Reimagine Magazine | Issue 1: Summer 2014

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The open atrium is now the location of a dramatic staircase that connects each of the building’s three floors.

ULTIMATELY, THE ADDITION OF DAYLIGHT TO THE CENTRE OF THE BUILDING REDUCES ITS ELECTRICITY USE BY 32.5 PER CENT AND BOOSTS EMPLOYEE HEALTH. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Once a decidedly unsustainable and dingy call centre, the Servus Corporate Centre is now a hallmark of sustainability, awarded LEED Silver certification in 2012. The certification reflected consideration of many factors, including air quality and comfort, reuse and recycling strategies, and energy efficiency. The certification is a holistic one: other factors look beyond the building itself. Site considerations and water usage both earn points toward LEED certification. Near a major transit hub, public transportation serves Servus well. The team eliminated the need for the landscape irrigation system the previous owners had installed so they removed it. So, what does the inclusion of all these leading edge, but simple, green building techniques mean for the building at the end of the day? For one, the process resulted in a group of happy clients, Los says. “The Servus staff is enjoying the new space and the organization is benefitting from the co-location of our staff.” Los adds that Servus is very proud of this building and the partnership with Manasc Isaac. In concert, they have achieved a great look and practical feel for Servus’ employees, members and the greater community. re

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from the forest to the mill to the building. The design team’s choices are not just sustainable, they are healthy. Unlike some furniture and building materials that release toxic gasses, the design team specified products that would not negatively impact employee health or indoor air quality. Some green upgrades are not immediately visible in the Servus head office. Boilers, for instance, were retrofitted with new burners. By replacing the burners to match the load, the design team was able to increase energy efficiency and decrease operational costs, all while extending the life expectancy of the equipment itself. Since the Corporate Centre won’t see occupants squished into the workspace like sardines, it made sense to pull and replace mechanical ducts to accommodate smaller, more sustainable occupant numbers. As so much natural daylight floods the building via the atrium and clerestories, it relies less on artificial lighting. New motion detection sensors help achieve energy conservation, turning off lighting in areas that are unoccupied. These simple mechanical upgrades work together to ensure that Servus Corporate Centre performs as a lean, smart and efficient facility. Of the international certification standards, the best known is


GREEN VALUE Appraisers, architects and developers see the return in sustainable renovations, and it’s not just measured in dollars

By Matt Hirji Photo Ryan Girard

Tegan Martin-Drysdale and her business partner Paul Gibson are helping RedBrick achieve new sustainable building practices.




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f you walked into Stadium Apartments – a 34-unit modular apartment building located in the community of Parkdale in Edmonton, you wouldn’t get the carpet smell that’s become a common scent in recently developed buildings. Nor will your nose be treated to that fresh paint smell signature to newly christened apartment blocks. While those smells are commonly associated with the prestigious privilege of living in a freshly constructed building, for Tegan Martin-Drysdale, these odours elicit something entirely more menacing. “Those smells are actually toxic,” says Martin-Drysdale, explaining that the odours we commonly relate with “new” are actually what scientists would describe as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – chemicals in the air that are dangerous to human health. “VOCs are cancer-causing agents.” That’s one of the reasons Tegan Martin-Drysdale and her team at RedBrick Real Estate Services – the company that is the lead on the development of the apartment block – have taken strides to choose building materials with low VOCs. RedBrick has also incorporated other sustainable design practices such as triple-glazed windows, solar panelling and water-efficient plumbing fixtures. “Hands-down, it’s about the health of the occupants,” Martin-Drysdale says. “In Canada’s climate, we spend 90 per cent of our time indoors. And our health is directly related to the health of the indoor environment that we live in,” she explains. “When you work in a building that has somehow integrated a sustainable initiative into the construction or retrofit, you have lower amounts of volatile organic compounds that are being emitted into the air in the interior of the building, so you’re breathing in less toxic substances. In Canada, with our winter climate and our extreme temperatures, we have the most to benefit from buildings that are sustainable. I just think it’s smart.” Martin-Drysdale is part of a growing fraternity of developers, landlords and architects who have made a commitment to sustainable building and renovation practices – a broad term that encapsulates structures that conserve resources during construction or retrofitting and throughout operations. In increasing numbers, progressive-minded people like Martin-Drysdale contest that sustainable buildings – particularly green-orientated redevelopments – could contribute to the protection of the environment while also improving the comfort, productivity, and livability for the people who occupy them. >


Left, a rendering of the Stadium Apartments complex, once completed Right, the Solaire in NYC, and the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP) in Victoria



A study initiated by Chris Corps of Sequel Integrated Resource Management in 2005 gives even more credence to these beliefs.The study, entitled Green Value, was the first-ever analysis of benefits of sustainable attributes of green building. The study offered a variety of case studies of projects in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom that had integrated one or more green initiatives into the building. The results, according to Corps, substantiate MartinDrysdale’s belief that one of the key benefits of sustainably designed or redesigned buildings is in the health and productivity of the occupants. “One example that I cite is a building in New York,”

