Reimagine Magazine | Issue 5: Summer 2016

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• Metals in Design contest • Lyon playground • Curtain wall changes • Skills Society’s Action Lab THE BEAUTY OF RETROFIT



Manasc Isaac tries Eastern Europe on for size PM# 40020055


Federal infrastructure minister talks Canada’s aging building stock

Buildings account for 75% of all energy consumption in North America.

But they don’t have to. By leveraging composite materials, GlasCurtain delivers high performance building envelopes that reduce operating costs and limit environmental impact. With our unique fibreglass pultrusions, our triple-glazed curtain wall system ensures rapid ROI by reducing whole building energy consumption by upwards of 10% compared to conventional aluminum systems. The future is fibreglass. The future is GlasCurtain.




The corner of Jasper Avenue and 109 St gets a makeover


10 Ask an Expert:

How Calgary’s office space can evolve

12 Storming the fort in France

28 Still in Kansas: A public library gets a facelift

38 New space offers

Edmontonians a place to think differently

41 Pittsburgh’s The Tower

at PNC Plaza is among the city’s most efficient

47 What’s Trending:

Considering the legacy of mid-century modern

44 Public Eye:

Reinventing an icon in New York City

7 Contents photos: Natalia Kharitonova Ileana Szasz Manasc Isaac


A new office in Bucharest takes Manasc Isaac to Europe

24 A retrofit facade

proves beauty can be skin deep



Air/vapour barrier and 200mm rigid insulation applied over the existing concrete roof, topped with protection board and 2-ply SBS roofing system. Parapet height increased, and finished with aluminum flashing.

The federal infrastructure minister brings his ambitious plan to Alberta

48 Material World:

Finding innovation in curtainwall

summer 2016

Cover image: Natalia Kharitonova

Refurbished pallets bring recycled-chic furniture to the masses


reimagine ISSUE #5 SUMMER 2016


Activity Based Working can help reduce your overhead by offering flexible spaces that can adapt to the day-to-day needs of your business. You may need less square footage than you think!

PRODUCTION TECHNICIANS Brent Felzien, Brandon Hoover DIRECTOR OF CIRCULATION Sharlene Clarke CIRCULATION Karen Reilly CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Todd Babiak, Sydnee Bryant, David DiCenzo, Josh Kjenner, Kent McKay, Cory Schachtel CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS Shelby Deep, Ileana Szasz, Gould Evans, Garth Crump, Shayne Woodsmith, Connie Zhou, Vedran Skopac, Carey van der Zalm, Ishtiaque Ahmed, Natalia Kharitonova

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 © 2016 by Manasc Isaac. No part of this publication should be reproduced in print or on websites without written permission. Manasc Isaac @ManascIsaac

Publications Agreement #40020055 Non-deliverable mail should be directed to: 10225 100 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 0A1 This publication is printed on FSC certified paper from a responsibly managed forest.

reimagine ISSUE #5 SUMMER 2016


Activity Based Working can help reduce your overhead by offering flexible spaces that can adapt to the day-to-day needs of your business. You may need less square footage than you think!

PRODUCTION TECHNICIANS Brent Felzien, Brandon Hoover DIRECTOR OF CIRCULATION Sharlene Clarke CIRCULATION Karen Reilly CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Todd Babiak, Sydnee Bryant, David DiCenzo, Josh Kjenner, Kent McKay, Cory Schachtel CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS AND ILLUSTRATORS Shelby Deep, Ileana Szasz, Gould Evans, Garth Crump, Shayne Woodsmith, Connie Zhou, Vedran Skopac, Carey van der Zalm, Ishtiaque Ahmed, Natalia Kharitonova

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 © 2016 by Manasc Isaac. No part of this publication should be reproduced in print or on websites without written permission. Manasc Isaac @ManascIsaac

Publications Agreement #40020055 Non-deliverable mail should be directed to: 10225 100 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 0A1 This publication is printed on FSC certified paper from a responsibly managed forest.




Vivian Manasc Editor-In-Chief

summer 2016

or years, it’s been apparent that ugly ’70s precast office buildings would soon reach the end of their lives, both technically and aesthetically. Conversations at green building conferences and elsewhere started with a whisper and grew into a loud rumble. Questions stemming from the conversation include: “Now that we have some proven strategies for greening new buildings, what about the huge stock of existing buildings? How will we reduce their environmental impact? How can we talk about the greenhouse gas emissions of buildings without changing existing buildings?” Year after year, we looked at the unsightly and aging leaky towers and asked the same questions. Answers seemed to elude us. There were and are many reasons existing buildings have been neglected in discussions of sustainable design. Building owners were rarely the beneficiaries of energy savings or improved appearance. Renovating occupied buildings, even for the best of reasons, is disruptive and costly. Investing in old buildings still leaves us with old buildings, and so on. In 2009, we decided to start the conversation in earnest. We invited then-mayor David Miller of Toronto to speak to Edmontonians about his Tower Renewal strategy. We invited building owners in Edmonton and Calgary to join us in a conversation about what is possible, and why and how existing towers could and should be reimagined. In 2010, we started planning and design of a reimagine project for ProCura’s 10909 Jasper Avenue property. In a previous issue, we described the many ideas that were developed for this project and barriers to its implementation. Then in the summer of 2015, things changed. Maybe we hit a tipping point. With low oil prices, landlords like ProCura were looking for a way to save energy, attract new tenants and create a stronger brand image. Having recently completed a muchtouted Integrated Project Delivery for the Mosaic Centre with Chandos and its team, we were back

