Reimagine Magazine | Issue 3: Summer 2015

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• Photovoltaic Panels • Redesigning Edmonton • Net-zero Benefits • Ask an Architect • Rexall Reimagined THE BEAUTY OF RETROFIT



OUTDOOR INSPIRATION See the best in repurposed outdoor public spaces PM# 40020055

BUSINESS OF RETROFIT Build a case for green revamps: it’s a no-brainer


Buildings account for 75% of all energy consumption in North America. By leveraging composite materials, we can develop higher performance building envelopes to reduce operating costs and our environmental impact. With our unique fiberglass pultrusions, GlasCurtain’s curtain wall framing system reduces energy costs by an incredible 5–10% compared to aluminum systems. GlasCurtain is proud to salute the spirit and courage of Slave Lake’s residents by collaborating on The Legacy Centre.

will honour the memory of 2011’s Slave Lake wildfire as a beautiful and sustainable hub offering community and cultural services to the town.



Rejuvenating outdoor spaces has become a global interest


10 Ask an Architect:

net-zero buildings

12 Designers ink out a new Edmonton

18 COVER STORY: NAC makeover

28 Edmonton Community Foundation’ s new home

32 The Associated

Engineering Plaza is in need of a refresh

36 Green building trends 40 Hedgerow goes green 43 Institutional

change eyed

48 Seeking a revamp for Scotia Place

Cover image: National Arts Centre, courtesy Diamond Schmitt Architects

6 World’s first carbon- 14 It’s time to positive house

embrace the sun

39 Talking tower renewal

46 Rexall Place could take MLG’s lead

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Contents photos: realities:united, Berlin Fernand Guerra Malcolm Brown Manasc Isaac


reimagine ISSUE #3 SUMMER 2015


Reimagine Interiors specializes in custom designs that optimize your space for the people who use it. Using reclaimed materials we create beautiful, vibrant and sustainable workspaces.

PRODUCTION TECHNICIANS Brent Felzien, Brandon Hoover DIRECTOR OF CIRCULATION Sharlene Clarke CIRCULATION Karen Reilly CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sydnee Bryant, David DiCenzo, Martin Dover, Emmett Gallagher, Karamajit Grewal, Richard Isaac, Claire Johnson, Vivian Manasc, Kent McKay, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, Richard White CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Tim Atherton, Cooper + O’Hara, Malcolm Brown, Ferdnand Guerra, Phillip Pon, Patrick T I G H E Reimagine is a biannual publication produced by Venture Publishing for architectural firm Manasc Isaac. Manasc Isaac is a Canadian leader in integrated sustainable building with deep expertise in the reimagining of existing buildings, primarily those built between 1950 and 2000. Reimagine magazine showcases the best of reimagined spaces and promotes sustainable building practices in the community, and strives to be the authoritative business voice on the value of reimagined building practices.

Contents © 2015 by Manasc Isaac. No part of this publication should be reproduced in print or on websites without written permission. Publications Agreement #40020055 Non-deliverable mail should be directed to: 10225 100 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 0A1

calgary 403.460.4177

edmonton 780.429.3977




Vivian Manasc Editor-In-Chief

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rutalist buildings – structures with exposed concrete facades – are muchmaligned among the public, as well as among many architects. But the term “brutalist” isn’t related to the ugliness often attributed to these buildings. Rather, it derives from the French term béton brut, describing concrete that’s left in its natural state of roughness. The concrete aesthetic of the massive, greybrown, impenetrable, unfriendly and foreboding facades was intended to make a point. These buildings were meant to be seen as modern-day cathedrals or monuments to the permanence of public institutions. The late-1960s and early-1970s were plagued with fear. The Cold War raged, while air raid shelters were built into neighbourhoods. Governments were persuaded that these heavy-duty precast concrete buildings would be relatively inexpensive to build, easy to maintain and provide a strong nationalistic metaphor. In stark contrast to the light and colourful international-style modern buildings of the same period, which some saw as temporal and ephemeral, “serious” buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Edmonton Law Courts were designed to express the gravitas of public institutions, and the relative insignificance of people in relation to it. These buildings were often finely detailed and considered pieces of sculpture, artfully modularized to be manufactured in precast concrete factories – designed to be appreciated by the cognoscenti and to be indifferent to the masses. One of the most iconic of brutalist buildings, Boston City Hall and its surrounding plaza have been so difficult to inhabit that city recently launched a competition to invite the reimagining of the public domain. From London to Mexico City, Boston to Edmonton, exposed concrete buildings were designed and built by prominent architects. Largely built at a time when the public retreated from the street and withdrew to cars and suburbs, brutalist

buildings acted as protective fortresses for the important business of the day – after which people went home to their yards, kids, parks and life. We now find ourselves reclaiming the city concept – with its urban, walkable nature and its direct interface between the public realm and our daily lives. Our renewed urban experience changes the conversation: we now ask the outside faces of buildings to act as the inside walls of the public street. We now desire open, revealing, colourful, warm and welcoming facades of buildings that are the direct antithesis of the brutalist vision. Contemporary brain research has affirmed what our grandparents knew – that we need light and colour to thrive. People respond to nature, sunshine, trees and natural materials, and the urban environments that succeed in creating vibrancy are those that incorporate these elements. This brings us to the most important design and construction trend of this next decade: reimagining brutalist buildings. Given the massive material investment and the intention to create buildings that last for centuries, the demolition of these buildings is less than ideal. Besides, many of these robust, durable buildings are serviceable and functional – they are just ugly ducklings. Among the finest examples we have seen is Ottawa’s National Arts Centre. A building that has always seemingly turned its back on the public, the NAC is being reimagined with a colourful, animated transparent layer atop its massive concrete walls. Respecting the rigid hexagonal geometry of the original architecture, the reimagined NAC will add vibrancy to Ottawa’s downtown and place the performing arts at the heart of the experience of the city. Architecturally, the NAC renovation demonstrates what’s possible, leading the way toward an understanding of brutalist buildings and the opportunity to reimagine them in keeping with the more human-focused aesthetic of the 2020s. In this issue, we invite you to think about the brutalist buildings of the ’60s and ’70s in your city, and to let us know which would benefit from a contemporary, colourful and light reimagine effort. re



trends, innovations and ideas

MARKET BY THE SEA HALIFAX WAREHOUSE TAKES THE LEED AS A TRULY SUSTAINABLE FARMERS MARKET You might say that, when it comes to the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, what’s old is new again. The oldest continuously-running market in North America was established in 1750, but after jumping around a bit it was recently relocated to an old warehouse owned by the Halifax Port Authority. Its new 56,000-square-foot home is a LEED Platinum-certified building that was completed in 2010 with the help of some municipal, provincial, federal and private funding. The design team, led by Lydon Lynch Architects, kept the core of the old structure and was able to divert an impressive 96.5 per cent of the construction waste from the landfill. Green features added to the revamped warehouse include wind turbines, solar-thermal panels, geothermal wells, a green roof and double-glazed argon-filled windows that make the most of views of the adjacent sea. The old floor was also ripped up, broken down and used as backfill gravel, while its new concrete replacement floor includes radiant tubes for heating, and “pit boxes” with drains, electrical outlets and faucets to accommodate the market’s 250 vendors.

TREADING LIGHTLY Aussie pre-fab company rolls out the world’s first carbon-positive house Claiming to produce more energy than it uses, a little company Down Under has revealed what it calls the “first carbon-positive house.” Punctuated by floor-to-ceiling windows, the 800-square-foot home is crafted by pre-fab builder Archiblox, whose website says, “the CPH has moved beyond carbon zero by making additional ‘positive’ contributions by producing more energy on-site than the building requires.” Its design includes a green roof, a wood-panelled interior made of sustainably sourced and non-toxic materials, sliding edible garden walls and an airtight building envelope. The home designs, which come in one-, two- and three-bedroom configurations, start at $260,000 plus GST.

For more information, visit ARCHIBLOX.COM.AU reimagine




‘Upcycled’ materials net a new lease on life as household goods LATER, SKATER. Skateboard manufacturers create a lot of waste. In a bid to reuse that waste, iPhone cover maker Grove and recycled skateboard jewelry makers Maple xo have teamed up to offer a solution for the discarded post-industrial material: iPhone backs. Each of the hand-milled and finished backs is one-of-a-kind and attaches to the iPhone with a 3M adhesive.

Made at the Grovemade workshop in Portland, Oregon, they retail for $129 and are available at GROVEMADE.COM RETRO RECYCLERS. Want to delight a child and keep some plastic out of the landfill at the same time? Green Toys uses recycled milk jugs (high-density polyethylene) as the base for all of its retro-style toys. To date, the Californiabased manufacturer has recycled more than 24 million jugs to make its classic eco-friendly toys. According to its website, every pound of plastic recycled to make its wares saves the equivalent energy of 3,000 AAA batteries.

For a list of available stores where the toys are available, visit GREENTOYS.COM

RECORD BREAKERS. You’ll be bowled over by what Vinylux has done with recycled records. Made from “scratched, warped and otherwise played out” records, their bowls are part of an array of offerings, including mirrors, bookends, sketchbooks, ornaments and clocks. Though they’re not recommended to hold food, you can choose your genre of music.

The bowls, which are moulded into shape with heat, retail for $28 and up and are available online at VINYLUX.NET AIR TIME. Who knew there was another purpose for car air bags than saving lives in a collision? Well, one U.S. company has reimagined this safety feature, but kept it “in the bag.” To make their Harvest line backpacks, Keen takes obsolete or leftover pre-consumer airbags and ships them to a factory in Chico, California, after recycling them through a sorting facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. Each bag is sewn together, numbered and signed by the person who created it. The bags retail from $70-$130.

Get in the game at UNCOMMONGOODS.COM


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For more information, visit KEENFOOTWEAR.COM/EN-CA/BAGS

HOME OPENER. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re at a Major League Baseball game while you are watching it from your own home base, has just the ticket. You can crack open your favourite cold one with a piece from a recycled bat, and even read up on the game it came from thanks to a special hologram number. These baseball bat bottle openers will swing you $95-$125.