Corps says, pointing to a case study from Green Value focused on the Solaire – a 27-storey residential apartment building in Manhattan, New York. “In that building they put in low VOCs. A family moved into this apartment building in New York and their daughter had asthma. She had never slept through an entire night in her life. But after moving in, she slept through the first night, then she slept through the second night, and then she slept through the third night; it just carried on. The answer was low VOCs. She’s finally breathing in good air, and she’s feeling better.” Since Green Value was published in 2005, a substantial amount of literature has

been published that provides further proof that buildings designed and constructed – or reimagined – with sustainability in mind increase the quality of life of the occupants as well as the quality of the environment. Increasingly, experts are beginning to uncover the social and economic benefits of green redevelopment as well. And according to Corps, former chairman of the Canadian Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors who has been involved

in sustainable building initiatives since the late 1980s, the benefits of thinking green often appear in unexpected places. “The place where most people go when they look at doing these is ‘Well, can I get more rent?’ ” Corps says. “But the value also comes to the landlord in other ways: reduced turnover, reduced churn, and you get reduced vacancies because more people stay.” One reason that tenants who occupy green buildings are reporting high levels of satisfaction is because their workforce is more productive in these buildings. If you find that hard to believe, look no further than the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Victoria, British Columbia – the first LEED Gold building in Canada. “We found one tenant in the Vancouver Island Technology Park that had actually documented increased throughput in their business,” Corps says. “They had a 30 per cent increase in their productivity. They proved that up by showing that they had more lines of code written per hour after moving into the sustainable building.” Corps also points to the


nology Park. It also results in lower monthly operating costs for the property owner. “The idea is that you are trying to recover as much as you consume. Through energy-efficient materials and processes, you have the ability to increase the overall efficiency of your building,” says Nathalie Roy-Patenaude, director-counsellor of professional practice at the Appraisal Institute of Canada. “It’s always about minimizing your operating costs – your water, your heating, and your electricity. That minimizes the energy waste and minimizes your operating costs overall,” she adds. With that reduction, appraisers are more likely to assign higher property values for buildings with sustainable

property, we convert that income into an indication of value. We apply what we call a capitalization rate, or a discount,” Roy-Patenaude explains. She adds: “You’re converting your income by using a discount or cap rate, and converting that into an indication of value. So, let’s say the property generates $60,000 a year, and assume a capitalization rate of 10 per cent, that’s $6,000 more income per year. When we convert that income, it has the potential of leading to a higher value at the end of that day.” For many professional land developers, sustainable building and renovation practices represent a way to forge a better future. “There’s no excuse not to do it,” Martin-Drysdale says. “It’s a value. It should be entrenched and entrained in the way that every business does things.The old way of thinking that sustainability can’t be done, that’s antiquated rhetoric that needs to be broken down and tossed out, because it’s not true. Sustainability is a way of life.” re

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increased natural light that is often associated with green buildings. “You’re saving on electricity, but the real savings is on the staffing side,” Corps says. The statistics on staffing is that between 75 and 95 per cent of your business costs are in staff. So, when you provide daylight, you affect staff, and that’s a bigger bang for your buck than electricity savings. There’s lots of documentation of increased productivity. You have to look carefully for it. So the tenant gets the benefit, but does the landlord get the benefit? The answer to that question has been a resounding yes. And it’s not just that a sustainable building brings in higher rents per square foot – as is the case for the Vancouver Island Tech-

attributes when compared to a more conventional building. “Certainly it’s a consideration.You’re looking at two things: you’re looking at the longevity of the building itself and the quality of the building over time. Based on the quality of the finishings and the materials being used, there may be components in a sustainable building that you won’t have to replace quickly compared to more conventional builds,” Roy-Patenaude says, explaining that green buildings might fetch higher market values when prospective buyers understand the concrete value. “You are looking at the quality of the construction of the building. This is something that might set a sustainable building apart.” Landlords who own green buildings will be able to generate a premium on their lease rate if a tenant is looking to occupy a space in a superior quality building. That, combined with lower operating costs, increases the building’s marketability and creates value. “To determine the value of a commercial


High Expectations By Jen Janzen

Re-skinning First Canadian Place – one 90-kilogram marble slab at a time – was no easy undertaking, but the results are golden




points out, renovations are rarely as simple as you imagine them to be on the outset. That’s not to say re-cladding the skyscraper was a simple matter. The tallest building in the British Commonwealth when it was built in 1975, First Canadian Place remains the tallest skyscraper in Canada. B+H Architects, a global firm that’s well-versed in sustainable design and retrofitting, with long experience in large-scale projects, was the architect of record when the property was constructed in 1975. It was

only fitting that the firm came back for the re-cladding project, collaborating with Moed de Armas & Shannon Architects as the design architects. In its e-book The Second Life of Tall Buildings, B+H writes that the 72-storey First Canadian Place was innovative at the time of its construction, being an early example of structural tube steel construction and boasting a double-decker elevator. Its exterior was made up of 45,000 Italian marble panels, which were impressive enough, but in 2009, just over three decades >