at the table crafting a fresh approach to integrating vision, value and sustainability under tight timelines while facing the logistical challenges of a reimagine project. Here we are in the summer of 2016, with the fifth issue of this magazine celebrating the first realization of a large-scale tower reimagine project in Edmonton. Drawing lessons from the many projects we studied, we embarked on the ambitious journey described later in this issue. The reimagine journey is layered and complex, and we discovered aspects that were both more complicated and simpler that we expected. We identified that the building skin was the single most critical element of the project, and selected Flynn to join us in the integrated planning and design of the curtainwall strategy. ProCura committed to a LEED Gold target for the reimagined building, challenging our energy modelling and building science teams to arrive at an envelope solution more sophisticated and easier to install than anything previously achieved in any reimagine project. We worked closely with WSP as our mechanical design team. We had to bring the building up to the new Alberta Building Code, and the new Energy Code, adding sprinklers and generators. Tenants had to be moved from one floor to the next while the envelope construction was underway. The building operations could not be disrupted – one of Edmonton’s most popular bars is on the ground floor – and we all know what happens when bar patrons are displeased. As construction progresses and new tenants are in the building, you can follow the story on Twitter and Instagram at #10909Jasper.You’ll enjoy reading about the details of this project, and of a few of our other reimagine projects that are now underway. This summer we are seeing the tipping point when a reimagine project goes from conversation to realization. We will continue to share this story and others, and invite your questions about what we learned from the reimagine of this first tower in Edmonton. re



trends, innovations and ideas




IN MAY, AFTER THREE YEARS OF RENOVATION AND $305 MILLION IN WORK, THE NEWEST ADDITION TO SAN FRANCISCO’S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (SFMOMA) OPENED. The building’s new expansion, which takes the shape of a crumbled origami bird and was inspired by the waters and fog of San Francisco Bay, is a white fibreglass-reinforced polymer facade designed by international design firm SnØhetta. Throughout the day, the movement of light and shadow animates the building’s surface and gives the appearance of ripples in space. The previous exterior was designed by Mario Botta and debuted in 1995, so the overhaul was a welcome change for the once-crowded space, which is now three times its original size and boasts 10 storeys and 170,000 square-feet of indoor and outdoor galleries—45,000 square-feet of which are free to visitors, making an accessible community hub. The museum will also offer free admission to all visitors under the age of 18. At the opening, San Francisco’s Mayor Edwin Lee noted that the museum itself functions as a piece of artwork within the city, and the construction site itself often imitated the art that lives within the institution. Photographer Henrik Kam managed to capture these parallels at what the museum calls “work sites of art” during the renovation process. The works that live within SFMoMA span from speciallycommissioned pieces to the large Pritzker Center for Photography, which has its own designated floor. PHOTOS SFMOMA


TABLED MOTION At The Refined Pallet, an industrial furniture store in downtown Toronto, “the humble pallet is reclaimed and transformed into a cool little table that will add a shot of industrial practicality to your home or office.” The custom shop builds tables from scratch, catering to the whims of customers based on size requirement and personal style. In the end, they turn a humble item into high-end, finished show stoppers.

For more inspiration, or to order a table, go to

Industrial planks once left for dead in back alleys are the perfect source item for everyday furniture

CAST IN WOOD Part of the fun of upcycling pallets is that you can do it yourself. Design blog HomeTalk is full of ideas for pallet design trends, but one in particular stands out—giant letters, leaving a monogrammed stamp on your wall.

For instructions on how to cut, stain and hang your project, check out

HIVE MIND A British snack brand has teamed up with celebrity chef Ben Fogle to launch a program to help combat the decline of the honey bee. At the root of Eat Natural’s program is an upcycled pallet bee hive. The smart hives have been fitted with digital tracking tools, which provide instant information on temperature, nectar flow, humidity and acoustics. Honey produced in the pallethives will be sold by Eat Natural who will donate the proceeds to the British Beekeepers Association.

ZOOM ZOOM based seat foam material. Even within the car itself, many designers have turned to nature, using bio-mimicry to inspire their innovations. Johnson Controls focused on the structure of bird bones in order to create lighter seating. And in their shape-shifting Vision 100 Concept car, BMW created a shell composed of 800 colour-changing triangles.


summer 2016

WHAT’S GREEN IS NOW LUXURIOUS—EVEN IN THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY. This year, major automobile manufacturers announced sustainable projects both big and small within their industry—for instance, Ford’s Green Seat initiative would take recycled bottles and yarn and transform them into high-end upholstery that wraps around a soy-



AUDIBLE LEARNERS When it comes to designing effective learning spaces, acoustics are key. Here’s why: Up to 60 per cent of classroom learning requires verbal interaction between students and teachers. Children can’t effectively listen to, and understand, reverberating sounds.




A significant number of students are learning in a language that is not their primary. When learning in a second language, your brain is more prone to interference from background noise.