LEADING THE PACK Top 10 LEED countries outside the United States Gross square metres (GSM) are reported in millions and based on April 2014 numbers

1 CANADA 17.74 GSM (in 4,068 certified LEED projects)

2 CHINA 14.30 GSM (in 1,638 certified LEED projects)

3 INDIA 11.64 GSM (in 1,657 certified LEED projects)

4 SOUTH KOREA 3.84 GSM (in 242 certified LEED projects)

5 TAIWAN 2.98 GSM (in 114 certified LEED projects)



Source: USGBC

6 GERMANY 2.90 GSM (in 365 certified LEED projects)

7 BRAZIL 2.85 GSM (in 829 certified LEED projects)

8 SINGAPORE 2.16 GSM (in 91 certified LEED projects)

9 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 1.82 GSM (in 850 certified LEED projects)

10 FINLAND 1.45 GSM (in 148 certified LEED projects)

SAVING FACE Reclaimed wood planks punctuate the new facade of Calgary’s Junction 9

COLONIAL REVIVAL Hong Kong building goes from former police quarters to a design haven


SOMETIMES A CLEVER FACADE CAN BE A GOOD THING. Case in point: Calgary-based MoDA (Modern Office of Design and Architecture)’s revamp of Junction 9, which houses a yoga and Pilates studio and a rooftop patio. Located just on the south side of Inglewood’s main drag, 9 Avenue S.E., the structure was once a blah commercial building fraught with building limitations and a small budget, until Dustin Couzins and Ben Klumper of MoDA were enlisted for a refresh. Now its dramatic wooden face sports reclaimed planks from Salvage Solutions in High River – after being hand-milled with the help of a Hutterite colony, the only ones with large enough equipment to craft the 100-year-old wood planks. According to MoDA’s website, the sharp reclaimed plank screen “kills three birds with one stone so to speak, by fulfilling the following functions: 1) view attenuation, 2) wayfinding, and 3) branding and signage.” re

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As its name would suggest, at one time PMQ was home to private married quarters for police in Sheung Wang, Hong Kong. Even before that, though, it housed some of Hong Kong’s key business tycoons as part of the first government school to provide a Western education to Chinese students. While signs of the 64,583-square-foot two-building site’s colonial heritage are still apparent, today PMQ is home to a mix of boutiques, studios and cafes. But how it got to its current iteration was a bit unusual. The retrofit was a combined funding effort between the government and the non-profit Musketeers Foundation, a trio of businessmen whose pooled $100 million helped bring the arts mecca to fruition. The design team kept original blocks, granite steps and retaining walls, and restored interior walls to an original whitewash. The trim was also returned to the same teal it once sported. Opened last April after sitting idle for years, its 100-plus units were snapped up by tenants who have quickly made PMQ one of the most popular scenes in town.


ask an architect


Find out how net-zero buildings conserve power and offset negative impacts to the environment

Reimagine sat down with Vedran Skopac, a Croatian architect working at Manasc Isaac, to talk about net-zero buildings and their benefits.



Edmonton’s Mosaic Centre has been dubbed a green-building game changer.

What is a net-zero building? A net-zero energy building is any building that produces at least as much energy as it consumes on its site over the course of a year. That means all the consumption of energy from the municipal grid should be offset through on-site production of energy, usually by using renewable energy systems such as photovoltaic (PV) solar systems, solar hot water systems, bio-mass based systems, wind turbines, tidal differential-based systems or geo-exchange (or geothermal) systems. It’s OK to use any of the known renewable energy systems alone or in any possible combination. Moreover, architects and engineers are strongly encouraged to adapt their ideas to the contextual specifics of the site and to a client’s requirements, to optimize the mechanical, electrical and renewable energy systems. It’s important to note that, even if a building is connected to a single source of energy coming from the municipal infrastructure, it’s still important to consider a combination of various systems, even if some of those are not producing energy in the same form as

the one consumed from the grid. For example, if a building is connected solely to the electric grid all of its electric energy consumption doesn’t have to be compensated through its PV solar system, but can also be offset through a combination of a PV system and geo-exchange system that can dramatically decrease the electric energy load of the mechanical system.That’s exactly the kind of strategy that Edmonton’s Mosaic Centre (themosaiccentre. ca) is using to meet the netzero energy requirement. The Mosaic Centre is a netzero energy office building on Edmonton’s south side that houses Oil Country Engineering and several other smaller tenants, including a daycare, restaurant and wellness centre. It’s the first building of its kind in Alberta. Things start to get really interesting with the mindshifting idea that preservation is always a more sustainable method than generation. In the world of construction, that primarily means no new construction could ever be fully sustainable – due to its transportation, construction, labour, land area and product embedded energy footprint. That inevitably leads us to realize that all of those PHOTOS COOPER + O’HARA

The Mosaic Centre is the first commercial net-zero building to be built in Alberta.

dramatically decreasing thermal energy loss, “thermal bridging” and vapour condensation issues. Sunshades help decrease solar heat gain during the summertime when the sun is up high on the horizon, and that way, decrease the cooling loads. But perhaps one of the most radical ideas the Mosaic and many other high-performing buildings are using is the one we all have long known but seem to sometimes forget – operable windows. What are the benefits of a net-zero building? The main benefit of a net-zero energy building is the return on its investment through zero-annual energy bills and, in some cases, even profits on storing and/or selling back energy to the municipal grid and other consumers. A more profound idea lies in the realm of ethics, though. There’s a rapid increase in the number of owners who not only understand the financial benefit of highly sustainable buildings, but who also take pride in it and form their company’s identity by way of practically demonstrating that they care about environmental sustainability. A radical view into the current trends of energy use around the globe may suggest that net-zero energy buildings, as well as the net-zero water buildings, may not only presume a clever strategy, but may even be the required one in the near future. What the Mosaic Centre design anticipates is a growing capacity in renewable energy production to power the onsite charging stations for electric vehicles, to meet the demands of an increasing number of Mosaic workers who have chosen to drive a hybrid or fully electric vehicle and are pursuing the idea of a “net-zero life.” Now that is an interesting thought! re

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lousy (and even those less-lousy) performing existing buildings are a valuable resource that we should consider renovating or repurposing before we decide to build a new building on a “virgin” piece of land. But that, of course, is not the reality of our fast-growing economies, and therefore we need to consider both. At the very least, every building, whether it’s a renovation or brand new construction should be tasked to preserve both the energy and the environment as much as possible. In construction, those strategies are known as “passive” and they are inherently pragmatic and logical. Passive strategies are less focused on high-tech systems and more on basic architectural decisions, which may present a higher upfront cost though they definitely make sense when looking at return on investment over a certain time period – in lower energy consumption cost and cost of operation and maintenance. To better illustrate the theory behind passive strategies, the Mosaic Centre’s design is as elongated as possible in the east-west direction, with a true south-facing facade area and a relatively narrow cross section, so it can harvest the free solar energy and help offset winter heating loads. Some other aspects of the Mosaic strategy include high ceilings and lots of window glazing, so natural light can illuminate all the regularly occupied floor areas of the building and eliminate the need for artificial lighting. Furthermore, floors are built with concrete topping that is a potent material to store the daytime thermal energy and gradually release it during the night, decreasing the need of the mechanical system to operate in high speed in times when the building is not occupied. Also, the building envelope is nearly 100 per cent airtight and impervious to vapour and at least R30 insulated,


leading edge


A contest at Manasc Isaac challenges architects and building owners to change the way they look at mid-century building stock

By Kent McKay

The Hanging Gardens would best be experienced by walking, not driving by.




eimagining a city’s buildings on many scales is critical to the success of sustainable communities, and for more than a decade Edmonton’s Manasc Isaac Architects has focused on the importance of this concept. Recently, to inspire building owners to think differently about the city’s scores of older buildings, as well as to expand its own expertise, Manasc Isaac invited team members to collaborate, sharing ideas on how to achieve the most creative, inventive and sustainable renovation projects possible. In early 2015, principal architect Vivian Manasc announced a reimagine design competition, sparking excitement and great ideas within the studio. Team members were encouraged to partner up in groups, or to independently create a concept for an Edmonton building that could stand to be refreshed. Although there was no individual

winner, the intriguing new plans demonstrated many winning ideas. Keep your eyes fixed on the Edmonton skyline and cityscape; some of these concepts may just emerge as reality. The Hanging Gardens of Edmonton Designed by Alecsandru Vasiliu and Ana-Dora Matei, “The Hanging Gardens of Edmonton” explores the revitalization of a series of buildings located along Edmonton’s 97 Street. Located in an emerging area that’s full of historical and too-often neglected buildings, this city block is typical of historic Edmonton in its scale.Vasiliu and Matei’s concept plays with the notion of “lowscapes,” Matei explains. “These are small buildings, remnants of old developments that have a radically different scale from their surroundings,” she continues. “They have the characteristics of urban squares

if perceived at the speed of a moving vehicle but become intricate and detailed volumes if one walks by.” The Hanging Gardens would best be experienced by walking (not driving) by, offering delights for pedestrians as the sidewalk spirals and twists in interesting ways, as if pedestrians were climbing up and down through a natural landscape. The program for the Hanging Gardens is diverse and compelling. Its spaces would feature rooftop patios, a farmers market, basketball court and even a rooftop beach. Effectively, the Hanging Gardens constitutes a small piazza for its community, and is a welcome break from the skyscrapers emerging across the city’s landscape. Tower on the Hill For her reimagine entry, Veronica Hernandez turned to Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood, a diverse, mature and dynamic part of the city surrounded

Tower on the Hill‘s north facade was made white to act as a beacon from downtown.

The Associated Engineering building’s reimagining would include greenhouse pods.


building. This project would trigger further improvement for the community. It would inspire positive change that moves far beyond the building’s walls.” An Engineering Marvel Manasc Isaac is no stranger to the Associated Engineering Plaza. This concrete high-rise building was the subject of a 2010 Manasc Isaac feasibility study aimed to help usher the building into a new era. (For more on this study, see page 32.) Vedran Skopac revisited Associated Engineering Plaza with his entry in the reimagine design competition, offering a bold new vision to recapitalize the space and solidify its reputation as a worthy landmark welcoming visitors into the downtown core. Skopac’s concept plays on the notion of texture, wrapping the tower in a range of innovative material choices. “Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) textile is used in combination with a

transparent foil as a secondary layer to the existing low performing exterior walls to increase protection from the sun. This additional skin also controls the privacy of the tenants,” he explains. Additionally, terra cotta “baguettes” act as sunshades that wrap the building in a veil made of clay with altering density, using an algorithm to calculate whether a space requires a transparent or opaque portion treatment, depending on the privacy that the space inside needs. One of the most striking features of the concept is the addition of greenhouse pods that stud the tower. These pods protrude from the building, offering a view that goes well beyond the traditional and fabled corner office. Strategically attached to the exterior of the building, these spaces correspond to occupants’ needs by adding leasable area, and could even protect the building from noise and sun in a series of vertical winter gardens. re

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by shops, parks, community centres, restaurants and the University of Alberta campus. In a bid to inspire progressive change and improve the neighbourhood’s standard of living, her design gives a visual and functional lift to the “Tower on the Hill,” an apartment building overlooking the city’s stunning river valley. Hernandez warms up the east and west sides of the building by adding laminate timber panels that make the building more welcoming. She brightens up the north facade of the building with white, which acts as a proud beacon visible from downtown. Finally, sustainable deliverables, including solar panels on the building’s south side, would help to power the tower and equip residents with highly efficient systems and non-toxic finishes. Hernandez says that her mandate for the project was to “positively impact the community outside the building and strengthen the community inside the


material world

HERE COMES THE SUN Photovoltaic (PV) energy is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with, promising a life beyond the grid By Tiffany Shaw-Collinge


olar photovoltaic power has an interesting history and an even more promising future. In 1954, photovoltaic (PV) technology was created in a Bell Telephone laboratory with just four per cent energy efficiency; by 1958 it was sent into space to power satellites. It is still used as a viable power source for space applications today.The first solar-powered car, the Quiet Achiever, was driven in 1982 and the first stand-alone four-kilowatt powered home was erected in 1983. A solar-powered aircraft, the iCare, was created in 1996 and the tallest skyscraper in New York City’s Times Square implemented PV modules between the 37th and 43rd floors in 1999. In 2001, Home Depot began to sell residential solar power systems in California and in 2013 IKEA started selling flat-packed solar panels in Great Britain. Improvements over the last 60 years have focused on innovations in harnessing the sun’s power, as the world’s growing population tries to save and produce energy and live sustainably. Most common PV applications now are rooftop installations, but you can also find them integrated into facade treatments, sometimes in conjunction with other building materials. Let’s take a look at a few successful projects involving sustainable, informed design. Not only do these buildings help generate their own power and get off the grid, but architects designed their facade to carefully balance performance and esthetics.