First Canadian Place’s re-skinning involved the addition of 5,600 glass and bronze panels

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later, they were starting to show signs of deterioration. “We had a program in place to deal with replacing the marble,” said Dembinski, “but despite our best efforts, the marble wasn’t performing to our satisfaction. We decided it was in everybody’s best interests to replace it.” If the building was a testament to innovation when it rose from the ground at the corner of King and Bay streets in Toronto’s financial district, it stands to reason, then, that the building’s rejuvenation would need to be just as advanced. And with 5,600 glass and bronze panels planned to replace the Italian marble, the new facade would be just as impressive. But first, all that marble had to come off, each 90-kilogram slab of it. Enter the scaffolding. A three-storey unit that was mechanically connected to the building and able to scale up and down the length of the skyscraper, the scaffolding could hold up to 160 workers as they carefully lifted off each marble panel. On each floor, they started at the bottom level, removing first the marble, then the sealant and support brackets that held it there. The marble may have no longer been suited to coat a 72-storey building, but it was still reusable. Dembinski says all Brookfield leaders agreed that as much of the marble as possible needed to be re-homed. “It couldn’t go to some junk pile,” said Dembinski. “It was stone, and didn’t contain any chemical, so it was easy to re-use.” Some materials were used for artwork, some went to Habitat for Humanity, and other slabs were even used in concrete and roadways. Dembinski says they even gave marble away to people who had connections to First Canadian Place. “There are now a few home projects re-done in white marble thanks to us,” he explains. For every eight marble panels coming down, one glass panel went up in its place. The glass used a ceramic frit, which, when installed on the building, echoed the white, luminous look of the marble. Dembinski says Brookfield chose the glass for several reasons. “We couldn’t analyze the marble in terms of structure and rigidity, so we didn’t want to go with marble again, and we couldn’t find granite in the right mix and colour. reimagine


We decided it was better to go with a manmade solution that would keep the iconic look of the building, but keep the structure we wanted for long-term durability,” Dembinski says. The glass was also a local alternative. Whereas the marble had been imported from Italy, the glass was manufactured less than 50 kilometres away from First Canadian Place. It took about three days for 80 workers to replace all the marble on one floor. The tenants of the building were top of mind at every part of the project, with the loudest work being done through the night shift so the tenants could go about their days relatively undisturbed.

WHILE THE MARBLE WAS OFF the building, Dembinski says it was a good chance to inspect the underlying facade. “We had it all re-sealed,” he says, noting the weather protection helps to keep air from leaking in. After his team removed the marble panels, they upgraded the old insulation with state-of-theart, fire-resistant insulation and then installed the glass. The 450-kilogram glass panels were transported to the platform by an elevator hoist and carried across by a monorail to where they were needed, said B+H in its The Second Life of Tall Buildings publication. But the Brookfield team didn’t stop with the building’s exterior. “It’s kind of like when you renovate your kitchen,” says Dembinski. “All of a sudden, the dining room doesn’t look so good anymore, and you just keep going.” They replaced the chillers from the standard units to high-efficiency units, and switched out the 35-year-old pumps for newer models. “The chillers are one of the biggest electricity-users in the building,” Dembinski explains. “The old school pumps turn off and on at fixed rate, but the new technology for pumps adds a variable speed motor, so its energy expenditure varies depending on its requirements.” B+H also reduced the lighting in the offices, taking out a third of the light bulbs. Outdoor air fans were outfitted with high-efficiency motors that were able to respond to the amount of

In addition to re-cladding First Canadian Place, its owners also replaced chillers with high efficiency units, resulting in huge electricity savings.


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ventilation required at any time, thanks to carbon dioxide sensors. Brookfield also reduced the building’s water consumption by 35 per cent with low-flow fixtures in all the washrooms. The estimated water savings? About 66 million litres per year. Even now, with the renovations complete, First Canadian Place continues to lead the way in sustainable operations. Brookfield reports its annual emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark survey. The property’s Smart Commute Program promotes car-sharing and bicycle travel, and the entire building boasts a waste diversion rate of 76 per cent. Overall, Brookfield estimates it has reduced total energy consumption by 31 per cent

since the project began in 2009, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 39 per cent. The First Canadian Place project began just as the Canada Green Building Council launching the official Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)’s Gold Certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EB: O&M) program. Upon the building’s completion in 2012, after the required analysis and waiting period to measure the performance of the energy-saving initiatives, the property received its LEED Gold Certification (EB: O&M). If the brains behind the project call it innovative, they’ve got confirmation from others: First Canadian Place received a City of Toronto Urban Design Award, and a Stelco Design Award Honourable Mention. In 2012, the Recycling Council of Ontario awarded First Canadian Place Gold in Marketing and Communications and in Facilities. “Something to this scale had never really been done before,” says Dembinski. “We’re very proud of the result.” re


room of their own


A 1930s power plant nets new life as an innovative office space for EPCOR employees

