CARM Members Building a Stronger Community in Brandon

Westman Youth for Christ Blue Lions Apartments

By Deb Draper

Excel-7 Ltd., a general contractor headquartered in Brandon, Man., is currently working on a project for Youth for Christ in Brandon – two new affordable housing apartment buildings that will provide safe accommodation for local at risk youth.

Westman Youth for Christ is a community organization dedicated to serving young people, assisting teens and families to move through difficult life situations, while its Uturn Ministries specifically help young people ages 19 to 30 transition into independent living in a stable and safe environment.

“This current project is designed to serve youth coming out of addictions. Our Common Spaces program will create a safe place to belong for young people exiting treatment,” said Dwayne Dyck, executive director, Westman Youth for Christ.

Excel-7 has been serving Western Canada and the northwestern United States for over 20 years, and has worked with Youth for Christ on previous affordable housing renovations in Brandon.

“Our scope for these two new buildings involves project management and self-performed work on everything for site utilities, earthwork, foundations and superstructures as well as all interior and exterior finishes for a turnkey project completion,” explained Chris Fortier, estimating and sales for Excel-7.

All Youth for Christ buildings feature integrated housing, bringing support and affordable housing to the community as a whole, and this project is the same, but with a further focus.

“In addition to offering the support benefits of the 30 affordable housing units to the community, the 14 top floor units – Affordable Housing with Supports – are developed for young people breaking the cycle of addictions,” explained Fortier. “Currently there are no other second-stage housing options in the Westman area.”

Dyck talks about how these two new buildings have been designed to bridge a gap that he sees in the community where young people are coming out of addiction treatment programs, wanting to hold on to their sobriety and needing a safe, secure place to live while they rejoin the community.

“On the third floor, we will have a place with more secure housing for young people who want to stay away from the negative influences in their lives, a place where they can build a healthier community for themselves. This will be a safe space where these young people are physically separated and they can say ‘yes’ to new healthy relationships and ‘no’ to peers who will bring them back into their addictions.”

The other two floors, comprising 16 units, will provide affordable housing for seniors, young families and anyone who meets the income requirements. The first floors are entirely barrier-free apartments, ideal for seniors, while the second floors will contain two-bedroom apartments geared towards single-parent families with close proximity to schools and the YMCA.

Both buildings are scheduled to be constructed simultaneously within an expected 12-month construction period. Excel-7 broke ground in September 2019, and is currently working on the foundations – a steel helical pile foundation with a concrete main floor. Each three-storey wood frame building envelope will feature unique cantilevered designs for the decks with a metal cladding exterior finish and standing seam metal roof.

The two 4,750 square-foot buildings will face each other with a common space between. Fortier notes that this makes for very tight working conditions on the downtown site at 705 Lorne Ave. where most of the ground area is building footprint.

“Material staging areas will be a challenge throughout the project with most items being delivered to site just in time. But the site development itself has a fairly limited environmental impact as it was previously a parking lot. There are some existing trees within the site that will be transplanted onto the adjacent YMCA property.”

Energy efficiency/lower energy costs and lower long-term maintenance costs were key motivators for the owner and design team, and as Fortier explained, “Environmental sustainability really starts in the design phase. Reducing our carbon footprint means designing for energy efficiency – such as upgraded mechanical and electrical systems, higher R-values in the walls to make for higher efficiency and lower operating costs.”

“Samson Engineering Inc. in Brandon designed these buildings to achieve a 55 per cent efficiency rating above industry standards,” said Dyck. “This is a really good design, especially when it’s so difficult to make something energy efficient also be attractive – which we really wanted for this project. It’s not easy to do that with so many corners, thermal breaks, etcetera, but the architects have done an excellent job and these are going to be beautiful buildings. We’re calling them the Blue Lions in honour of former area director for Brandon Youth for Christ, Desmond Snyman, as they are a continuation of his work, extending his legacy among homeless youth.”


CARM members making it happen

“Building local and utilizing local trades has always been important to Excel-7,” said Fortier. “We are happy to partner with local CARM members that are also supporting the apprenticeship programs. We see many young community members successfully entering the workforce from Assiniboine Community College trade programs and it’s important to give them the opportunity to learn their skill while being able to live locally.”

Along with Excel-7, a number of CARM members will be involved in the completion of this valuable addition to the community:

  • Able Eavestroughing – Exterior cladding and roofing
  • B.G. Dodds – Wood framing contractor
  • Brandon Avenue Electric – Electrical contractor
  • Hamilton Iron – Metal fabrications
  • Keller Developments and Quarry Hills – Site work and drywall
  • Livingstone Landscaping – Landscaping
  • Pleasant Valley Cabinets – Millwork
  • Zenith Paving – Asphalt and curbing


Excel-7 has been a COR™-certified company for over 10 years and safety is always the first priority on any construction project, and that means communication. Daily tool-box talks, hazard assessments and documentation are all carried out in accordance with Workplace Health and Safety and COR™ requirements, helping to ensure an incident- and accident-free workplace for all those involved on every project.

Fortier adds that Excel-7 is proud to be part of a project with a local initiative that is so urgently needed. For a long time Excel-7 has been a supporter of Westman Youth for Christ and everyone is excited to see the project come to fruition for the local chapter.