Higher Learning The EPFL Quartier Nord, Swiss Tech Convention Centre, is located in the north campus of École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland. Completed in 2014, Richter Dahl Rocha and Associates Architects designed this conference

centre along with housing for 516 students. With a maximum capacity of 3,000 seats, the building can be opened up as one large auditorium space or it can be reconfigured into several smaller rooms for intimate auditorium events, meetings or banquets. This transition is achieved through mobile wall systems PHOTO FERDNAND GUERRA

[LEFT] The PV panels at the EPFL Quartier Nord in Lausanne serve more than electrical needs. [BELOW] This 17-unit social housing in Paris boasts 1,490 square metres of solar panels. [BOTTOM] The Greenstone Government of Canada building in Yellowknife has its PV panels integrated into the building’s glazing.

Improvements over the last 60 years have focused on innovations in harnessing the sun’s power, as the world’s population tries to save and produce energy and live sustainably.

and hydraulic platforms with rotating seat mounts that can transform from an auditorium into a flat multi-purpose room or banquet hall in a matter of minutes. The facade is clad with anodized aluminum panels, glazing and transparent colour-dyed PV panels that allow light to enter into the interior. These exterior materials contrast with the natural wood interior trim well. These west-facing PV panels implemented as glazing not only fulfill their technological duty by converting sunlight to electricity, but they also become an integral part of the aesthetics of the building. Coordinated by artist Catherine Bolle, transparent multi-coloured PV panels allow natural light to enter the space illuminating the interior with a tinted glow, similar to a stained glass effect. The transparency passively reduces the amount of heat and UV rays entering the building, reducing indoor cooling, while the sunlight illuminating the PV panels is actively converted into electricity.


Northern Exposure The Greenstone Government of Canada building, completed in Yellowknife, NWT in 2005, won the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) Innovation Award for its building-integrated PV panel system. It is the very first LEED Gold project in the North, and is still among the only installations in Canada where PV panels are integrated into the glazing rather than into opaque surfaces.This sustainable and brightly-lit project operates amidst harsh climatic challenges with the use of integrated PV panels in a high-performance curtain wall that supplies more than 30 kilowatts >

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A Social Experiment Philippon-Kalt Architectes completed a 17-unit social housing building in Paris, France, using 1,490 square metres of solar collector panels applied as a second skin for exterior cladding on the balconies. This project was completed in 2010 and uses solar collectors for

40 per cent of its domestic hot water delivery. The thoughtful design of integrated exterior materials with solar panels creates secondary uses that further optimize the building’s performance. This application also creates a double skin as it is applied to the outside of balconies, acting as a glass balustrade and rain screen, in the end offering shading for the building, privacy to residents and reducing noise transmission from the street below to the interior. The material integration between these dissimilar items creates a cohesive image of the building and a sustainable solution for resident lowincome families.


material world

[TOP] The Greenstone Government of Canada building is the first LEED Gold building in the North. [BOTTOM] The Mosaic Centre is poised to become the first Living Building Challenge petal-certified building in Alberta.

of electricity to the building. Manasc Isaac’s innovative curtain wall system also allows filtered daylight to enter the atrium, exposing occupants to natural lighting conditions through the summer and winter seasons. Typically, building-integrated solar energy means rooftop installations, but when solar panels are integrated in harmony with other building materials on the facade, it can fulfill aesthetic and energy ambitions of the client and the designer. Roof-top applications may allow for maximum performance in solar collection, but changing the angles to work with the design by adding them to the facade will only slightly reduce its efficiency. However, this method creates various opportunities for even greater efficiency by doubling functionality. This can be important when thinking about retrofitting a current building and reimagining new possibilities. Perhaps think of installing glass with PV properties in skylights, facades, windows or curtain walls offered by companies like Visionwall or Onyx Solar. PV glass panels not only generate electricity and reduce the cooling load on the building mechanical system but they also cut down on UV rays that break down material properties within the interior. Energy from the sun is theoretically endless, at least for the next five billion or so years, and it provides clean energy sans greenhouse-gas emissions which means the level of its use will only increase.



LEEDing Edge Located in Edmonton, the Mosaic Centre building has been dubbed a green-building game changer. Completed in early 2015, this centre provides Mosaic staff with a child-care facility, wellness centre, games room and a restaurant. Designed to target LEED Platinum, it’s aiming to be the first net-zero commercial building in the province, producing as much energy as it consumes over the year. On top of that, it could also become the first Living Building Challenge petal-certified building in Alberta. The Living Building Challenge is a three-petal certification that requires the highest measures of performance standards regarding sustainability in the built environment today. To achieve these soaring standards, the design team at Manasc Isaac Architects implemented a high-performance envelope with minimal electrical and mechanical systems that work together to form an integrated response to the building’s environment PHOTOS COOPER + O’HARA

In addition to solar power, this West Hollywood affordable housing complex features a bamboo forest in its courtyard.

within a cold climate. This includes the implementation of cutting-edge technologies in geothermal, photovoltaic, control and electrical systems. The PV panels are installed on the roof (used additionally as sun shading) and vertically on the facade. The panels along the facade turn the corner from the north face to the east face, and also accommodate openings of windows and doors – a necessary customization method for effective integration of materials.


The project integrates a rooftop and facade PV system, solar hot water panels on the rooftop, drought-tolerant landscaping and a computer-controlled irrigation system. The rooftop solar hot water system generates enough domestic hot water for the entire building and the PV panels provide power to the building’s common areas as well as act as a sound buffer and blocks dust from the traffic along Santa Monica Boulevard. The PV panelling is installed on the roof and along the facade differently than traditional PV applications. Rather than integrating the panelling into the building materials, the architect highlights it by offsetting it from the facade – making it one of the first things to catch your attention. Hawaiian Gateway Another notable project that does this well is the Hawaii Gateway Energy Centre, a net-zero building completed in 2005. This building, on the South Coast of Kona on the big Island of Hawaii, sets itself apart from the lush landscape with a sculptural space frame that solely contains the PV panels demonstrating its prominence as a viable power generation source. re

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Affordable West Hollywood Patrick Tighe’s Sierra Bonita offers mixed-use affordable housing for people living with disabilities. The apartments were built in 2010 in West Hollywood, California, and contain 42 accessible units with ground-floor retail space and a bamboo forest in the internal courtyard that creates a cooling micro climate to provide thermal comfort for occupants. By locating the bedrooms along the courtyard and living areas along the street side, the building capitalizes on views of West Hollywood with north- and south-facing windows to maximize daylight and minimize solar gain.

The Hawaii Gateway Energy Centre makes the most of the sun’s power with PV panels.


CURTAIN CALL Now pushing 50, the National Arts Centre will shed its brutalist beginnings in a massive retrofit






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National Arts Centre is getting ready to truly face the nation. Thanks to a massive retrofit set to begin in 2016, the Ottawa performance space – created as a gift to Canadians on the country’s 1967 centennial – will no longer see theatre goers covertly file into shows from a back-facing entrance off the beaten path. “One of the big problems is the lobbies are all buried in the building,” says lead architect Donald Schmitt of Diamond Schmitt Architects, who is tasked with reimagining the NAC. “Nobody knows where the front door is. There’s no public visibility of all the activity that is happening inside the building.

Four or five hundred people work there every day and it’s a bit of a bunker. We are trying to turn it inside out so all the interior space is more visible, more accessible and more clearly connected to the street.” For starters, the refurbished centre will feature a new glassedin tower and prominent front entrance via Elgin Street, one of Ottawa’s prime promenades. Users of the 1.2-million-square-foot space could not be more thrilled with the about-face. “You will now be able to see Parliament Hill, the War Memorial, the Chateau Laurier and the Rideau Canal,” explains Rosemary Thompson, director of communications and public affairs for the NAC. “It’s one of the most beautiful views in the country and we will now be able to share that view with our audience and our artists. This was built in the ’60s, and brutalist architecture was very big. But now we live in an era where we want to be open to the public.” Fortunately for visitors to the NAC, the Diamond Schmitt retrofit will make the most of the view. The process for the retrofit started about four years ago and culminated with the announcement last November that the federal government would foot the project’s bill as part of $4.8 billion in infrastructure funding. The NAC’s share is not the largest chunk, at $110.5 million, but it is a notable infusion nonetheless. “We started working on it because the city was about to build a light-rail transit system, and so that was a big project,” says Thompson. “We had hoped to renew the NAC because we turn 50 in 2019, and so we quietly started working on it in the background.” Schmitt says early work on the project is slated for this summer, with construction to kick off in spring 2016 and wrap up in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in July 2017. Schmitt, who has a history of designing upscale performing arts spaces such as Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre and Montreal’s Maison symphonique, likens the reimagined performance centre’s future feel to the Toronto Opera House or New York’s Lincoln Center. “It’s a place that’s open from breakfast until after the last show, seven days a week,” he says. “It’s got a café, people come and hang out with their laptops and meet friends, they watch performances, film and video, they buy tickets to new performances. It just becomes an urban hangout. We are trying to build that spirit at the NAC as well.” Crafted into the new-and-improved NAC is an additional 35,000 square feet, which will include an expanded dining area that will seat 600, tripling its current capacity. “We hope that people will come for their annual general meeting or their wedding, or their big title speech. We haven’t had that kind of space to work with before,” says Thompson. >




In terms of materials, visitors to a newly remodelled NAC will notice a significant boost in the glass to the building, some wood and an infusion of green, which should complement the existing mainly-concrete shroud while delivering energy benefits. “A lot of the glass will be north-facing. We are using high-performance glass and it’s oriented in a way to avoid big solar gain and solar glare,” says Schmitt. “That’s a key issue. We are also hoping to use a wood structure that will be very visible in all the new spaces. We are hoping to use green roofs on all the new wings as well as some of the existing wings.” Part of the plan will include staying loyal to the mandate of being “Canada’s performance centre,” which will be evident like never before with the help of projection mapping on the building’s exterior – of images from performances happening at arts centres across Canada – a feat only made possible with the new glass additions. “The change is going to be really dramatic,” says Thompson. “Now when you go up Elgin Street, the ceremonial street in Ottawa, you will be able to go straight into the NAC and a beautiful glass atrium. We will be projecting images of performing arts from across the country and into this atrium space and into large spaces that we will use for both performance and catering events. “We want to embrace all of these arts organizations across the country that work with us and celebrate their success too. This is kind of a beacon to demonstrate to Canadians that the performing arts are important.” Mechanical changes will mean an overhaul of the building’s heating and cooling systems, Schmitt says. “We are putting in major heat recovery on a lot of the existing mechanical systems and new mechanical systems, to reduce the operating cost of the building – which is enormous right now.” He estimates energy savings post-renovation to be in the range of 35 per cent. One thing is for certain: the revamped NAC will scarcely resemble its brutalist beginnings, which Schmitt admits he does

have some love for. His challenge will be to marry the vision of original NAC architect Fred Lebensold and his own take on performance space in the 21st century. “Most people you talk to really hate it. But I think it’s actually really carefully thought through,” says Schmitt. “It’s very rigorous geometry that underpins all the different components of the building. There are a lot of very strong things about the building, but there are some weaknesses as well – like the whole public experience.” The NAC, he says, is definitely of its day. Also improved will be the intimate and underappreciated fourth stage, a space created in 2000 from a former shop space and party room. It will be the one area closed for the 2016-17 season. The future of the 150-capacity space facing Elgin Street is yet-to-be-determined, as is the potential LEED status of the retrofitted national treasure. For the most part, the show will go on during the 13-month construction period, so the NAC’s users will have to brace for renovation noise and the odd relocated rehearsal, says Schmitt. “They are going to maintain operations, maintain performances and maintain rehearsals. There will be a lot of challenges with that, as we work through it. If you are drilling in one part of the building, that sound can transmit through the whole structure and interrupt rehearsal that’s happening in the middle of the afternoon. We are going to establish rules that the contractor can do noisy construction from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon – and then there will have to be a hard stop.” Visitor numbers are expected to climb from the current million-plus annually, as the revamped spaces grow to cater to more performances and events. “Of all the cultural institutions, the NAC is a beloved institution,” says Thompson. “We have 1.2 million people that come to the NAC for all events annually. We would expect that those numbers will go up and our capacity to do even more events than we do now will go up, because we are going to have more space.”

