While the controversial redevelopment of the Royal British Columbia Museum is still on pause, the new Collections and Research Building (CRB) is officially moving forward, with the Province announcing the contractor for the project on Thursday.

Following a competitive design-build procurement process, the provincial government awarded the $204.8M contract to Mississauga-based Maple Reinders Constructors, who have an extensive portfolio of commercial projects and will lead the design and construction of the new CRB.

Two other parties also submitted proposals, including a team lead by Kinetic Construction, Smith Bros. & Wilson, and Wright Holdings, which would have seen Diamond and Schmitt serve as the architect. The other proposal was made by Ledcor and Knappett Projects, with John McAslan and Partners as the architect.

The new CRB, plans for which were first announced in September 2020, will be located in Colwood, rather than in Victoria where the main Royal BC Museum building sits. It will occupy an 8-acre site in the Royal Bay neighbourhood, and is expected to span over 150,000 sq. ft.

In May 2022, the Province announced a $789M plan to redevelop the Royal BC Museum, but the plan was paused after an outcry over the cost and the fact that the museum would be closed during the redevelopment. That project is currently undergoing public engagement.

Royal BC Museum Collections and Research Building - Colwood (1)

Royal BC Museum Collections and Research Building - Colwood (2)(Province of British Columbia)

The new CRB will improve research capabilities by providing dedicated labs and learning spaces, while also housing the archives, collections, and research teams. The building will also be home to the museum's collections of birds, mammals, botany, fish, entomology, history, paleontology, and modern history.

Parts of the museum's collection are at risk from flooding where they're currently housed, the Province says, including archival books, manuscripts, prized artworks including several paintings by Emily Carr, and early maps of the province. Building a new and separate facility will help the Royal BC Museum secure those artifacts, while also meeting international best practices and standards.

Royal BC Museum Mass Timber Collections and Research Building(Province of British Columbia)

The CRB will be built to meet the Province's sustainability requirements. According to official Request for Proposals documents, the building must meet LEED Gold Certification, be all-electric, and use mass timber as its primary structural system.

To achieve this, Maple Reinders is partnering with Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture, a firm that specializes in sustainability design. As the host Nations, the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations will also be involved, providing guidance and direction on the project.

"Alongside the safe and modern storage of the collections and provincial records, the CRB will be a dynamic and welcoming community space," Royal BC Museum CEO Alicia Dubois said. "We are thrilled with the design Maple Reinders has proposed and the alignment of our organizational values. We hope to inspire future paleontologists, entomologists, botanists and historians through greater learning opportunities by enhancing public access to our work."

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All in all, the project is expected to cost $270M, a $45.6M increase compared to a June 2021 estimate. The Province says the increased cost is a result of the "hot construction market" as well as inflation and escalating costs of materials and labour, which subsequently forced the project timeline to be extended and the price of the design-build contract to be increased. The Province also noted that the project is expected to create over 950 jobs.

Construction is expected to begin this summer, with substantial completion expected by October 2025, total completion by January 2026, and public opening in summer 2026.

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