By Kent McKay




PCOR Water, Edmonton’s water utility, is located in the city’s historic Rossdale neighbourhood, nestled in the city’s picturesque river valley. The site has undergone myriad incarnations throughout its history. At one time a First Nations campsite and burial ground, Rossdale later became the location of the original Hudson’s Bay Company trading post, Fort Edmonton. Ultimately, the Edmonton Electric Lighting and Power Company (which would become EPCOR) stationed the Rossdale Power Plant here. Edmonton’s first water treatment plant shares this site, as do laboratories, administrative offices and pump stations that are still in use today. As part of the overall accommodation planning at the Rossdale site, EPCOR Water Services began to look for a new location for its senior management team in 2013. An unlikely location emerged as a viable possibility: the 1930s administration building. A provincially designated historic resource, the building boasted a brick facade, antique double-hung windows and dramatic interior features, all of which promised an attrac-

tive and potentially-sustainable home for executive staff. Since 1931, various renovations and modifications had been carried out on the building. Outdated interior features such as faux-wood wall treatments were added,

while the structure’s mechanical and electrical systems and building envelope had deteriorated, rendering the building inefficient by modern standards. EPCOR was aware that to transform this troubled character building into a

modern and progressive office for its executive staff, it would need to significantly alter the place. Capable hands would have to coordinate this renovation, though; as a historic resource, even small changes would need to be approved by

New windows, reinsulated walls, and repointed masonry extend the life of this building and reduce energy use, while maintaining the integrity of its historical appearance.

“It was obvious that one of our main missions would be bringing daylight deep into the dark central part of the deep floor plate. Also important was to add context by exposing the structure of the host building.” - Vedran Skopac, project architect

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Alberta Culture’s Historic Resource Management department. Architectural firm Manasc Isaac was commissioned to reimagine the EPCOR 1931 Heritage Building. The firm kicked off the renovation with a series of deeply collaborative workshops, bringing together the project’s designers, contractors and clients to map out a holistic vision and integrated process for the project. By becoming intimately familiar with EPCOR’s operational requirements, behaviours and desires for the space, the design team was able to accurately articulate a conception of the building as a progressive office. The reimagine approach was applied to both the exterior and interior of

the EPCOR 1931 Heritage Building, dramatically improving both building performance and aesthetics. “I recall the dungeon feel of the interior when we first visited the existing building,” says Vedran Skopac, project architect for the EPCOR 1931 Heritage Building. “It was obvious that one of our main missions would be bringing daylight deep into the dark central part of the deep floor plate. Also important was to add context by exposing the structure of the host building. Suspended ceilings were added to create a psychological effect of invisible walls, separating the interconnected space into specific uses; communication, collaboration, quiet work, rest and dining.” Although the exterior of the building looks much the same as it did before the renovation, the facade was upgraded to contemporary building standards. While bricks last forever, mortar does not, so the building’s mortar was repointed, which involves replacing all of the deteriorated or weathered mortar in the masonry, reducing the future risk of water infiltration. Meanwhile, to improve energy performance, the design team added a layer of spray insulation behind the interior layer of brick. The added insulation acts like a blanket that wraps around the building, preventing energy loss during cold Alberta winters, and making the space more comfortable for occupants. The building’s old, deteriorating energy-inefficient single-glazed windows posed a particular challenge, as Alberta Culture’s Historic Resource Management department mandated that the windows be maintained. The design team had to find craftsmen capable of meticulously restoring them to their original 1931 condition, >


room of their own

The design team made modern design choices that also respected the history of the building.



including counterweights and hardware. Now refurbished, the operable windows are a focal point for these new executive offices, and a window into the past. Skilled trades people were able to maintain the original appearance yet dramatically improve energy performance of the building. Inside the building, the behind-the-scenes efficiency upgrades continued. A high-performance mechanical induction system now minimizes the size and amount of ductwork within the space. Skilled trades refurbished the original vintage light fixtures and upgraded them to money- and energy-saving LED technology. The team restored the structure’s special heritage features and returned them to prominence. Perhaps the most historically significant area in the building is its dramatic lobby. This space features terrazzo flooring – a mixture of glass, marble or quartz with a binder. One doesn’t often see this kind of flooring in modern office design because it is labour-intensive to the point of being cost prohibitive. Its rarity made this composite material desirable, so the de-