Complete in time for the country’s 150 anniversary of Confederation, the landmark National Arts Centre retrofit will take advantage of views of its Ottawa surroundings. A mainly-glass marquee tower will bring the entrance of the building to prominent Elgin Street, while improved performance space and new wings will also enhance the space.


performing spaces – a 2,323seat opera (now called Southam Hall), a 897-seat


theatre, a 300-seat studio

(NAC) was built as a project

and, since 2001, a multi-

to mark 100 years of Canada’s

purpose, multi-disciplinary

Confederation. Though

fourth stage with a capacity

commissioned to originally

of 150 seats. The NAC retrofit

open in 1967, it fell behind

will add 35,000 square feet.

and did not open until June 2, 1969 after seven years of

From 1981 to 1996, the NAC


also operated a satellite pocket theatre, the Atelier,

Designed by Montreal

which held 84 people.

architect Fred Lebensold, the triple-hexagon concrete

In addition to operas, ballets

complex sits on the banks

and symphony concerts, the

of the Rideau Canal in

NAC has welcomed such

downtown Ottawa.

musical greats as Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, the

The 1.2-million-square-foot

Barenaked Ladies and

space currently has three

Barbra Streisand.

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Schmitt and his team hope the reimagining of the NAC will only be the tip of the iceberg, signalling more to come for the country’s considerable inventory of 1960s brutalist edifices scattered in cities from Edmonton to Ottawa. At any rate, he is up for the challenge of amalgamating old and new elements into the home of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra and so many other talented players. “We’ve built lots of new performing arts centres, but we have never done such an extensive refurbishing of an existing building,” he says. “I think also taking the brutalist architecture and making it more welcoming and more accessible is also a very exciting opportunity for this project. It’s a whole era of buildings; I think the lessons learned will apply to a lot of buildings of a similar era.” re

The National Arts Centre


TAKE IT OUTSIDE Architects from Berlin to the Big Apple are considering better uses for outdoor urban spaces BY DAVID M. DICENZO



BERLIN IS GERMANY’S LARGEST CITY WITH A POPULATION OF ABOUT THREE-AND-A-HALF MILLION. Yet for all of its size and numerous residents, there is a noticeable lack of activity from locals in the German capital’s historic city centre.Yes, there is a strong presence of government buildings and museums, but few Berliners actually live and spend time in that area of the famous city. Jan and Tim Edler have a distinct vision for their home, and one they hope will ultimately transform the face of the city. The two Berlin-based brothers, founders of realities:united (a studio for art, architecture and technology), thought of a way to bring Berliners back to the core – by creating a 750-metre long pool within a side canal of the Spree River that makes its way through the capital. Flussbad Berlin would be the longest natural pool in the world. And while the idea may seem far-fetched, the Edlers have spent significant parts of the last 17 years making this novel vision a reality. “That arm of the river (between Schlossplatz and the Bode-Museum) has no technical function,” says Jan Edler. >

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Winner of a Holcim award in 2011, Flussbad, if brought to fruition, would be one of the longest swimming pools in the world.



“Until the late 1800s, that river arm was used for transportation and ships, but in 1894 the ship route moved to a broader parallel river arm. Since that time, there has been nothing going on there. That is an important pre-condition.” The brothers saw a 1.5-kilometre stretch in the otherwise densely populated Berlin where nothing was happening. “As in every other capital city of the world, such immense unused spatial potential seemed to be economically unpinning,” Edler says. The question that the pair had to answer was: how could they realize the potential for that unused portion of the Spree and the land around it? “What triggers us most is the idea that the city centre should be a place for everyone, for all Berliners and not mostly a place of representation,” Edler says. “With

comparatively little residential use, it is typically empty at night with little going on. We would love to see the city centre understood as a resource for all of us.” The Edlers’ philosophy as artists and architects is to use an existing space and transform it. This is a theme in much of their studio’s work. But the idea for Flussbad actually evolved from an emerging change in the artistic world of their city. When demolition of the Berlin Wall began on June 13, 1990, it marked the crumbling not only of a physical barrier that had divided the city’s East and West ends since 1961, it also launched a new era in freedom of thought and expression. The door was open for forward-thinking Berliners and the Edlers were among those who prospered from a creative standpoint in post-wall Berlin. It was in this new and exciting

climate that the idea for Flussbad was conceived. “Tim and I were involved in an art association named Kunst und Technik, a group of nine people,” says Edler. “We had people bored of office life and coming from universities to do conceptual work. Projects to make use of empty space were typical after the Wall fell and Flussbad was one of the ideas we had.” Edler says there was huge potential to what he calls “the sleeping city” that was Berlin of the day. “This is how the project evolved,” he says. “It was a nice idea but people thought it was utopian.” The Edlers didn’t get much press, though one journalist did print that, if completed, Flussbad would indeed be the longest pool in the world at that time. This, at least, gave the project a

The City of Calgary’s Water Centre mitigates the danger of falling snow and ice with canopies.

Flussbad will be made available. “It is a simple project on paper but very complex in reality,” he says. “For example, the river does not belong to Berlin. It belongs to the federal government and rivers are regarded as a highway for ships. The usage of that part of the river where the ships don’t run needs to be rededicated. “Our job is to find out how things need to be done. These are quite exciting times.” According to Edler, two of the key issues are concern for the ecology of the river and maintaining water quality. That portion of the Spree would become the closest natural resource for swimming for approximately 500,000 Berliners. Builders would need to create a series of staircases leading down to the river and the proposed filtration system would keep the water at safe levels. “It’s a catalyst for people to understand the importance of having clean water,” says Edler. “They feel it.


It’s a river they can use and not just for freight. It’s also a catalyst for sustainable behaviour and political actions.” The hope is that Flussbad can ultimately become not only an amazing destination for Berliners to enjoy, but also a blueprint for a best practices project, one initiated by local artists with the best interests of their own city and citizens at the forefront. Despite the positivity, there have also been many challenges – and some detractors. “Those people against Flussbad believe the city centre should be a place of contemplation and not somewhere that naked people go swimming,” Edler says with a smile. “Yet we received this funding and feel that there is an incredible energy building. There are so many people who really like the idea and they get excited about it becoming a reality. It’s great motivation for us. “I’m hoping that I will still be young enough that I can go swim there when the project is realized.”>

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hook. By September of 1998, Jan and Tim completed a publication about Flussbad. The idea then went dormant, and a couple of years later, they founded their studio, realities:united. In 2010, a full decade after founding it, a friend of the Edlers approached and encouraged them to enter Flussbad in the Holcim Awards, an international competition that promotes sustainable construction projects or urban developments. “We thought he was crazy,” says Edler. “The project was so old. No one would be interested.” They entered. And, up against 6,000 entries from all over the world, they won. Not just the US$100,000 main prize in the European division, but also the US$50,000 bronze award in the world division. The atmosphere in Berlin had changed substantially and suddenly, there was global recognition of Flussbad and the potential of what could happen on the Spree. “It’s interesting because you normally get awards and recognition for projects that have been realized and completed.” Edler says. “Instead, the Holcim Award tries to foster ideas and helped a lot to kick-start the vision. We wanted to make use of this energy.” Since winning the Holcim Award in 2011, the scope of Flussbad has expanded dramatically. Fifteen people founded Flussbad Berlin in 2012.The non-profit association, responsible for all of the project’s communications, now has 400 members and supporters, including government. Last November, Flussbad received a huge boost when the project secured a staggering grant of four million Euro through a new federal funding program. Flussbad now has a team of people working daily to foster the public and political debate on how this project will benefit Berlin for future generations. Edler says there will be an ongoing mixture of discussion, campaigning and exhibition, with the creation of an “embassy” in the centre of Berlin where information on


New York City’s proposed Dryline project is part of a plan to reduce vulnerability to super storms.




mesmerizing structure that is home to the City of Calgary’s water resources and water services staff. The inspiration for the innovative building was the actual movement and translucency of water itself, a design worthy of many accolades for Manasc Isaac Architects, the firm responsible for its creation. The Water Centre opened in 2007 and the following year a plan was hatched to enhance the building in order to address the obligatory snow accumulation atop structures in Southern Alberta.The outdoor staircases and walkways required a shield to protect the people who use them. “We talked at length as to how we would handle the ice and snow coming off of the roof,” says Vivian Manasc, principal at Manasc Isaac Architects. “We accepted that there would be a certain amount and we would have to watch out for it.

“After discussing different strategies, we decided to look at a canopy solution.” Work on the canopies took about two years and was completed in October of 2012, but the result has been both a functional and aesthetic success. Falling snow and ice is no longer a concern at the Water Centre, thanks to the protective barrier constructed and the translucent look itself is beautiful, particularly when lit up in the evening. “We didn’t want the space to be dark,” says Manasc. “The canopies are made of glass so there is good light coming through in this sheltered outdoor space. “Integrating the canopies architecturally was something we set out to do. It’s working well – and has achieved the goals we set out.”

HURRICANE SANDY’S impact is still being felt along the Eastern

Seaboard. The devastating super storm, born in the Caribbean back in October of 2012, ploughed through the East and left approximately $65 billion of damage in the United States, with many lives lost. Of the people who died, 43 were in New York, where storm surges in Manhattan’s Battery Park reached as high as 14 feet. The City has taken initiatives to ensure a better outcome when the next massive climate event strikes. In its 445 pages, A Stronger, More Resilient New York outlines how the Big Apple will be prepped to reduce the vulnerability to another super storm. The comprehensive plan produced by the City will strengthen coastal defenses, upgrade buildings, protect infrastructure and services and make neighbourhoods not only safer but also more vibrant. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development held

With space for its citizens at a premium, architects in Lima, Peru created a urban park called Invasion Verde.


critical throughout the planning, design and construction,” says Amy Spitalnick, a representative from the City. “It is especially important as the project scope is developed over the next 12 months. The City will be speaking often with those who know their community best: the residents.”