Hermit crabs are facing a housing shortage—thanks to environmental degradation and pollution, a large number of the tiny crustaceans are being forced to live in discarded trash like bottle caps. But as biologists in Japan have been studying their sudden homelessness, an unlikely partner has stepped forward to provide a solution. The real estate firm Suumo paired with a group of students from Tokyo University to design and produce artificial shells from potato starch. Painted green, the lightweight shells have been produced in a number of different sizes, and during a beachy test run the crabs took no time to hustle in.

Research shows that poor room acoustics can inhibit reading and spelling ability. Excess noise raises blood pressure, increases stress levels and can cause headaches and fatigue. Source: Acoustical Society of America

ROCK CITY REBOOT The future of Detroit was recently on display in Italy, at the Venice Architecture Biennale. In June, a dozen proposals were brought forward for four underutilized areas in Detroit. On display at the U.S. Pavilion, the ideas included models and blueprints for industrial regeneration projects like the Detroit Reassembly Plant, which would recycle materials from alreadyrazed buildings into new skyscrapers and buildings. One project zoomed into a renewed Packard Plant using Microsoft’s HoloSoft augmented reality headset.

AN ICON CHANGED Meatballs, complicated Swedish names and that big, bright blue bag—there are lots of things that IKEA’s known for, but their ubiquitous blue and yellow 19-gallon Frakta shopping bag is certainly one of them. Recently, the Frakta was subject to the reimagine process. At the Democratic Design Days conference in Sweden this year a new bag was unveiled by IKEA and Rolf and Mette Hay: the new bag is hunter green, a colour Mette Hay hopes will be long-lasting for the company. re

Supporting architectural creativity through technical excellence

Structural Engineering

Building Science

Parking Planning

Structural Restoration

Structural Glass and Facade Engineering

Audits, Evaluations and Studies

summer 2016

Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd.


ask an expert


Innovative design approaches punctuate Alberta’s changing corporate landscape

Reimagine sat down with Lindsay Gurevitch, an intern interior designer at Reimagine Interiors by Manasc Isaac, who has implemented a unique approach toward designing office space: activity based working (ABW). Here’s what she had to say:

How would you define the shift in professional and entrepreneurial working environments?



Let’s look at an example. The 3M Company’s Post-it actually took about 12 years to develop. The inventor of the reusable, non-permanent adhesive kept on challenging 3M to investigate possible uses for his creation. When another person from within the company – who had problems keeping small papers in place within books – heard his pitch at an interoffice seminar, magic happened. The Post-it was unstoppable. The breakthrough success of the Post-it came about because the 3M Company provided a workspace that supported opportunities for the cross-pollination of ideas and creative problem solving. This is what happens when we design spaces that put diverse groups together. These spaces help to innovate and incubate new ideas better and faster, while creating entirely new business opportunities. Calgary’s existing buildings are emptying. Quickly. In the last year, our downtown office vacancy rate doubled to 20.2 per cent. Vacant spaces, with fresh design updates, could house startups and smaller companies who need but may not be able to afford “good” office space. Good office space offers daylight, exterior views, immediate access to fresh air, healthy indoor material selections (with reduced VOC content), healthy food service, fitness centre availability and access to flexible space. What if we filled Calgary’s vacant offices with multiple companies, startup groups, skilled and experienced people? Using these empty spaces and buildings to develop new work environments makes sense. Only when consolidated can these groups afford the elements that make a more pleasant, collaborative and efficient workspace.There are lots of great examples of co-working spaces, both in the corporate sector and in the space of social innovation. Activity based working spaces can be effective in serving both, to create opportunities for even greater social enterprise. Activity based working is a design approach that can help to achieve collaborative cross-pollination. It helps businesses function better and together, because it’s flexible enough to suit many work styles. PHOTO SHELBY DEEP

Varied spaces, like Neuehouse Los Angeles by the Rockwell Group, boast a variety of textures and areas

How do Calgary’s office spaces need to evolve the next five, 10, 20 years? The economic downturn has taught Albertans that companies need to diversify while remaining flexible in the ways they do business and how they innovate. It’s resiliency. The future’s workplaces need to facilitate the sharing of information and experiences in order to create new ideas.Working space, and more importantly, an ecosystem of space, will become the new normal. No matter what industry you’re in, you’ll also see a shift toward sustainability. This includes environmental sustainability as well as human sustainability – an increased emphasis on the importance of people’s health and well-being. We anticipate increased blurring of the lines between lifestyle and work. We’ve all read the pieces about how the offices of progressive organizations like Facebook and Google have become more home-like environments; future workplaces will have more elements previously only present in our homes. And of course, our homes are more and more like our workplaces. We all work differently. We accomplish what we need to do in different ways, so offering these types of varied environments is a really good thing. That’s why activity based working (ABW) supports a wide range of spaces, classified as chatter, collaboration and concentration spaces. Chatter zones are places where ideas can flow freely without disturbing others. And what defines a concentration area for one person might be vastly different to another. I might need a quiet lounge couch and headphones while another person might flourish at a loud table in the middle of a coffee shop. ABW respects how differently people work. What are the main benefits of activity based working?

