Local contractor, trades construct unique Niagara College Teaching Distillery

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Ontaraio Construction News staff writer

The new Niagara College Canada Teaching Distillery at Niagara-on-the-Lake is an example of a unique, local and collaborative project.

The 2,500 sq. ft. structure is based on the college’s successful teaching winery and teaching brewery – also both Canadian firsts. The college says the fully operational distillery houses five stills, four mash tuns and 10 fermenters, allowing for on-site production of a wide variety of distilled products including vodka, gin, whisky, brandy, rum and more.

Welland-based Serianni Construction Ltd. completed the $2 million-plus distillery project, with a majority of local sub-trades. Serianni has worked with the college on several other projects with consultants Raimondo + Associates Architects Inc. and Hallex Engineering. VBSA Engineering and Upper Canada Engineering also contributed to the project.

“One of  the challenges of the project was the mechanical and electrical systems; as there has not been a teaching facility like this ever built in North America,” company president Mario Serianni said. “As this project was designed as a high hazard occupancy building, and in a college teaching environment, diligence was paramount as the systems had to exhibit explosion proof characteristics.

“This included requirements for elaborate ventilation and gas detection systems as well as explosion-proof electrical devices and lighting,” he said.

The project also incorporated several energy reduction upgrades, above building code standards. These include; R-50 plus roof insulation and SIP wall insulation values for energy efficiency, triple pane window glazing for improved thermal performance, LED lighting and occupancy sensors and automated controls for powered HVAC equipment.

Tom Mussari, Niagara College’s project manager and contract administrator, said the new building will allow “students to go beyond theory and learn the ins and outs of the distilling industry, working hands-on with industry standard equipment to produce a wide variety of distilled products as part of their studies.”

Indeed, says Serianni, “the real star of the project is the spectacular distilling equipment” — all “bright and shiny copper and stainless steel” supplied by a local distributor, Criveller Company.

“The process equipment is truly an eye-catching feature that is prominently displayed in front of large floor-to ceiling windows so the equipment is visible by the public as soon as they drive up to the building.”

Serianni said special mention should be given to Steve Gill, the college’s general manager for the teaching winery, teaching brewery and the new teaching distillery. “Steve’s industry knowledge and personal contacts with the stakeholders was a key part of this project to ensure the correct equipment was sourced for this state-of-the-art facility.”

The first group of 16 students are now learning about production, testing and analysis, as well as packaging and merchandising.

“The students are always the ultimate winners in any new school construction project, as they are the benefactors of the college’s programs and the realization and the efforts of the design and construction team, the college’s management team to see the need for this facility – obtaining funding and bringing the idea and vision to fruition,” said Serianni. “The students enrolled in the very first class this year are truly pioneers in the North American distilling industry, as there is no other facility like the Niagara College’s Teaching Distillery.”

“We congratulate the efforts of the college and appreciate being part of a local build Team, Salute . . . ,”he said.

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