RECREATION SPACE within cities worldwide is at a premium. Especially in Lima, Peru. The World Health Organization states that every person living in a city should have eight square metres of recreation space to enjoy. But in Lima, that number was just shy of two metres per person. Peruvian architects Genaro Alva, Denise Ampuero, Gloria Andrea Rojas and industrial designer Claudia Ampuero took a proactive approach to address that fact. In 2010, the group created Invasion Verde (Green Invasion), an uplifting project that transformed Lima’s concrete-filled city centre into a unique urban park. One of five artistic interventions chosen from 137 proposals submitted for Lima’s Great Week, Invasion Verde drastically changed the look of the Pasaje Encarnacion with an injection of grass-covered mini hills and recycled tires, some containing planted flowers and others with grass tops and stool legs to make a cool, comfortable sitting place for those looking to take a break. The artists also used recycled plastic for sculptural pieces throughout the park, which also features droughttolerant plants. The message this group made in Lima was clear – yes to more green outdoor space. re

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a resiliency project competition as part of its disaster aid allocation to jurisdictions impacted by Sandy. A New York proposal, known as The Big U project, secured $335 million to go towards developing a protective system around Manhattan. Big U would stretch for 16 continuous kilometres of low-lying geography in a dense and vibrant, but vulnerable urban area. On top of shielding the city from flooding and storm water, Big U will offer social and environmental benefits to the community. The proposed Dryline project, led by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), will fortify and enhance three separate but contiguous regions (or compartments) of the waterfront. Bridging Berm on the Lower East Side gives vertical protection, while also offering a beautiful setting with accessible routes in a park packed with salt tolerant trees and bushes; deployable walls between the Manhattan Bridge and Montgomery Street, attached underneath FDR Drive can flip down to provide protection from floodwaters, yet the idea to decorate them from local artists makes for an aesthetically attractive area; and Battery Berm would weave an elevated path around Lower Manhattan, with upland knolls and unique landscapes that will enhance the public realm and protect the financial district and critical transportation infrastructure. Plans for this year include land surveys, inspections of waterfront structures, tree inventory, bridge inspections and pedestrian and bicycle traffic studies. The City also wants to hear what those who felt the full power of Sandy have to say. “Community input is absolutely


a tale of two houses

Updating Edmonton Community Foundation’s aging headquarters meant a delicate marriage between past and present By Emmett Gallagher

The new building was designed to read as a transparent volume, a distinct element in itself.



SOMETIMES A REIMAGINE PROJECT has to bridge a community’s past and present. Such was the case for Manasc Isaac’s expansion and renovation of the Edmonton Community Foundation’s headquarters. The Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) is a charitable organization that supports and encourages philanthropy by assembling and administering pools of capital from donors, and then reinvesting the interest earned on it back into the local community. Enabled through the Edmonton Community Foundation Act in 1971, the ECF was created in 1989, after receiving significant donations from members of the philanthropic Stollery and Poole families. As ECF became increasingly successful, it became clear that its headquarters would need to expand to accommodate its burgeoning staffing and programming needs. The ECF and its collaborating organizations, the Stollery Charitable Foundation and the Social Enterprise Fund, could no longer fit under a single roof; yet its beautiful home, the 1912-built McDougall House, commonly known as “Hilltop House,” seemed too charming to abandon. When a golden opportunity emerged in the form of a 1960s neighbouring building that became vacant, ECF’s CEO Martin GarberConrad realized that it made perfect sense to acquire it and consolidate the two structures. The project posed a challenge: how can two buildings from completely independent eras, built in completely different styles and for completely different purposes, be elegantly and functionally united as one? The solution required a reimagination by Edmonton architectural firm Manasc Isaac’s design team. McDougall House was originally built as the residence of John C. McDougall, son of former Edmonton MLA John A. McDougall. Its nickname suits it, as the building is perched atop a hill at the intersection of 103 Street and 100 Avenue in downtown Edmonton and overlooks the picturesque river valley. Treasured by its community, Hilltop House is a significant architectural

landmark, and is listed on the Inventory and Register of Historic Resources in Edmonton. Designed by local architect David Hardie, Hilltop House is built in the foursquare style. Characteristic of this style, architectural features include a bell-cast roof with dormer windows, deep wood soffits, decorative eaves brackets, red brick facing, sandstone sills and lintels, a full-width verandah with square columns and extra-wide entrance stairs. The interior boasts an entrance vestibule finished with ornate oak wood panelling and stairs, decorative coffered ceilings, and detailed crown moulding. >

Hilltop House has been an Edmonton mainstay since 1912. summer 2015



In contrast to the hipped roof of the house, the link building has a simple flat roof.

Over the years, Hilltop House had many lives, serving as a women’s shelter and a drug rehabilitation centre. Multiple renovations and modifications were made during its varied incarnations: renovations that would need to be rectified to return the house to its former glory. Its neighbouring structure had a very different background. Built in the early-1960s for Alberta Government Telephone, the robust “Telus Building” was originally designed to accommodate telecommunications equipment, although in its later years it was transformed into a childcare facility. Its structure consists of concrete foundation walls, concrete masonry exterior with brick veneer facing and an open-web steel joist roof. Following the closure of the childcare facility in early 2013, Manasc Isaac was commissioned to reimagine a new home for the ECF, while bridging Hilltop House and the Telus building.




reimagine project with a series of deeply collaborative workshops with the design and client teams present. From these meetings, the team identified project risks and mitigations and established space requirements for the organization’s future. Richard Isaac throughly examined the operational needs of the client. Project architect for the reimagined space, Isaac identified two distinct approaches to the project. The first option involved keeping the two existing buildings as separate entities, with a walkway connecting the two. The second, more elaborate one, proposed connecting the existing buildings by constructing a new building to act as a link between the two, creating one large building for the organization. “One of the interesting aspects of this project was

that the original building was designed to be viewed and approached from a direction that was no longer accessible,” says Isaac. “Additionally, the project is located in an area zoned as high-density residential, and is viewed primarily from above, which was a major consideration to us from the onset. It became clear early on that if the organization was to be given the recognition it deserves, the visual presence of the ECF would need to enhanced significantly.” Creating a clear entrance to the ECF from Slatter Way was undoubtedly the best approach, to ensure visibility was improved within the surrounding community. For this reason, adding the “link” building was chosen as the best way to proceed. As is often the case in a renovation project, countless unknowns can lead to increased risk. To mitigate such dangers from the outset, Manasc Isaac adopted an integrated procurement route by selecting a contractor early in the design process. Having PCL Construction Management and its major subtrades involved during the project’s infancy enabled the risks to be clearly identified and minimized by the entire team. When designing the reimagined home for the ECF, the team made a conscious effort to maintain the historical integrity of Hilltop House, while enhancing the overall aesthetic of the consolidated building.The new building was designed to read as a transparent volume, a distinct element in itself, when compared to the opaque existing buildings to the north and south. In theory, the link building protrudes west towards Slatter Way, beyond the reaches of Hilltop House and the Telus building, creating a new clear entrance to the ECF. An intentional architectural reveal between Hilltop House and the link building was introduced to ensure the addition does not impede on the house. In contrast to the hipped roof of the house, the link building has a simple flat top, which terminates below the existing soffit. To ensure maximum thermal efficiency, the link building is enclosed on the east and west by a full-height composite curtain wall system with triple-glazing.

The reimagining of Hilltop House, top, involved keeping original elements as well as amalgamating new ones such as large clerestory structure below, which was added to the attached building.


thermal insulation and sealed with an air and vapour barrier. Inside the building, various behind-the-scenes efficiency upgrades were incorporated. The Telus and link buildings are ventilated and air-conditioned using a variable-airvolume (VAV) ventilation system. New raised-access floors in the Telus building and link are used for air delivery via VAV boxes and perimeter air grills. The existing rooftop air-handling unit for Hilltop House will be replaced with a two-stage heating and cooling unit, ensuring increased thermal comfort for staff inside the house. Heating inside the Telus building is now delivered via perimeter radiant panels, ensuring maximum occupant comfort and space flexibility. The ECF reimagine project will be complete this fall. By choosing to invest in the historical legacy of Hilltop House in lieu of demolition and rebuild, the organization has demonstrated its commitment to enhancing its community. In doing so, the ECF avoids unnecessary environmental implications of demolishing an existing building. “The most sustainable buildings are the buildings that already exist,” says Vivian Manasc, principal architect at Manasc Isaac. The ECF reimagine project promises to reflect the organization’s core values of community leadership, visionary thinking, and innovation. Following the 25th anniversary of the ECF in 2014, this new home will ensure that the organization can continue to be recognized as community leaders in prudent investments in Edmonton’s future for its next 25 years and beyond. re

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On the interior, the link addition is a doubleheight space comprising glulam columns and beams, with an exposed wood deck overhead. Once complete, the link building will be home to main reception and meeting rooms, with an ability to open up and accommodate the many social events hosted by the ECF. Manasc Isaac also repurposed an existing reception desk from one of its previous projects to reduce waste and environmental impact. This entrance space will ensure ECF staff and visitors can experience a warm and comfortable space, created by the naturally inviting qualities of the wood materials. “On our first visit inside the Telus building, it was clear that our main objective would be to introduce natural daylight into the deep floor plate,” says Isaac. “The only natural daylight entering the building was via a number of small windows located sparingly around the exterior walls. Natural daylight was not high on the list of priorities for telecommunications equipment it would seem.” To solve the obvious daylight issue, the design team came up with multiple solutions. First, large openings comprising triple-glazing and operable awning-style windows were introduced into both the east and west facades. Secondly, a large clerestory structure was installed directly above the main corridor, which runs diagonally through the main floor of the Telus building. “By retaining the original steel joists in the roof, and having them run through the opening for the clerestory, we were able to add some architectural interest and context,” says Isaac. Introducing large amounts of natural daylight, coupled with operable windows, the team ensured that ECF employees will have control over their workspaces, enhancing their comfort and productivity. This also saves on operational costs, reducing the need for artificial lighting, heating and cooling. To improve the overall performance of the Telus building, the structure was re-skinned completely – in other words, the existing building was sealed with a thermally efficient building envelope. The Telus building was enclosed within a fully sealed air/vapour barrier and high-performance thermal insulation complete with a high-pressure laminate (HPL) rain screen system. On the roof, layers of rigid insulation were added over a new air and vapour barrier and capped with a modified-bitumen roofing system. To enhance the thermal performance of the basement, new interior walls were erected around the perimeter, filled with a




PROBABLY NOT THE UGLIEST BUILDING IN TOWN A Jasper Avenue office tower is sparking debate among Edmontonians about the city’s urban design By Richard White


HERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A BUILDING. At least, that’s what they say in the architectural world about re-skinning old, tired-looking office buildings. Across North America, bland, boring and brown 1960s and ’70s office buildings are getting a facelift. In Edmonton, one of the dreariest looking office towers is the Associated Engineering Plaza built in 1978 at the corner of 109 Street and Jasper Avenue. While the site is a prominent one, the building is not. It is an example of the hulking brutalist architecture that dominated many public buildings and office towers in North America in the 20th century, into the late 1970s. To greater or lesser effect, the brutalist sensibility was modern, and today’s retrofits have many of the resulting concrete edifices to deal with. Associated Engineering Plaza’s take on brutalism is overly simple: a 12-storey box that lacks an engaging street level base and is similarly devoid of an interesting rooftop. The facade is dull brown concrete panels with horizontal rows of windows from top to bottom. It looks like something an accountant might have drawn up by adding 12 rows to an Excel spreadsheet. As befits its brutalist beginnings, architectural ornamentation is non-existent. >

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Back in May 2010, Scott McKeen, then a journalist at the Edmonton Journal and now a city councillor, wrote, “The Associated Engineering Building is so ugly, blind dogs cross the street.” Today, McKeen is a bit more philosophical given the number of people working in the building who expressed their indignation at his comments. He says he now realizes even a “homely building can inspire a sense of community.” He is quick to add the Associated Engineering Plaza is “probably not the ugliest building in downtown Edmonton, but close to it.” McKeen adds: “I think most of us have now seen inspiring architecture from other parts of the world, either first-hand or in pictures. Basic rectangular design with little articulation and beige cladding offers no delight to the eye.” While he concedes his appreciation of architecture is not sophisticated, he suggests public opinion should not be discounted in the debate on how to make cities both more urban and more attractive.