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ABW is about offering spaces that are varied, interesting, comfortable, engaging, flexible and usable for both individuals and teams. The focus is on providing space that supports and

accommodates a variety of work styles. By providing the right type of available space, work is more pleasant and easier to accomplish. Think about the copied-and-pasted cubicle farm. These offices actually work against productivity, especially if they fail to provide the space you need, varied work surfaces and seating, technology, team access, sunlight, natural ventilation, or even if the cubicle walls are too high. When we can’t see people working, we forget to be respectful to our neighbours who might need a quieter atmosphere to concentrate. Acoustics in work environments are generally the biggest complaint of users. Whether your workspace is closed or open concept, sound has to be managed. The variety of spaces and careful acoustical design of ABW factors in the acoustic environment as a key design element. People’s unique individual needs are easily accommodated. While some need retreat spaces, others may do best in airplane seats, or a more dynamic workspace to avoid boredom. They might flourish in the busy noise of a coffee shop. Why can’t we have a coffee shop at work or meeting spaces with writable walls? Why can’t we create transparent spaces, so we can be visually connected to co-workers? Why can’t we have a workplace where we are able to quickly recognize and respect each other’s individual work styles? If we ask the right questions, we can achieve dramatic improvements in productivity: enhanced culture, happiness at work and engagement. re


leading edge


A reimagined French playground lets children explore without boundaries – or safety nets

By Lyndsie Bourgon




or children in the post-Second World War era, the crumbled remains of Germany and the United Kingdom seemed to be sent from above. Far from the fear and uncertainty that their parents faced, rubble and deteriorating buildings made great playgrounds, where children could gain a foothold on risk and roam to their heart’s content. These parks were dubbed “adventure playgrounds” and featured mounds of rock to scramble over and boards to balance on. That type of play is something that German culture has carried on through the ages – today’s playgrounds feature wood and logs, tools and nails. “They’re in a bit of a ruined state,” says Clément Willemin, the cofounder of France’s BASE Landscape Architecture firm. It’s a far cry from where much of the Western world sends our children out to play. But that’s something that Willemin wants to change. “Maybe we’ve taken too much control on these things and it became a bit stereotyped,” he says. “Parks all look the same and parents start to get bored with it.” Willemin and his team have designed two major playgrounds in France – one in Lyon and the other in Paris – that work to nudge children towards creative play. In both instances, the team approached the public space not as a “problem” but as an opportunity to introduce fun, calculated risk into playtime through a reimagined space. Opened in 2014, BASE’s Rampart Wave is located in Lyon, France’s second-largest city. Measuring at just 1,000 square metres, the Wave’s shape is con-

structed using narrow, acacia wood slats that curve up towards a fort-like structure (about seven metres in height) in a fluid motion.The “wave” itself is pockmarked with small windows and entrances perfect for kids to slide through, and features plastic footholds that you might find on a climbing wall as well as synthetic ropes. “We did a lot of technical work to imagine how we could do it, so that it’s not slippery,” says Willemin. “Basically, it’s a very detailed designing of the surface.The boardwalk is made of thin pieces of wood that are layered so that the water can get in between them and doesn’t stay on the boards, so that

it’s not slippery. It makes a grip.” The Wave’s design, which took a year to conceptualize, is meant to give the impression of storming a fort like the Bastille – a long, building lead-up into a labyrinth of hallways and levels that kids can explore inside.The concept plays upon the theme of a 19th century attack, and the fort itself contains a series of tunnels that lead to steel slides that send the kids back outside again. “The plan is quite complex, even for the construction company who made it and even for us. In the end we don’t even remember what goes where,” says Willemin. “The whole idea of the park is to play

The Wave’s design, which took a year to conceptualize, is meant to give the impression of storming a fort like the Bastille – a long, building lead-up into a labyrinth of hallways and levels that kids can explore inside.

being the home of landscape architectural design in France, and the city is wellacquainted with the importance of public space. BASE worked closely with the technical services department in the city to execute the plans.The materials that form the park are expected to last about 15 years, and BASE provided enough replacement boards so that the city can troubleshoot fixes as need-be, rather than having to call in a professional or the construction crew. “There are lots of other playgrounds in the city, and they were tired of calling companies to get second pieces when something broke. So the park is made out of only three or four sections of wood. If something gets burned, rots or is broken, they can replace that piece because we gave them two cubic-metres for replacing these elements easily.” The playground has also worked to entice tourists from regions outside the city to come and play. And since it’s

located in a neighbourhood that doesn’t receive much foot traffic, it has worked to reinvigorate a part of the city that was once dormant. “It’s really very efficient and participates in the idea that kids can play differently,” says Willemin. While there are no official numbers on how many children have played on the Wave, Willemin uses a French expression, “C’est noir de monde,” to describe the scene on a sunny Saturday in summer. “It’s black with people. It’s always too small, really.” So the hefty €1.1-million price tag was worth it. “You could say it’s expensive because not many playgrounds cost that much ... but for a big city, it’s a super interesting investment. It makes a good element for changing the image of a city and the image that the inhabitants have of their own district. They can be really proud of it because it’s a bit weird and a bit exclusive.” re

summer 2016

some kind of attack game. “The main idea is to teach the children to learn to overtake their limits,” he adds. “The small kids can look at the bigger kids and, step-by-step, they try to do like them – to do more than they think they can do.” BASE was at the helm of a similar park, opened in Paris in 2008.That playground, called Belleville, followed the motif of a playhouse, and included visual motifs including a boat and the interior of a home. In the case of the Wave, its geographical position in the city itself played a role in the firm’s plans for reimagination – the playground is located in a plaza that is located behind stone walls and overlooked by an old fort. It’s also across from an ancient parade square where the military would historically arrange for drills and inspections. The intensity involved in opening a playground like the Wave is not exactly new to Lyon.The French city is known for