sign team identified the existing terrazzo as an asset, and worked to restore horizontal and vertical installed terrazzo features to their past glory. Ornate stair railings and heavy wooden doors, which the team restored and reused, and glass panels further add to the period character of the lobby. The historical value of these features shouldn’t fool visitors into thinking that the office is stuck in the 1930s. EPCOR 1931 Heritage Building is a thoroughly 21st-century office. Alberta Culture’s Historic Resource Management suggested a visible demarcation between historical features and modern upgrades, and tasked the design team with making modern design choices that also respected the history of the building. To that end, a step past the building’s lobby reveals a series of modern offices and meeting spaces that offer any amenity that executive staff might expect. The modern kitchen’s focal point is an LED-lit backsplash; its changeable hues lend visual interest. The design team’s generous application of glass partitions in the office areas addresses privacy and sound concerns while

allowing light to pour into interior spaces. Modern light fixtures with dynamic forms remind occupants and visitors that although the building is a treasured historical asset, it is also a functional, comfortable and contemporary workspace. Using demountable glazed partitions, the offices are both private and transparent, allowing daylight deep into the building. Since moving into the transformed space in the fall of 2013, the EPCOR Water leadership team has been enjoying its refurbished home. The EPCOR 1931 Heritage

Building renovation is proof positive that the reimagine approach works. The design team used simple techniques to breathe new life into a very old building, one that is well beyond the average life span for its type. By reclaiming an underused space, EPCOR invested in preserving the architectural legacy of the Rossdale site and sidestepped the environmental impact of tearing down and building new, all while achieving its original goal of a contemporary and sustainable space for its executive team. re

higher ground


The Toronto Tower Renewal initiative is poised to change downtown and act as a model to other tired Canadian cityscapes

By Brynna Leslie



built in the 1960s, with the notion that everyone would have a car and they would drive to whatever they were doing,” explains McAteer. “Many of them are isolated with lots of space around them. We can use that space better; animate the space by putting in playgrounds, community gardens and better walkways. It’s also possible to use this open area for new development and in that way bring investment into areas of the city that are otherwise not seeing new investment.” >

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hen it comes to the location of mid-20th century residential towers, Canadian cities are an anomaly in North America because most residential towers are in the suburbs. Why does it matter? Because many of them are now reaching the end of their initial life cycles, yet they’ve been omitted from city centre regeneration plans undertaken by many municipalities in the early 2000s. “A lot of discussion on sustainability has been around revitalizing downtowns,” says Graeme Stewart, an associate with Toronto’s ERA Architects Inc. “That’s actually been remarkably successful. But Canadian cities are unique in that we have a different sort of urbanism than in American cities. If you look at achieving sustainability, the biggest challenge is: what do you do with the suburbs?” That’s precisely the challenge the City of Toronto set out to answer six years ago. In an unprecedented move, thenmayor David Miller presented a report to city council proposing a tower renewal initiative. The idea was to create a central hub of information, consulting services and planning assistance to encourage the owners of Toronto’s 1,200 residential towers to renovate their buildings over a number of years, with the initial purpose of making them more energy sustainable. “The latest Statistics Canada data shows us there are 548,000 people living in these buildings,” says Eleanor McAteer, project director for the Tower Renewal initiative. “These buildings have a lot of potential for improvement. There is no energy efficiency built into them at all. They are sturdy buildings that will be with us for a long time to come, and it’s much more cost-effective to improve them and retrofit them than to tear them down and replace them.” More than just improving energy efficiency and aesthetics, Toronto Tower Renewal extended its focus to look at the social dimension, with a challenge to build sustainable communities for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents. The bulk of the towers exist in suburban deserts, with limited access to transit, green space and services. Most residents are renters in lowincome groups, including newcomers to Canada and seniors. “We know this is a real opportunity to look at the neighbourhoods, these tower neighbourhoods that were originally


higher ground

The owner of 1011 Lansdowne in Toronto had already started a retrofit of the building when Toronto announced its Tower Renewal pilot project.

by Sam Thinker Nam sed eum inctet ut quam volorumqui acep et eum inciiscidero experis eum vel eos presequ




IN 2008, THE CITY INVITED FOUR BUILDING proprietors to take part in a Tower Renewal pilot project, including the owners of 1011 Lansdowne, a 23-storey, 352unit structure that was identified as the worst highrise building in Toronto in the late 1990s. Prior to 2005, it was known as Toronto’s main “crack tower.” “Empty units with missing doors served as headquarters for drug dealers and squatters,” noted a Toronto Star report in 2012. “Prostitutes roamed the hallways. Residents bragged they’d lived there for years without paying rent.” Owner Vincenzo Barrasso, who owns five residential towers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), had already started the retrofit process on 1011 Lansdowne – renovating units, improving security and tenant pull – when his colleague received an invitation by the city to take part in the Tower Renewal pilot project. “I immediately recognized there was a path, a framework within which I could manoeuvre to provide a better quality of life, a better building, more energy efficiency and a better business,” says Roslyn Brown, vice-president of Barrasso’s three companies. “The energy, the vision and the expertise I found at Tower Renewal suggested nothing was too big or too long a timeframe to be overlooked.” Tower Renewal is built on six different components, including three environmental – improving energy, water and waste – and three designed to improve quality of life for residents – community-building, safety and building operations. The city has incorporated a program called STEP, to guide landlords through what is generally a multi-year, or even multidecade, approach to refurbishment. “The first step is to know your building,” explains McAteer. “Gather information, do an energy audit, a water, waste diversion and safety audit, get a complete assessment of the state of good repair of the building, look at community amenities you have and the kind of community support residents of your building would benefit from.” From there, landowners are encouraged to undertake lowcost or no-cost upgrades, including replacing broken locks and light bulbs, cutting back hedges or reconditioning existing utilities equipment to make sure it’s in good operation. The third step is to undertake things that require more investment or are more complex.