IN JUNE 2010, EDMONTON’S MANASC ISAAC Architects completed a reimagine study to retrofit the exterior of the Associated Engineering Plaza for the building owner, ProCura. The concept proposed to remove all of the precast concrete panels and replace them with new glass panel cladding, which would elevate the design of the building from something dull and boring to something shiny and reflective. The plan also called for a new bow element on the east face of the building that would not only add additional space, but also transform the flat box into a subtle curve. (Note: iPhones have curved edges because Steve Job, Apple CEO, realized humans are more attracted to curved objects than rectangular ones.) In addition to the glass bow over the building’s entrance, the Manasc Isaac design team had a mix of reflective and non-reflective glass on the side walls, creating ambiguous positive and negative rectangular shapes to break up the monotony of what would otherwise have been a blank, boring wall for pedestrians. Manasc Isaac’s reimagine study involved more than just re-skinning the building. It also included sunshades on the south side of the building, high-performance windows and other improvements to reduce the Associated Engineering Plaza’s energy consumption by 50 per cent. These changes would make dramatic improvements to the light inside the building, enhancing the quality of the workspaces. At street level, the team designed new entrance canopies for the building as well as the street-level restaurant. They added a new winter garden element on the north edge to create a more pedestrian-friendly experience for people walking past or into the building. By opening up the large concrete wall to create the winter garden, the design meant more light would extend into the parkade and create a more pleasant parkade experience.

The Associated Engineering Plaza building has long been a topic of discussion for its aesthetics.

The architects also had the challenge of creating a building that would enhance ProCura’s vision for the entire precinct around the Jasper and 109 Street corner. This central intersection will eventually include the completed curved glass Intact Insurance Building, Mayfair Village South (a completed 16-storey building) and Mayfair Village North (a 10-storey, 198-unit residential building currently under construction). Good urban design connects the neighbouring buildings with visually interesting juxtapositions of materials, shapes and decorative elements that are synergistic and harmonious to the eye. The aim is to create a sense of place that is inviting to wander and linger, as opposed to being a forgettable place to walk by. Overall, the reimagine study proposed a brighter, bolder and more visually complex statement for the busy corner at Jasper Avenue and 109 Street. It would have achieved many of the goals that the Downtown Business Association, the City of Edmonton and the landlord had set to reimagine Jasper Avenue as a vibrant place for people of all ages and backgrounds. The key words here, however, are “would have.” UNFORTUNATELY, MANASC ISAAC’S $10-MILLION redesign of the Associated Engineering Plaza is not likely to happen. ProCura is currently re-evaluating the building’s future. Its president George Schluessel is looking at options other than just an office building given the two million square feet of new office construction currently underway in downtown Edmonton. Schluessel is considering a mixed-use office and residential complex, since downtown Edmonton’s demand for space has evolved since the 2010 study. Though the idea of live-work

A reimagining of Associated Engineering Plaza would see it retrofitted with a slight curve.


more architecture and streetscapes that inspire people.” Trocenko also expresses enthusiasm for landlords who recognize the need to invest in their properties to bring them up to 21st-century standards. Each new downtown building or makeover raises the bar for other landlords. “The competition today in downtown Edmonton to have buildings that will be attractive to new office tenants, retailers, restaurants and residents is a healthy one,” he says. Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and the modern guru on how to revitalize urban neighbourhoods in North America wrote, “In vibrant communities, one third of the buildings are new, one third are old and one third have been renovated.” If this is the case, the west Jasper Avenue neighbourhood’s revitalization is in good shape with ProCura’s two new apartment buildings, the renovation of the Intact office building and the older Associated Engineering Plaza with its bustling restaurant.Yes, the time will come for the megamakeover of the building. Jacobs also espoused that vibrant urban communities must evolve incrementally, not suddenly. The Jasper Avenue and 109 Street redevelopment is a classic example of incremental evolution, while the Arena District is more revolutionary. It will be interesting to see what the two urban districts are like 25 years from now. re

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spaces is looking most attractive at the moment, the current state of the local economy means nothing is likely to happen in the short term. Vivian Manasc, principal architect in the reimagine study of the Associated Engineering Plaza agrees. “Given the increased demand for more downtown housing, it might make sense to reimagine the building as a residential or mixed-use space,” Manasc says. “Several other office buildings in downtown Edmonton have been successfully converted to residential. Jasper Avenue and 109 Street is ideal for residential development with all of the necessary amenities nearby.” Associated Engineering has just announced its relocation to another recently reimagined building on Jasper Avenue, leaving much of this tower empty. This might be bad news for those wanting to see a signature building with a vibrant streetscape at the corner of Jasper and 109 Street. It is also bad news for Jasper Avenue, which is struggling to reimagine itself as a 21st-century main street and compete with the shiny new mega-buildings in the downtown Arena District. Some Edmontonians are even saying the Arena District is the new Jasper Avenue. The good news is that in 2012 the Central Social Hall opened up in the restaurant space at street level in the Associated Engineering Building. It has since become one of downtown Edmonton’s more popular hangouts. The sports bar, pub and restaurant has, in fact, already made the corner – and the building – more welcoming. Perhaps this is the start of a more residentially focused corner of the city. For most pedestrians, what happens at street level is critical to shaping their image of a place (if they are not looking up at the rooftops or the sides of buildings). If they can see interesting retail window displays or restaurants, cafes and patios full of people, the image will be positive. Walter Trocenko, manager of housing and economic stability with the City of Edmonton and a member of the Downtown Business Association, loves the idea that more Edmontonians are expressing discontent with the urban design of the past. “If people don’t like a building, that is a good thing – as it means people care and appreciate the importance of architecture as part of their daily lives. It also means they have strong sense of community and civic pride.” Trocenko admits that Edmonton hasn’t always demanded the best in urban design. “As a city, we can do better,” he says. “We need





72% 68%

Canada (2014)


Global (2012)

30% 27%


25% 17%

By Martin Dover


23% 11%

In early 2014, the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) conducted an online survey on green building in Canada via McGraw Hill Construction. For the study, a green building project was considered as one built in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification – or another recognized green building standard – or one that is energy and water efficient and addresses improved air quality or material resource conservation. Participants were drawn from the CaGBC, Construction Specifications Canada, REALPac, the National Association of Women in Construction and the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association. Among the respondents were architects, contractors, builder owners and developers, and consultants and engineers hailing from Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. HERE IS A SAMPLING OF THE FINDINGS:



Reduce Energy Consumption

Lower Greenhouse Gasses

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Protect Natural Resources

Reduce Water Consumption

Reducing energy consumption is the top environmental reason for building green, as reported by 68 per cent of the respondents.



WELL OVER HALF (56 per cent) of the Canadian respondents reported that more than 30 per cent of the projects they build are currently green, and by 2017, 70 per cent expect to be doing at least that level of green construction. Half (50 per cent) of respondents also said 60 per cent of these future projects would be green.

42% 24% 60%

Doing the right thing and/ or client demand was a top-three reason Doing the right thing was the number-one reason Promoting greater health and well-being for building occupants was the top social factor





2% No Impact


Nearly all building owner respondents (82 per cent) who cited the importance of energy impact reported that building green reduced buildings’ energy use. The median reduction was nine per cent, but as many as 19 per cent reported savings of 20 per cent or more.




Canadian building owners, architects and contractors reported that green buildings significantly decrease operating costs in the first year after construction, and the impact on operating costs continues to increase over five years.

Medical hospital construction will be the most active type of institutional building in the next few years. Builders expect double-digit growth.

82 per cent of building owner/developers reported decreases in energy consumption compared to similar buildings.

In Canada, a much higher percentage of firms expect to do residential green projects than in the U.S. in the next three years (25 per cent low-rise and 31 per cent mid- to high-rise).

The percentage of firms doing more than 30 per cent of their projects green has grown by 50 per cent in three years. Most of the growth between 2010-13 has been in the intermediate levels of greener building, with the highest level of growth in the 31-to-60-per-cent category. The largest percentage of future growth is expected in the category of those doing more than 60 per cent of their projects green, with half (50 per cent) of respondents expecting to be at that level by 2017.

68 per cent of owner/developers reported decreases in water consumption over similar buildings. Eight years was the reasonable payback period for new green building projects, while seven years was the period predicted for retrofit or renovation projects. The increased building value was four per cent.


44% Canada

38% U.S.

No Impact 8%

Not Sure 16%



Owners reported a reduction in water use from building green structures, and those who did also reported substantial reductions (68 per cent), or reductions of 20 per cent or greater (25 per cent). The total median water use reduction was 12 per cent.


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3-5 years

6-10 years

11-20 years

50 per cent of firms in British Columbia expect to build green mid- to high-rise residential projects in the next three years, compared with 32 per cent in Ontario and 15 per cent in Alberta. 65 per cent of firms in Ontario expect to do green existing building/retrofit projects in the next three years, compared to 40 per cent in British Columbia and 43 per cent in Alberta.

Don’t Know


Among respondents, owners were more knowledgeable about the realistic payback period for their green retrofit or renovation projects, with all but one providing an estimated time frame. Owners were also more likely to estimate payback in three to five years, compared to architects, who cited periods of six to 10 years for payback.

29% 31%

32% 18%


47% 26% 38%



of small firms (revenue less than $1 million) reported that they currently do more than 60 per cent of their projects green. of medium-size firms (revenue from $1 million to $250 million) reported that they currently do more than 60 per cent of their projects green. of large-size firms (revenue of more than $250 million) reported that they currently do more than 60 per cent of their projects green.






