainder of the project and the loss of use of the entire building.

The building serves a number of medical specialists and dentistry clinics and many of them could not be relocated given the types of equipment and services required. This meant the project required an accelerated restoration schedule. They were told that other experts could not complete the project in less than three months given the type of equipment damaged and the scope of work required to regain occupancy of the building.

The Restoration

The most pressing issue at the beginning of the project was to mitigate further damage by restoring temporary heat to the building. The building’s heating units were damaged by the fire and could not be immediately restored until the high voltage electrical systems were repaired.

With temperatures forecast at -26 Celsius and an inability to heat, we recognized that this would put plumbing systems and sensitive medical equipment at great risk for secondary damage.

Immediately following the release of the building by the Fire Department, we took on the urgent and complicated task of restoring heat to the building. The building is 77,000 square feet in size so very large equipment was required to heat it.

Although challenging, our team of project managers and site crews worked diligently throughout the day to locate equipment throughout the Maritimes, secure shipping orders and having equipment express-freighted to the site.

Equipment was then setup by nightfall to secure the building by providing the necessary heat to prevent freezing. Our secondary team then worked through the night recording temperatures and monitoring equipment during those critical first few days when temperatures were at their coldest.

With the building secured, we turned our attention to the enormous task of restoring the building by dealing with the aftermath of the fire that caused severe damage to the mechanical penthouse of the building. This seventh floor penthouse serves as the nerve center for the rest of the building where all major electrical systems, HVAC, elevator service, communications and plumbing operate.

The 12000v main transformer and all step down electrical feed wires were significantly damaged while the rest of the penthouse and all equipment was blackened by smoke and fire. Many of the major mechanical components that were used were designed and built specifically for the building and were not readily replaceable.

Despite dire initial projections that parts and resources could not be ready in less than three months, we undertook the task by setting up a 24-hour schedule to operate non-stop until the project was completed. A team of project managers was assigned the task of finding the necessary parts throughout North America and, in many cases, had them expedited by airfreight to the site. Other parts that needed to be built or rebuilt were immediately ordered and fabricated on an accelerated schedule. Given the loss of the elevator service, countless steps were taken during this timeframe as the majority of the parts used in the reconstruction had to be moved by hand to the top of the seven story building.

In conjunction with the repairs to the penthouse, we orchestrated a large team of building and content restorers to restore the structure and the contents as smoke had permeated throughout the upper three stories of the building. Our professional technicians were able to carefully restore most of the specialized and delicate medical equipment.

The Outcome

We continued our non-stop schedule throughout both Christmas and New Year’s. To the delight of building management, the tenants and the insurance provider, we successfully completed the project in five weeks – a full seven weeks ahead of the projected schedule.

We found this job particularly rewarding as we had the opportunity to build relationships with building management and many of the tenants as we worked with them to retrieve belongings, to help carry items down the stairs, to assist in restoring and with final setup of their offices. To this day many of the occupants are known by first name and, on occasion, cross paths with our staff who cheerfully say hello.