“On the building side, they engage with tenants to understand what kind of programming and investments they would like to see at the building,” says McAteer. “It might be something like a new playground or a community garden, which would require a tenant association to be established. On the energy efficiency side, it may be a larger investment like a new boiler with building automation.” The final step is about “cutting-edge improvements,” she says, giving the example of an on-site community dental clinic to serve residents and those in neighbouring buildings. “On the energy efficiency side, it might be something like cogeneration, where you’re also providing energy to the grid,” says McAteer.

In order to get a solid retrofit system in place, however, Canada needs to create a sophisticated industry of builders, architechs, and manufacturers of materials.

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The city estimates between 200 and 300 tower owners have registered with the program, with each tower now in some state of retrofit. “The city launched a new financing program this year that can provide 20-year term low interest loans,” says McAteer. “Owners can borrow up to five per cent of a building’s assessed value, with repayments added to their annual property tax bills.” Built into Toronto Tower Renewal is the assumption that other Canadian cities can emulate the initiative.Vancouver has 614 residential buildings that are more than 12 storeys high; Montreal is home to 452 high-rises; Ottawa has 240; and Edmonton, 238. Most of the aging building stock is located in

areas outside of city centres, according to the Centre for Urban Growth and Renewal, a non-profit think tank co-founded by ERA Architects. “Canada is still a young country, so we’re not used to retrofitting; we’re used to building new,” says Stewart. “Because the buildings are so similar across the country, there’s a really good opportunity for systemization.” Stewart says in order to get a solid retrofit system in place, however, Canada needs to create a sophisticated industry of builders, architects and manufacturers of materials. Much of the cladding used on high rise retrofits in Toronto, for example, is currently coming from Europe, which makes the process more expensive than it needs to be. “It’s like anything – when you do it the first time, it’s sloppy and expensive,” says Stewart. But as the promise of tower renewal spreads beyond Toronto’s city limits, Stewart believes it represents a great, albeit time-sensitive, opportunity for the private sector. “The retrofit industry is getting bigger and bigger as buildings get older and older,” says Stewart. “There’s still a bit of time until a crisis. Fifteen years from now, however, there may be a consideration of tearing these buildings down. Even the most extensive retrofit is about a quarter of the cost of tearing down and building new.” The next phase for Toronto is a rezoning application to be put before city council in July that will allow for mixed-use of residential towers, to encourage the establishment of shops – primarily grocery and pharmacy – and services, like medical and dentistry, in the lobbies of their buildings. It may also allow tenants to legally use units as office space for small businesses, something that researchers know already goes on behind closed doors. After more than $2 million in renovations, the property at 1011 Lansdowne, once a scar on the city’s landscape, is now a beacon for others, something that couldn’t have been accomplished without the centralized support of the city, says the company’s vice-president. “I shudder to think what life would look like to me without the Tower Renewal initiative,” says Brown. “Not only would it work in other cities, I think it’s a must. If I were running a city, I would require every landlord who has a tower to register, at least to learn something. Because once you learn, you can’t look back. Once you’re exposed, you’re on the road to fulfilment – the landlord, the tenants and the company as well.” re


public eye


A 1966 office tower ushered in a time of plenty with unadorned optimism. Do we value it enough to reimagine it?

By Mifi Purvis




y attachment to Edmonton’s Chancery Hall has less to do with an admiration for its groundbreaking precast concrete cladding and nostalgia for its mid-century lines, and more to do with personal reminiscence. My father’s law firm, Purvis & Alford (which included other names, depending on the year and partners involved), had its offices there. My dad often worked weekends, one or more kids in tow to do homework or just goof around while he worked. As a child, I spent many free-ranging weekends combing the hallways, riding the elevators and rolling stuff down the stately spiral staircase in the entranceway that led to the basement, accompanied by a friend and one of several dogs – again, depending on the year. The office tower looms as large in my imagination as a favourite childhood park might in another adult’s reckoning. It will always be a silhouette in my memories – but that’s my prejudice declared. Should the aging tower also keep a place in

the skyline of an increasingly important part of Edmonton’s downtown? CHANCERY HALL HAS its genesis at the crossing of several architectural movements in evidence at the time. It was built in 1966, during a decade of booming construction in Edmonton,

much of it characterised by the straight lines, steel and concrete that had for decades been the hallmark of modernism all over the continent. In late-19th and early20th century North America, architect Louis Sullivan was modernizing city skylines and inspiring the Midwestern architects of the Chicago