3% More than 15%



5% or less


Don’t Know

Respondents involved in retrofit or renovation projects reported similar findings, but they were also more conservative in the longer-term outlook than those creating new buildings. There is a 13-point difference between the percentage who expected to see more than 15 per cent operating cost decreases over the next 12 months and those expecting the same decrease over the next five years. re

green gains

TOWERING INCENTIVES A case can be made for following Toronto’s lead in retrofitting aging high-rises over building from scratch By Sydnee Bryant



According to Keir Brownstone, left, who’s with Toronto’s Tower Renewal Program, they look at six key areas, from safety to operations. This process was used when it came to the renewal of the Lansdowne 1011 building, right.

the building’s performance to 200 similar ones,” says Brownstone. While Brownstone believes Toronto is “really quite advanced when it comes to sustainability,” that isn’t necessarily happening in Canada as a whole, he says. “Canada was really a world leader for many years but, in terms of renewable energy systems, community energy, water conservation and greenhouse gas emission reductions, we’ve really slipped a lot. It’s something we can probably catch up on.” It makes sense – and dollars – for other cities to take a cue from Toronto and create their own versions of the Tower Renewal Program. re

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etrofit activity across Canada continues to grow, and many building owners are deciding that reimagining their existing building stock to green standards is the smartest and most efficient way to go. There are many reasons for a green retrofit of a building, including cultural, economic and environmental benefits. Owners of mid-century stock who stand to gain the most should take note. This is especially true in the City of Toronto, where you’ll also see additional economic gains from aiming for a green standard. As part of the City’s Tower Renewal Program, building owners can apply for HI-RIS, a financing process that anyone with a tax bill can use to borrow from the City to undertake energy or water efficiency measures. Owners lock in a favourable rate for 20 years and the financing stays with the building’s tax bill – even if ownership changes, explains Keir Brownstone, who works on the Tower Renewal Project. “The financing lives with the building, so if the building gets sold, it stays with the building,” he says. It’s a good way to retrofit to green standards. When a builder follows the program and does an energy audit, he or she can make the payment horizon the same as the savings horizon in terms of payback. “So basically it can be a way to do a zero-sum loan for energy efficiency and water efficiency upgrades to the building,” Brownstone says. The Tower Renewal Program targets buildings eight-storeys and higher that were built prior to 1985, in the multi-residential sector. “The Tower Program takes a holistic view of these buildings in that we look at six key areas of the building and the area around it,” says Brownstone. “We look at energy, water and waste management but we also look at safety, community building issues and operations. It’s really a stem-to-stern look at the properties.” That includes a two-part analysis of the buildings that qualify for the Tower Renewal Project.The first, a STEP assessment, looks at community infrastructure, safety and security issues, energy, waste and water.The other is a benchmark, in which Brownstone’s group takes the building’s utility data, including electricity, natural gas, water and waste, and plots it. “Currently we have about 200 buildings done.With this information at a fairly detailed level, we can say ‘here are the good things about the tower, here are some recommendations to make it better,’ while comparing


room of their own


A Calgary software company needed a new space that included collision points for creativity

By Claire Johnson




he growing Calgary software company Hedgerow contacted our team at Manasc Isaac to reimagine an existing space into a new and innovative workplace. Employees were quickly outgrowing their office, so they asked us to help them find a space that would give them an opportunity to grow and strengthen a collaborative style of working. Determining what success would look like for Hedgerow Software’s redesign was a starting point for the reimagining process. Integrating the company branding and philosophy within the design of the space was at the top of the list for the Hedgerow team, led by Nancy Grinwis. A healthy and comfortable workplace for employees and a space that encouraged “collisions” – frequent contact points between staff – were also key drivers in the revamp. Our team used the existing skeleton of the building, which helped the budget and avoided discarding material unnecessarily. Following a thorough inventory of the existing materials, we quickly worked out what could be re-used or re-purposed for the new office. We were able

to salvage plumbing fixtures, timber flooring and some large metal doors that we later turned into desks. Challenges when reimaging existing spaces often lead to opportunities most people don’t consider in

a new build. In this case, the location of the exterior glazing dictated the positioning of interior room dividers, and in a few cases partitions were done away with and other methods – such as furniture placement and differentiating

the floor design – helped identify and divide the office space. The constraints imposed by the existing conditions led to solutions that have made the space more inviting. One example: we created the central meeting space, framing it

Once a maze of low-ceilinged offices, Hedgerow’s new headquarters will be open and full of natural light.

Our design enabled hubs in the common areas, including the lunchroom, that staff could use for impromptu stand-up meeting areas.

The planning of the Hedgerow office spaces relied on an activity-based working model (ABW) after looking closely at the types of work happening in each area. (Read more about ABW in the sidebar.) The next step was to provide a variety of spaces to allow for both individual work requiring peace and quiet for concentrating and multiple areas for more collaborative tasks. By providing more of these types of spaces, we were able to reduce the size of individual workstations. As Hedgerow employees are frequently getting together for brainstorming sessions, many of the partitions were >

summer 2015


with a sculptural band, a ribbon of green that runs throughout the room and greets visitors as they enter the office. At the outset, the idea was for this space to occupy a corner office, but as we explored the existing layout in more detail, we found that enclosing a corner would limit the natural daylight available to the surrounding spaces. Our alternative solution was to place the space front-and-centre in the office, to create a dramatic entrance piece that evolves into the green Hedgerow form, which extends throughout the office space, adding an identifying element and a nod to the great personality of the company. Approaching this space, the team looked for existing features to amalgamate into the design. The layout was a maze of low-ceilinged offices

that didn’t allow the fantastic natural light from the multitude of floor-toceiling windows to penetrate the office from its north and south sides. Getting natural light into every space was a top priority during the design. The team’s first instinct was to look at removing the ceiling and mezzanine, opening the office up to the underside of the roof deck and designing the space to expose the entire office to complement the extensive glazing. Previously hidden views of the mountains became visible, dramatically improving the quality of the office space. Exposing the underside of the roof deck and open web trusses produced a light and airy quality to the space, while still providing visual interest. This was the most dramatic change from the existing dowdy and enclosed interior; even our team almost couldn’t believe how transformed the space was. We planned the office to minimize enclosed spaces to only necessary ones, such as washrooms. Enclosed spaces run laterally through the office to maximize light penetration from the large windows.


room of their own

An activity-based working space

Enclosed spaces run laterally through the office to maximize light penetration from the large windows.



constructed with writeable wall surfaces accessible from a desk height and upwards. Our design enabled hubs in the common areas, including the lunchroom, that staff could use for impromptu standup meeting areas; writeable surfaces are spots for notes displayed to interested parties. A feature particularly important to the company was the inclusion of multiple screens within the wall systems that could be used for presentations as well as a general display of information on central points around the office. Now office areas for the different teams open out to the common area and meeting rooms. Within each team’s area there is space for informal discussions and chatting, a big part of Hedgerow’s workplace model. The combined kitchen/lunchroom is the heart of the space, visible throughout the office, and doubles as an entertaining area for company functions and after-hours “beer o’clock” gatherings. Here too, we included screens and

writable surfaces, even on the kitchen cupboards. Hedgerow Software highlights frequent communication, whether it is about the office cookie jar or a budding business idea. To integrate Hedgerow’s branding into the design of the spaces, a large arch of green now greets visitors at the entrance to the office. The company logo signals the entrance to a small meeting room. Our design team wove this green element continuously throughout the office in the floors, walls and as its own structure, connecting the spaces and visually leading the occupants into the different areas, reinforcing the brand and the company’s corporate culture. Bright, colourful patches in the floor design emphasize spaces and provide a sense of identity to the discreet areas. This visual signalling also helps define areas in an otherwise very open environment, an important aspect in creating this transparent office space. re

THE THREE CS OF ACTIVITY-BASED WORKING Activity-based working (ABW) is an innovative emerging trend in office design. Rather than forcing employees into small boxes to work, ABW creates discreet spaces to accommodate the various types of work characterized by that company’s environment, mainstay and culture. Although every office has its own workflow that will dictate an ABW layout, the principles of ABW’s space types remain the same. All offices need places for chatter, concentration and collaboration – these are called the three Cs of space. Chatter Space: This is your water cooler space, where team members gather to talk about their weekend, that tight deadline that looms over the office or opinions about last night’s game. These fun, lively and informal spaces facilitate connection between team members. Collaboration Space: These casual meeting areas are the perfect place to spontaneously collaborate with co-workers. Ranging from coffee bars to quasisitting rooms, these spaces are valuable, kindling more vibrant conversations than a traditional boardroom. Concentration Space: Employees still need to occasionally retreat into a private space to synthesize the ideas generated in a collaborative ABW environment. Concentration spaces don’t have to be designated desks. For example, the practice of “hot-desking” allows staff members to choose a different space to work as needed, reducing company expenses and maximizing the office’s square footage. Activity-based working is the future of office design, embracing happy accidents, collaboration and creativity. After all, shouldn’t we design spaces around the behaviours and needs of the people who use them? IMAGE COURTESY INTERFACEDESIGNWITHPURPOSE.COM.AU

public eye


Edmonton’s former remand centre is poised to revitalize the neighbourhood, with potential uses that include dormitory spaces

By Kent McKay



In 2012, the replacement remand facility opened in North Edmonton, leaving the fate of the 33-year-old ERC uncertain. Manasc Isaac Architects was engaged by Alberta Infrastructure to take a look at the vacated former remand centre to examine the various options for the reuse of the building or the site. Harnessing decades of experience in innovative and sustainable renovation and design, Manasc Isaac concluded that there may be a lot of life left to live for the Edmonton Remand Centre. “Transforming this intimidating and institutional place into a friendlier environment would set a sustainable example, and prove that rejuvenation can take place without tearing down an existing building,” says Julia Booth of Manasc Isaac. “I think it would motivate others to do the same.” >

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n 1979, a new remand facility opened in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown. One of the core’s myriad examples of brutalist architecture built through the 1970s, the Edmonton Remand Centre was kitted out in precast concrete and peers at the city through narrow slit windows: its imposing appearance indicative of its purpose. The Edmonton Remand Centre (ERC) was a modern response to address the city’s rising number of inmates on remand. Once the Remand Centre was completed, prisoners no longer needed to be held in the city’s police stations or in the jails of neighbouring Alberta communities like Red Deer or Fort Saskatchewan. Its capacity ensured that there would be more than enough space to house the level of inmates then on remand. Its location in the downtown core made sense at the time, too. Situated on a small piece of land adjacent to a number of established public and private services, it provided convenient access to Edmonton’s burgeoning LRT system, the downtown Edmonton Police Station and the Edmonton Law Courts. By 2006, however, the neighbourhood around the ERC had significantly evolved. The city had set its sights on revitalizing its downtown core and as art galleries, performance spaces and revamped public amenities began to pop up around the building, it seemed increasingly out of place. At the same time, the remand centre itself had become overcrowded and outmoded. Originally designed to house 388 people, the number of inmates housed there had ballooned to nearly 800 as of 2006, with additional remanded individuals once again scattered between facilities in nearby suburban communities.


public eye

[TOP] Adding larger windows would create a much friendlier street facade. [BOTTOM] The current plumbing infrastructure would work well for a dormitory, but agencies ranging from police to non-profits have also considered repurposing the former remand centre.