FROM YEG TO OTP Manasc Isaac’s Bucharest studio will expand the reach of reimagine to Europe BY TODD BABIAK PHOTOS ILEANA SZASZ


summer 2016

was only one way to imagine signature architecture in Alberta. It had to come from elsewhere. We imported it from places like London, Paris, Madrid and Amsterdam. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. There are plenty of gorgeous buildings in those cities. Alberta is a relatively new place. New places seek the new, and when worldfamous architects design in a new place, they validate it. Even old cities with new ambitions seek confirmation through an imported design. Bilbao has been a city since the early 14th century but we all started talking about it when Frank Gehry designed the Guggenheim on its fish-filled estuary. In March 2016, something else happened. After years of importing designs and ideas from overseas, an Alberta architecture firm did the opposite. Manasc Isaac opened a studio in Europe – Latitudine 53. Ana-Dora Matei and Alecsandru Vasiliu were finished university in Bucharest in 2008 when Vivian Manasc arrived to judge a competition. Manasc made a presentation, as part of her commitment, and instead of speaking >


In Alberta and in Romania, tearing down brutalist buildings to make way for shiny glass skyscrapers is the contemporary version of knocking down stone libraries for precast towers.



of signature style she spoke of something else: winter. Romania is a winter country and Bucharest is a winter city. How were architects designing for all four seasons? “We had never heard anything like it,” says Matei. “She challenged everyone to think differently.” Matei and Vasiliu had done well in the competition, and they were intensely curious about Manasc’s specialty – designing healthy and beautiful buildings with local culture and local climate at the centre of the work. “She said, ‘If you’re interested, why don’t you come work for me?,’ ” says Vasiliu. “We didn’t think she was serious. How could she be?” “We looked up Manasc Isaac and the work was incredible,” says Matei, “but what really struck us was the contacts page – the staff page.There was no distinction between new employees and partners.There was no hierarchy. It was just people. Let me tell you. It is not like that in Europe.” They sent Manasc an email and, once the tricky business of visas and work permits was sorted out, they arrived in a modern, open office in downtown Edmonton with a dog greeter. “When it was time to go back to Europe, we had two choices,” says Matei. “We could either steal everything we had learned at Manasc Isaac, basically replicate it all, or we could partner with them – take Edmonton to Europe.” What did they want to take from Edmonton to Europe? They knew what they didn’t want to take. The original downtown branch of the Edmonton Public Library opened in 1923 on what we now call MacDonald Drive. The library had four Doric columns in the front. It was made from Indiana limestone with red Spanish tile on the roof, and plenty of Beaux-Arts details. The architect, George Heath MacDonald, added some hints of the French renaissance about it to please the building’s faraway sponsor, the Carnegie Corporation. By 1968 it was unfashionable.

Downtowns were gardens of precast concrete skyscrapers. A drafty old stone building didn’t make sense anymore, so to make way for a couple of towers, the city sold its interest in the building and it was destroyed. There wasn’t one dissenting article in the Edmonton Journal. In the second half of the 20th century, this happened across North America, but the problem was most acute in cities with boom-and-bust economies and cultures. Progress was about tearing something old to the ground. We didn’t see the heritage value in a building and we almost never imagined what we could do to preserve and improve the space. Now that we do see the value in it, all we can do is share old photos and mourn.

VIVAN MANASC AND Richard Isaac grew up watching demolitions and fast, faddish construction. Both of them had made their way to Alberta only to discover there were a lot of architects and not much work. The work they could find was not what they had imagined when they set out to become designers. Clients had little appetite for imagination and meaning. Albertans wanted it cheap and they wanted it fast. They lacked the confidence and the will to express themselves in design.

Rather than complain, Manasc and Isaac began designing with friends and partners in the North. Their clients were willing to experiment. With projects like Driftpile School,Vivian and Richard learned lessons in cold climates and in indigenous communities that influenced the rest of their careers: how to use the power of the sun, how to bring people together and ask the best questions, how to design with beauty and a sense of place and with a respect for local culture. In 1997 they brought these lessons together and started a new company. They didn’t want to impose a quick design on a client and move on to the next one, or sell prepackaged boxes to multiple communities. They had learned to work differently, even think differently. They felt like they had discovered a magic elixir, a new way to design. But there was a problem: no one else knew about it. So the year they opened Manasc Isaac Architects, they launched the first Sustainable Building Symposium to educate potential clients, builders and competitors. They designed the first green-certified buildings in Alberta, the first LEED, the first LEED Silver, and the first LEED Gold north of the 60th parallel. Architects from across Canada and around the world came

With Manasc Isaac’s help, people in Edmonton and Bucharest can reimagine design, reimagine place and reimagine ugly and inefficient buildings instead of destroying them.