School, including Frank Lloyd Wright. Sullivan is sometimes called the “father of skyscrapers.” His preference, part of his time and era, was strongly to eschew ornamentation, opting instead to reveal the forms that lie within. “It would be greatly for our aesthetic good if we

At 50, Chancery Hall is at a precarious age. Features like these playful precast stairs, which once led to the notable swish restaurant The Pickwick Inn, are in need of a revamp.


neatly with Le Corbusier’s brutalism in many North American cities, perhaps nowhere more obviously than in Edmonton.The city’s skyline today is a testament to the times, much of it built as

concrete boxes of greater or lesser loveliness. And though it is a building that might be overlooked, I would argue that Chancery Hall stands firmly on the side of greater loveliness. Bouey and Bouey

Architects originally designed the building in the expressionist style – expressionism characterised more esoterically by pent emotion, and more practically by lines found in nature – >

summer 2014

should refrain entirely from the use of ornament for a period of years … We shall have learned that ornament is mentally a luxury, not a necessity,” he wrote in 1892’s Ornament in Architecture. “We feel intuitively that our strong, athletic, and simple forms will carry with natural ease the raiment of which we dream.” Modernist architecture later included brutalism under its umbrella, a post-First World War movement that started in Europe under the stewardship of Swiss architect Le Corbusier (nee Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris). Modernism and, more narrowly, brutalism influenced the rebuilding of swathes of post-war Europe, and made appearances in Canadian buildings, many of them public, from the 1950s through the 1970s. Brutalist examples include the Manulife Centre in Toronto and the University of Alberta Faculty of Law building in Edmonton. In fact, most Canadian university campuses are home to at least some brutalist architecture. To the modernist sensibility, brutalism adds concrete as a finishing element, giving many of our public structures a squat, bunker-like look. Sullivan’s strong, athletic Midwestern forms intersect


public eye Paul Van Imschoot’s bas relief stretches upward from the basement past the lobby. History of Law was commissioned as a nod to the building’s first tenants – lawyers.

think curving cave walls and the iterating edges of minerals. The upward jutting zig-zag of the roofline and the gently rounded windows hark to that sensibility. “It is a response to modernism,” Shafraaz Kaba says of the building’s expressionist origins. He’s a partner in Manasc Isaac Architects, one of a dozen or so firms that responded to the city’s requests for expressions of interest in repurposing Chancery Hall. “The windows have a sculptural quality,” Kaba says. “They are portal-like,

public in early 2012. Also near City Hall, and connecting directly to the LRT, Chancery Hall’s position in the city’s civic precinct and arts district means that its stature is far greater than its 11 storeys and 14,617 square feet. In 2004, Ascent magazine called Chancery Hall one of the top 50 most significant precast concrete projects in North America, a list that features what the magazine calls “the best of the best,” selected from many hundreds of projects. On this list, Edmonton’s stalwart rubs

“It has a modern, sophisticated look,” Shafraaz Kaba says. “There are many ways to reimagine it in a contemporary way.”



reminiscent of ones you’d see on an aircraft, and they run counter to the harsh modern style of the time.” Chancery Hall faces Sir Winston Churchill Square, and it neighbours the Francis Winspear Centre for Music and the Citadel Theatre to the south. Directly north are the graceful, swooping lines of the Art Gallery of Alberta, itself a reboot by Randall Stout of the brutalist 1966 Edmonton Art Gallery, which opened its refurbished doors to the

shoulders with Toronto City Hall, San Francisco’s TransAmerica Pyramid and Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Ascent says that, after its debut in 1966, the precast, pre-stressed “design concept was soon duplicated with buildings in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina and Florida.” Coming up on 50, Chancery Hall is at a precarious age. In Capital Modern: A Guide to Edmonton Architecture and Urban Design,

1940-1969, Kaba quotes architecture critic Christopher Hume, who said: “Once a building hits, say, 75 or 80 years old, it becomes venerable and is deemed untouchable, protected by vigilant preservationists. But between its 40th and 70th year, it is at its most vulnerable.” Trevor Boddy, critic, curator, and historian of architecture and urbanism at the University of British Columbia, wrote in Capital Modern that this vulnerability

is especially sharp in Edmonton. “Edmontonians come to hate their recent past with a vehemence that does not exist elsewhere.” Recent examples of this local derision include the loss of the Central Pentecostal Tabernacle, and the modernist granite-clad BMO building on Jasper Avenue. Something has to happen to Chancery Hall, and demolishing it in favour of a new build is one of the options. Does it stand a chance?