Using its integrated reimagine process, the Manasc Isaac team spent a full week in the building and explored a range of scenarios, from the very simple (leaving the building vacant and providing minimal maintenance) to moderate (revamping the space for residential or office use) to a complete overhaul (demolishing the remand centre and replacing it with a new tower or office building). Each solution offers its own challenges and opportunities. Repurposing the existing building would offer a dramatic reduction in environmental impact relative to tearing it down and replacing it, especially considering its embodied energy (the amount of energy required to create the building’s materials). “The building is robust and it’s been well maintained,” Booth says. “Some of the building systems are reaching the end of their life, and obviously some of the ‘indestructible’ interior finishes suited to a remand centre would have to be replaced, but the building envelope is in excellent shape.” The greatest challenge that the former remand centre faces is how to break out of its specifically tailored design. The building’s layout contains split-level areas with upper mezzanines that are only accessible by stairs, and many of its small interior cells’ walls would need to be adjusted in order to create modern living or office spaces. Some uses are more evident than others: one of the most intriguing scenarios is student housing. Even in the building’s current configuration, you can see how well it could work: split-level cell areas would make ideal student residence clusters. Every pair of existing cells would be combined into a modern bedroom unit with an ensuite shower, toilet and sink. The current plumbing infrastructure would work well for a dormitory, and the building has a large gymnasium, which could be an attractive benefit to residents. “The old remand centre is close to the University of Alberta, NAIT, Norquest College and MacEwan University. It’s also close to Chinatown and Little Italy, with those communities’ lively assortment of shops and restaurants. Plus, it’s got great access to public transit,” Booth says. Windows, as you might imagine for a remand centre, are quite minimal in the former cell areas, which currently feature small slit windows. “The slit windows are unfortunate, being so literally prison-like” says Vivian Manasc, principal architect at Manasc Isaac. Happily, she adds, these can be expanded to their originally designed, larger size without major modifications to the precast concrete cladding, doubling the window-to-wall ratio in the tower areas. “Adding larger, operable windows would allow occupants to access fresh air, and it would create a much friendlier street facade,” she explains.

Split-level areas would make ideal student clusters, by combining pairs of cells into a modern bedroom unit.

According to Manasc, a bit of work at the ground level would be required to spark the street-friendly presence that a reimagined ERC deserves: “the main floor would benefit from some new cladding,” she says. “The current dark glass and concrete finishes are really uninviting; it’s like the building is turning its back onto the street.”

As of 2015, renovations are underway at Vancouver’s former remand centre, which is being transformed into an affordable housing complex for marginalized members of the community.


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Challenges aside, there are precedents for such a conversion. As of 2015, renovations are underway at Vancouver’s former remand centre, which is being transformed into an affordable housing complex for marginalized members of the community. The project was coordinated between a variety of government programs and non-profit organizations and offers 96 residential units. A variety of other non-residential approaches could be taken to repurpose the existing ERC, as well. Agencies ranging from police services to non-profits and private developers have considered the building for potential space needs. For these purposes, the building’s unique floor plates and layout would

mean more extensive renovations in order to achieve a modern and comfortable office space, and parking is very limited. Regardless of the design route that is decided upon, the reimagined remand centre will result in a sustainable and healthy space. “The existing building has some energy-efficient design elements – for a 1970s building, it does quite well,” says Booth. “We’d make some enhancements to the building envelope and replace the systems that are at the end of their lifespan with more efficient ones.” These enhancements and modern upgrades could yield triple bottom line results, reducing the operational costs of the building, minimizing its carbon footprint and even bringing the potential of LEED certification. At the same time, a revitalized and vibrant reincarnation of the building would add density and social activity to downtown and The Quarters, Chinatown and Little Italy communities. As the Edmonton Remand Centre’s stakeholders discuss and explore the business case for repurposing the building, the building’s architectural and historical significance should also be considered, Manasc says. The former remand centre is a product of the brutalist movement that swept through the institutional design world between the ’50s and ’70s. Eschewing any superfluous decoration, brutalist buildings are fortress-like and institutional, clad in concrete. During Edmonton’s boom period of the ’70s, this style of architecture flourished in the city, particularly in the downtown core. Yet close to 40 years later, Edmonton’s brutalist building stock faces a problem: they are not yet old enough to be cherished, but they are too old to provide the type of indoor environment that today’s occupants require. “There’s not a lot of love for buildings of the brutalist period in Edmonton – yet,” says Manasc. “This period in Edmonton architecture, while not well-loved today, could benefit from preservation.” re


what’s trending


With Rogers Place in the works, Rexall Place’s days are numbered. What’s next? We look to Maple Leaf Gardens for inspiration

By Karamijit Grewal




ith the construction of Rogers Place, Edmonton’s new indoor arena scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016 NHL season, many have been considering the fate of Rexall Place, the soon to be superseded home of the Edmonton Oilers. An adaptive reuse of the arena would present a unique opportunity to breathe new life into this important piece of the city’s history, commemorating its past while simultaneously engaging and challenging Edmontonians and their ideas about the city’s future. While there has been some debate as to whether Edmonton can support two large-scale interior arenas, the majority of residents want Rexall Place to survive in some capacity. Northlands, the owner of Rexall Place, polled more than 26,000 city residents about their feelings towards the arena and 70 per cent of respondents preferred to either repurpose the building or keep it as it is. When considering precedents for Rexall’s reimagining, it’s worth examining Toronto’s Maple

Leaf Gardens. Both buildings were home to some of the National Hockey League’s most illustrious hockey dynasties: the Toronto Maple Leafs of the 1940s and ’60s, and the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s. Names such as Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Lowe and Fuhr (as well as memories of five Stanley Cup wins) still run deep in Edmonton’s heart. Maple Leaf Gardens was considered so key to the national identity, the building was recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada in 2007. Maple Leaf Gardens also

faced becoming redundant with the introduction of a newer arena. However, when the Loblaw Companies purchased the Gardens in 2004, they agreed along with Ryerson University to renovate the arena into a grocery store and athletic facility – including a fitness facility, studios, high performance courts and an NHL-sized ice hockey rink with seating for approximately 2,800 spectators. The project won the 2012 Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s Paul Oberman Award for Adaptive Reuse. “ACO sees this adaptive reuse project as a win-win-

win: the city and neighbourhood win in that a gargantuan, block-scale, shuttered void is now once again a vibrant community amenity,” wrote ACO president Susan Ratcliffe in a press release following the awards. “The building’s new owners win, having cutting edge facilities bearing a significant heritage pedigree in the heart of downtown. And the building itself wins, having received millions of dollars of restoration work and a significant investment in interpretation.” The same potential exists for Rexall Place. By choosing

Edmonton’s Rogers Place, opening in 2016, has many people questioning current Oilers home Rexall Place’s future purpose. Shown in the opposite page’s rendering and images, Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, which includes a grocery store, may offer some realistic suggestions.


redevelopment of the arena would mirror the effect of Rogers Place on the revitalization of Edmonton’s downtown core. There is a potential for affordable office space, a library, an interior amphitheatre for

sports events and concerts, as well as thermal baths. Perhaps the most interesting option would be for a vertical farm covering the south and southwest elevations of the arena. Referencing Alberta’s agricultural roots while con-

sidering the increased move towards urbanization, Rexall Place could produce crops that would encourage visitors year round, and play a role in the local food movement via an in-house restaurant and grocery store. re

summer 2015

to strategically repurpose the arena, the city and Northlands could encourage a larger segment of residents to use and enjoy the structure. Situated northeast of downtown, with direct access to the city’s light rail transit (LRT) line, the


higher ground


Once the tallest building in the provincial capital, Scotia Place is quickly aging into anonymity

By Richard Isaac




have been a downtown dweller for a number of years and in my daily travels through Edmonton’s core, I pass by many places that I’d love to see reimagined. One such building is Scotia Place, an Edmonton landmark that stands above the city’s main drag of Jasper Avenue. Designed by architect B. James Wesley, the complex consists of a two-storey podium topped by two office towers – one that stands 22 storeys high and the other 28 storeys. At street level, the podium expresses itself as a serrated plan form with two-storey-high glazing and polished stone architrave.The remainder of the podium is primarily the same polished stone panels with punched openings. At the time of its completion in 1983, Scotia Place was the tallest building in Edmonton and although this title has since been usurped by newer structures, it remains a very prominent icon of Edmonton’s skyline. Despite its status, to me the building feels very anonymous: there is no hint as to what the towers contain, as its shiny gold-hued glass facades appear opaque to passersby during the day. The large Scotiabank “S” mounted on the penthouse level is its only identifier. It’s

only at night when the lights are on inside the building that one can truly view the striations of the occupied spaces and notice signs of life inside. Every side of the building facade is treated in the same way, regardless of which direction it faces.The sun hits the glazing on the south in the same unmodulated fashion as it does on the west.This is problematic for the occupants on the south side of the building, as heat and glare can only be partially addressed by internal blinds and tinted glass. The problem is even worse on the west facade when the still-strong sun is lower in the sky. The curtain wall has not been updated since its original installation 30 years ago. As a consequence, the facade is outmoded in its technology and is nearing the end of its life and performance. If given the opportunity to reimagine Scotia Place, my first priority would be to address the building’s original curtain wall system. In the interest of enhanced environmental, thermal and operational performance, I would remove the existing glazed wall system on both towers and replace it with a new, high-performance (minimum triple-glazed) curtain wall skin.While doing this work, I’d make sure to

use brightly coloured glass spandrels; in a winter city like Edmonton, it’s essential to have fun with colour. Since the sun hits each side of the building differently, I’d propose to treat each face of the building as its own

entity, with specialized shading technologies. As the sun from the south is high in the sky, shading can be achieved with horizontal shading devices, the support cables for which would second as a medium for climbing plant material.

Scotia Place’s facade is outdated in its technology and is nearing the end of its lifespan.


need to be created, one that collaboratively integrates the feedback of existing tenants. This conversation would deliver an integrated design process, which would see building owners and tenants included at every stage of the project. Because a major element of the work is a re-skinning of the building’s exterior, the process would need to be carefully phased, including a plan for “decanting” the office occupants and creating unoccupied storeys, one at a time.This would require consensus from all building inhabitants, but in my experience this approach is eminently feasible. These interventions would not just deliver a better building, but also a more resilient community.The creation of new amenities and public spaces, and the addition of colour to our winter city’s skyline, would improve the urban environment. A reimagined Scotia Place could offer environmental benefits, too. Its new efficient skin, green roof, solar panels and appropriate shading treatments would solidify the building’s reputation as a facility rooted in responsibility – this is important as we move into a green energy future that

is less reliant on fossil fuels to operate our buildings. More importantly, the revamp would improve the lives of the occupants inside. Crucially, temperatures would be easier to control and the indoor space more comfortable due to the implementation of shading techniques. The addition of an atrium space would provide office workers with a bright interior during the day, while the rooftop could be used to offer sustainable, healthy and beautiful outdoor space. The benefits don’t just offer warm fuzzies and amiable perks for occupants: there is also a business case for a reimagined Scotia Place. Building owners can look forward to reduced heating and cooling costs, reduced electrical expenses, expanded leasable square footage in the new atrium, higher lease rates for a much-improved office environment and several appealing amenities that will give the building a competitive edge on the leasing market, delivering triple bottom line results that prove the value of reimagining existing building stock. re

summer 2015

Sun from the west is lower in the sky, so its impact on the facade would be reduced with a mesh of aluminum “sticks.” Another possibility would be to add a new atrium. I’d propose to link the two towers together with roof and curtain wall system, creating a brightly-lit new interior space and reducing heat loss from the former-exterior walls’ faces. I’d also love to see roofs added to the top of each tower, which would create useable outdoor space – with amazing views of the city for occupants – and could also feature an inclined “table” on which to set solar panels to provide clean power to the building.This would also facilitate adding a green roof that could be accessible by occupants and used to grow vegetables – which might be welcome by restaurants in the building’s food court, as well. A green roof would also provide sustainable insulation for the roof, reducing energy loss. The most interesting challenge would be in the logistics of Scotia Place’s reimagining.The building is, after all, home to many companies and staff.To start, a well-developed planning process would


last word

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