becoming a city of young entrepreneurs, people with ideas. But it has something else rather crucial in common with Edmonton: a lot of post-war concrete buildings. Clever urban design and beautiful architecture weren’t key aspects of communism. In Alberta and in Romania, tearing down brutalist buildings to make way for shiny glass skyscrapers is the contemporary version of knocking down stone libraries for precast towers. The latest frontier for Manasc Isaac is to reimagine existing buildings, to re-skin them instead of demolishing them. On one of Edmonton’s busiest intersections, Jasper Avenue and 109 Street, the new owner of a 1970s concrete tower had two options: knock it down and build something more beautiful, more efficient, more useful, more 21st century, or reimagine it. Manasc Isaac has designed a new, high-performance envelope for the building, they’re bringing in natural light and they’re making an ugly duckling into a swan. There are hundreds of ugly ducklings like this, thousands, across North America and Europe. With Manasc Isaac’s help, people in Edmonton, Bucharest and cities across the world can reimagine design, reimagine place and reimagine ugly and inefficient buildings instead of destroying them. re

summer 2016

to Edmonton to learn more about Manasc Isaac Architects and the way they worked. Many joined the team. “I was finishing my degree when they were working on the Banff Town Hall,” says Shafraaz Kaba, now a partner with the firm. “It ended up being the first green building in Alberta, and the way they were thinking about place, the uniqueness of place, really appealed to me. It sounds simple: designing so healthy people are in healthy buildings, designing buildings that improve our environment. But 20 years ago it was different.” Manasc Isaac Architects have used Alberta as a lab.They have reimagined architecture from Edmonton, the most northerly major city on the continent. The city has more net zero homes than anywhere else in Canada. Kaba worked on the first C-2000 green building in Alberta and he recently finished the Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce, the first net zero commercial building in

Canada.They will seek LEED Platinum and Living Building certification for it. Matei and Vasiliu aren’t interested in taking the “signature design” of the Mosaic Centre or the Calgary Water Centre or the Yukon Visitor’s Centre or the MacEwan Centre for Arts and Culture and plopping it in Europe. What they were most keen to steal is the way Manasc Isaac works. Manasc and Isaac’s early work with aboriginal communities helped inform the way they design. They bring clients into the process early and they remain involved. They ask the right questions and they press for honest answers. And they seek to understand the culture of the people who will work in and around the building. They design for the climate, for health and beauty, to improve the environment inside and out. While Manasc Isaac designers share a focus on health and the environment, on chasing net zero, they aren’t remotely interested in plopping a whimsical design from elsewhere on a European city. It’s not so much what they design but how they design. Bucharest is an ideal city for Manasc Isaac’s European home base because, like Edmonton and Calgary, it has a boom-and-bust culture. It has oil. After many years of losing its brightest young graduates to other cities, Bucharest is


TURNING A CORNER An eyesore at Edmonton’s Jasper Avenue and 109 Street is getting a much-needed makeover, and a new lease on life BY CORY SCHACHTEL




downtown skyline can make a metropolis. Most world-renowned cities have a central cityscape that is perfect for portraits and instantly recognizable, even by those who have never set foot on their streets. Edmonton’s skyline has always lacked that particular definition. The river valley is beautiful, the Hotel Macdonald remains regal, and Canada Place and the Shaw Conference Centre still stand as legacies to our early 1980s boom. Downtown has its towers, but they are spread out and generally drab. The Arena or Ice District and its surrounding structures may soon become the city’s main attraction, but none of that will change the existing buildings to the south and west of downtown. They’ve been here for the long haul, and owners can’t knock them all down. Enter ProCura: In 2010, the innovative real estate development company commissioned a reimagine study on one of its downtown buildings at the corner of 109 Street and Jasper Avenue to explore the feasibility of reimagining the exterior.

It would be the company’s second major reimagine project. The first saw the Intact Building just a block away, at 108 Street and Jasper Avenue, become ProCura’s first LEED Gold building. There were two main reasons for reimagining the current project – the building was 32 years old, and it looked dated – boxy and bland, like most of the buildings near the corner of 109 Street and Jasper Avenue. It was also woefully inefficient. ProCura president George Schluessel, who started his company in 1979, one year after the building went up, hired reimagine leaders Manasc Isaac Architects to conceptualize a complete makeover to transform the prominently placed, yet nondescript, tower into a noticeable fixture welcoming people into the heart of the city. The design initially tested the replacement of all the precast concrete with glass, and then refined the strategy to remove only half of the precast panels. Energy efficiency is increased by adding insulation to the remaining precast and replacing old leaky windows with new high-performance >

An ambitious project with ProCura will turn an outdated Edmonton building into a modern, energy efficient addition to the city’s skyline.

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In-progress photos taken in May 2016 show how the current building provides a canvas for new design elements.



curtainwall. Energy is generated on the reimagined building using rooftop solar panels. “I wanted to collectively create a leading-edge building on a very well-known corner in Edmonton,” Schluessel says. Due to the continuation of lead tenants’ leases, the study didn’t get past the planning stage, and the corner remained unchanged for almost six years. By late 2015, the building had a new lead tenant and name – WSP Place – and Schluessel felt the time was right to revisit the reimagine study. The building is now undergoing a massive reimagining sure to change the Edmonton skyline at the west entry to the downtown core. As project leader Rita Melo of Manasc Isaac explains, there are three pillars to reimagining a building: urban design, energy performance and interior environment. All three are improved in a successful reimagine project. “We

look at the entire urban context – the pedestrian perspective as you’re walking along the street, from a car perspective, as well as from the point of view of other buildings,” she says. The goal is to strike an artistic balance that improves the immediate neighbourhood and the overall downtown skyline, an effort that requires looking at what surrounds it currently, and what is to come. “In addition to the urban design, we focus on improving energy performance and occupant comfort,” says architect and Manasc Isaac principal Vivian Manasc. “The interior spaces are much brighter and more daylit after we replace all the windows - reimagine is a win-win-win approach”.

