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More than $8 million for local companies from Audain Art Museum build

Development helps struggling building industry



After 26 years in business, Peter Pocklington was giving serious thought to closing up shop.

"Too many years of losses," said Pocklington candidly of the last four years in the Sea to Sky corridor since the hey-day of the 2010 Olympic boom, after which he saw business dry up by 50 per cent.

Then along came a job that changed everything, breathed new life into Pocklington Building Systems, and others.

Pocklington is one of 13 local companies to date to get contracts from the new Audain Art Museum. Those contracts translate to more than $8 million for local companies, almost half of $20 million spent on the building to date. The final project is estimated at more than $30 million.

"The museum is making its presence felt in our town already," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who sits on the board of directors for the 56,000-square-foot museum, which will house the personal art collection of Vancouver developer/philanthropist Michael Audain.

The busy construction site in between day parking lots 3 and 4 is a hub of activity this summer, with the museum expected to open its doors in late 2015.

"From the outset, Michael Audain has said wherever possible he wanted to use local trades," said Jim Moodie, vice chair of the board. "As you might expect, the local trades are being used because they are deemed to be capable and competitive."

Using local trades is also a boon for the local economy with the "local multiplier effect" often pegged at two to three times the actual dollar amount spent on the project.

The museum job is one of the first big orders to come out of the Matheo Durfeld's newly opened BC Passive House plant at the Pemberton Industrial Park.

Durfeld said the contract for the Audain museum is for prefabbing all the timber roof panels.

The panels, up to 60-foot long (18 metres) and 8-feet wide (2.5 metre), will go on in phases.

It's not passive construction but by pre-fabbing the panels, the work can be done at the plant in a controlled environment.

"In a month we're going to start to see the first few panels going up," said Durfeld, excited to be a part of the museum. "It's a local project; it highlights what we do and keeps the work local."

The contract for all the electrical work means Andrew Tacilauskas, co-owner of Alpine West Systems Electrical, will be spending more time in Whistler over the next year and a half.

Tacilauskas has a team of 150 people in Vancouver, a fraction of that in Whistler.

"For Whistler it's definitely one of the bigger jobs in the last five years," he said.

That means he won't be commuting to the city daily for work.

"It's definitely helping the companies that did ramp up for the Olympics and they've got a lot of equipment and assets lying around that can be used now," he added.

The work brings a welcome change to the struggle of late in some sectors of the local construction industry. Pocklington, who is taking on the roofing, the walls, the ceiling, the insulation, among other things, said: "I haven't had a decent job like this since the Olympics. It's comparable to what we used to do."

His company did all the walls and roofing for the buildings at the $108-million Whistler Sliding Centre for the Olympics.

"We've always done a lot of commercial (work) over the years," he said. "We just haven't seen that for a long time."

Michael Audain approached the municipality two years ago with his idea of building a museum in Whistler to hold his renowned personal art collection.

The municipality worked diligently, and quickly, to find a location and clear any red-tape hurdles. And ultimately provided the land at the day lots for $1, for a term of 199 years.

The unique museum will draw a new type of visitor to Whistler, one that will come to soak in Audain's Emily Carrs and post-war B.C. Modernists like E. J. Hughes and Gordon Smith, as well as his extensive collection of First Nations masks.