we need to start the discussion before the end of the year. “This is an iconic and recognizable building,” says Manasc Isaac partner Vivian Manasc. “It has very cool architectural elements. But the building is of its time. The City of Edmonton needs bigger floor plates, and it doesn’t serve a large organization well. It’s not efficient, and it’s not bright – it needs to be reimagined.” Manasc says she can envision the first few floors being dedicated to office space for smaller tenants, including not-for-profits and smaller businesses. “The remaining floors could be reimagined as residential space.” There would be an undeniable appeal to living on Churchill Square, with access to the LRT right in the building. The approach depends on the team of architects. “Personally, I would try to create new windows and bring in more light,” Kaba says, “but retain the precast concrete. It has a modern, sophisticated look. There are many ways to reimagine it in a contemporary way.” He says that to ensure the building is performing as efficiently as possible architects would have to look at the wall assembly. If it proved too difficult to leave

the iconic cladding on the outside, they could consider re-skinning with a glass box around the building. “I would also like to give the building a better interface with the street,” Kaba says. “A sympathetic canopy would allow patios for street-level businesses, and provide a welcoming look and feel.” The building craves a more effective way to open onto the world. Once inside, the lobby is modestly welcoming. A basrelief by Paul Van Imschoot, History of Law, still graces the interior. I would hope that any reimagining of Chancery Hall would keep this feature as a testament to the many lawyers who have strode its halls, including several City Solicitors, and of course my dad, Stuart Purvis, QC. Sentiment aside, Manasc agrees with Kaba. “I would like to retain and bring out the best elements of the building,” she says. “It could be as wonderful as, or better than ever.” Trocenko says there are challenges beyond the upgrades and the small footprint and celing height of the place. The concrete cladding has structural properties. “It will take a team with capacity and creativity to work with us on Chancery Hall,” he says. “But it has the

A stroll through the hallways, well away from the windows that look out on downtown, leaves visitors feeling hemmed in. makings of a great public piece. We just need to engage a team of individuals to find the right way to do it.” In Edmonton, we lurch from boom to boom without ever truly “finishing” an area. In our effort to outrun our former selves, we can neglect buildings around us that are truly notable. Many of our public buildings are gems, especially considering the masses of indifferent and uninspired private commercial structures that we see cropping up all around us. Thankfully, we may be at a time when it’s possible to reimagine a building not only because it’s the greenest option out there, but also because it allows us to pay homage to our built past instead of disparaging and razing it. Here’s to hoping that the enlightened minds at the City of Edmonton truly engage with Chancery Hall and, as Trocenko says, “huddle around it,” to reimagine it as the signature structure it is. re

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CHANCERY HALL HAS had upgrades to its mechanical structures, and many of its windows have been replaced or resealed. “But one engineering study says the precast is not in good shape,” says Walter Trocenko, branch manager of real estate, housing and economic sustainability at the City of Edmonton. With floor plates of 10,080 square feet, the building is no longer adequate for its current tenants, City of Edmonton employees. Its low ceiling height is no longer standard in an office building, and it limits the space available for mechanical systems. A stroll through the hallways, well away from the windows that look out on downtown, leaves visitors feeling hemmed in. The city bought the building in 1987 and will be moving its staff from Chancery Hall and other downtown locations to its new digs in the multiuse space of the downtown arena, set to open in August 2016. Trocenko’s main task these days is to plan and move 2,000 staff to the new space in a seamless fashion. But thinking about the future of Chancery Hall is also on his radar. “We have to huddle around the building,” he says. “We have solicited requests for expressions of interest. And


last word

BY THE NUMBERS The mathematics behind sustainable and reimagined spaces adds up to a convincing case for investing in the future of our buildings


The percentage of North America’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that can be blamed on buildings

The percentage of New York City’s carbon footprint that its 5,000+ towers generate


40 million. The number of tonnes of building rubble that London would generate by tearing down just its high-rise towers.



The percentage of improvement in mental function and memory that occupants demonstrate in LEED-certified buildings with outside views

The percentage decrease in hospital stays those occupants experience


Increase in test scores by students in LEED-certified buildings with daylight


Increase in productivity workers experience in these settings

25% - 30%

The percentage by which a green building’s energy is reduced compared to a conventional building, based on LEEDcertified buildings in the United States



up to


The value in U.S. dollars that deep retrofits have added per square foot in value to office spaces, based on decreased energy costs and higher productivity re




SERVUS CREDIT UNION CORPORATE CENTRE Significant reductions in energy consumption were achieved during the first year after being reimagined, resulting in lower operating costs.


Reduction in natural gas usage:

Reduction in power usage:








We are Canadian leaders in green design, shaping the built environment to be healthy, beautiful and sustainable. EDMONTON 780.429.3977

CALGARY 403.614.9909

Top: Water Centre, Calgary Alberta. Bottom (left to right): Eastgate Offices for Environment Canada, Edmonton Alberta; Government Centre and Library, Slave Lake Alberta; Athabasca University Academic Research Centre, Athabasca Alberta

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