ARMED WITH THE 2010 study, and a lease commitment, ProCura engaged Manasc Isaac Architects, with their exceptional understanding of

reimagining existing buildings, as well as RJC as structural engineers and WSP as Mechanical Engineers, to finally move forward with the design. At the same time, Chandos was invited to provide construction management. Timelines are tight, as WSP wanted to move into the building in a mere eight months. The task is huge, with many moving parts, which is why the design and construction team took an integrated design and construction approach, selecting Flynn Canada to work with Chandos and Manasc Isaac from the beginning. “ProCura wanted Chandos’ expertise because of our experience with the Intact project, to bring forward a construction plan that would work with the tight timelines,” says Terry Kirstiuk, Chandos’ VicePresident of Client Development. “It was part of ProCura assembling the right team. With us coming to the

Every element of the building’s envelope has been optimized from the design and performance aspect.


competitors, through a proposal and rigorous interview process set up by Manasc Isaac and Chandos. They were selected for both their expertise in curtainwall installation and their willingness to work collaboratively with the architects and their ArchiCad [BIM]

models, to develop and optimize details that could be executed effectively while providing world-class performance and aesthetics. It’s a trust- and experiencebased strategy, one that is slowly becoming more common in major markets, and one that Flynn business >

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table, we said the only way we can meet this aggressive schedule is to work collaboratively and bring in an integrated sub-trade for the envelope… we mitigated as much risk as possible before construction happened.” Flynn was selected from among its


Renderings show a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly reimagined WSP Place



development manager Charles World finds very satisfying. Flynn’s team spent one day per week, over the course of three months, working closely with Manasc Isaac’s building science and architectural design team, to optimize the design and performance of every element of the envelope. By producing “shop drawings” in a collaborative manner and being “in the room,” the team saved many months of frustrating iterations of the design process. “Typical construction will often have subtrades and general contractors at odds. There’s a lot of conflict in the traditional process,” World says. “With this approach, it’s all about collaboration – we’re all in the room, working and making the decisions together from the beginning. So at the end, you can see the evolution of the project happen without this

contrariness or this need to hammer for extras, or changes, to increase your profit margin, because you had to bid low to get it. That doesn’t exist in this case because everybody knows up front what that cost is going to be, and then we go. It’s very productive.” Chandos has taken a strong lead in collaborating with Manasc Isaac, ProCura and their trade partners, to develop a fast-track strategy that enables successful high-quality construction in keeping with the design direction. By participating in the integrated design and construction process and applying principles of lean construction, Chandos has navigated the complexity of reimagining an operational building. But productive doesn’t mean easy. Beyond being aesthetically pleasing, ProCura wants to upgrade the guts of the

building and turn it into an innovative example for others to follow. “We’re right in the government centre where many of the buildings are 40 to 50 years old, and have all kinds of issues with air quality, asbestos and inefficient energy consumption,” Schluessel says. “We have to think more about tenant and employee comfort and health, and I hope it’s a trend for other buildings in the area. I think we’d become a better city if every landlord would take this approach and upgrade its buildings.” The reimagined WSP Place building will have larger, triple-glazed windows, high-performance curtainwall framing and considerably more insulation, to retain more heat, block out street noise and let more light in. It’s safer than before, with the integration of a new sprinkler system throughout the tower. The renovated mechanical systems, for heating, cooling and power, will integrate the number of computers and people, and adjust for the heat generated by each. In total, the building will cut its energy consumption by nearly 50 per cent, meeting the new 2010 National Energy Code, which is all the more impressive when you consider some floors now have twice as many occupants as before. “One of the interesting things these days in office space design is that offices are a lot more open, and there are a lot more people in a given square-footage,” Melo says. “So where one floor might have had 50 people in private offices, it’s now accommodating 100. Even though there are more people, computers and lights, the reimagined building is going to use 50 per cent less energy.” The major target for this energy efficiency is LEED Gold certification, something only a few reimagined buildings in Canada have achieved. LEED is a points-based system recognizing both the construction process and building performance, with focus on six major areas: site conditions, water, energy and material use, indoor air quality and overall innovation. RENDERING NATALIA KHARITONOVA

moved their desks to make room for the false wall erected during the window replacement process, and some of the work simply had to be done overnight, during non-office hours. And yet, like any creative, collaborative effort, the group feeds off constraints. “It’s a great opportunity to innovate,” says Melo. “We’re really glad that no tenant had to move out. It takes some co-ordination to understand how the tenants operate, their different priorities and schedules, and it is paramount we don’t impact their business. We have to understand that and approach the design through their eyes, so we don’t drive them crazy.”

IT’S SAFE TO SAY THAT everyone’s favourite tenant is Central Social Hall, the restaurant and pub that occupies the ground floor. As the building’s welcoming face to all ground level traffic, its transformation is critical to the project’s overall success, with taller windows, new lighting fixtures and a revamped patio being key components, along with features yet to be revealed, without closing down for even a day. “There was a desire to have the building face northeast, not just east, to reference and make a gesture to the

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Projects earn points based on choices to reuse existing structure and building elements, reduce waste, minimize the toxicity of materials, increase the use of local products, enhance the amount of air and light, and provide accessible bike racks and storage to reduce car usage.“We were shooting for Platinum,” Schluessel says, “but there are lot of additional costs to take it that step further, so we have to settle for Gold.” The biggest challenge, by far, is accommodating the existing tenants who remain on each floor for the duration of the renovation. There are obvious advantages – it’s faster, tenants stay comfortable and continue to pay rent – but the logistics become a project onto themselves. The top floors, to be occupied by WSP, the major tenant in the building and the building’s namesake, has a slightly different schedule than the bottom eight, so contractors have to plan their construction sequence accordingly, including elevator and parking lot use. Zebra Child Protection Centre, with its unique security requirements, was moved to a newly renovated space. In order to accommodate the work on the building perimeter, tenants

heart of downtown from one of the biggest, busiest corners in Edmonton,” says Melo. “Having a restaurant there gives us a bit of flair to work with, while keeping their space active and their customers happy, including us. It’s going to be gorgeous corner.” Central Social Hall has been part of the solution – hosting tenant appreciation breakfast and other events that inspire collaboration among all the reimagine participants. “The building is two-thirds occupied and we are ripping apart the envelope,” says Kirtsiuk. “We applaud the tenants for their patience because the end result is that they are going to be in a better building. It’s an energy waster right now and when it’s done it’s going to have a fantastic energy efficiency. It’s going to be a signature corner, going from a bland ’70s bunker that wastes energy to a 21st century building. I am very proud to be working with ProCura leading that charge.” From its beginnings in the late 1970s, to the 2010 reimagine study, to a brand new look by the end of 2016, the tower’s evolution is a microcosm of Edmonton’s downtown skyline, and stands as the gateway to a core that is finally being reimagined into something exciting – exemplifying the imagination and diligence of all involved, and providing an example for neighbouring owners to follow. Standing north of the High Level bridge, it’s the preeminent contact point of a vein pumping blood into the rejuvenated heart of the city. “If you look at what ProCura’s done with Intact and what they are now doing with WSP Place, they are leading the pack in older building stock ownership and then taking them into the 21st century,” says Kirstiuk. “That’s huge because I don’t think there are too many other buildings that have gone this far and tackled this much scope at one time.” re




Facade Engineering A retrofit facade brings an Edmonton building into the 21st century

By Kent McKay Illustrations by Natalia Kharitonova


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when it comes to retrofitted buildings. Outmoded building envelopes present one of the greatest technical challenges toward a sustainable retrofit.Yet envelopes offer prime opportunities to elevate an existing building’s aesthetic and sustainability. WSP Place, which graces this issue’s cover, exemplifies both the science and the art of facade engineering. The design team at Manasc Isaac has implemented a building envelope retrofit approach that ushers the 1970s office tower into the 21st century, not only in energy performance but appearance as well. “One of the primary challenges with retrofitting an envelope of an older building is that most buildings of this era are clad in precast concrete, with ribbon windows,” says Mike Turner, a facade engineer and partner at Manasc Isaac. “What that means is that the concrete provides the structure of the facade and the windows are basically fastened in between pieces of concrete. If we want to increase the windows’ energy performance, the first step is to consider how the glass connects to the rest of the envelope.” >


COMPOSITE METAL PANELS OVER EXISTING CONCRETE CLADDING Strategically retained existing concrete panels are first reinsulated with polyurethane spray, then finished with composite metal panels in zinc.

For WSP Place, the first step was clear: the drab concrete panels had to go. Some of them, anyway. Rita Melo, the project leader at Manasc Isaac, led the design analysis that mapped out the strategic and partial removal of some of the tower’s precast concrete panels. Where panels are removed and replaced with new curtainwall, the interior space boasts better views and benefits from enhanced daylight. It also makes the building more beautiful from the outside, improving the urban experience. However, some of the concrete remains. “There would be a high dollar amount to remove all of the precast,” says Melo. It’s more cost effective to reclad some of the precast panels than to completely remove them, so we only removed what we needed to. In the end, we found the right balance.” Ultimately, 50 per cent of the precast was removed, and that which remained was sprayed with a polyurethane insulation and finally clad in composite metal panels. “After we performed a hygrothermal analysis of the building, we were satisfied that polyurethane was the way to go in insulating the precast panels,” Turner says. “It keeps the precast panels warm, whereas in previous cycles of its life, the precast would have fluctuated between hot and cold, depending on the season. It was a conservative approach that poses no risk to the building. In fact, this method results in quite the opposite, as it preserves an ideal environment for the panels and their anchors for the remaining life of the building.”





Air/vapour barrier and 200mm rigid insulation applied over the existing concrete roof, topped with protection board and 2-ply SBS roofing system. Parapet height increased, and finished with aluminum flashing.

approach has to do with the building’s glass. “It’s the glass that’s the primary target for a retrofit,” says Turner. “It represents the largest amount of energy transfer and it’s the best opportunity to get more bang for your buck both in energy use and occupant comfort. One simply needs to find a solution that addresses the glass but doesn’t ignore the rest of the envelope.” Figuring out how to align the building’s glass to the newly re-insulated concrete panels of the building was

NEW FLOOR AND CURTAINWALL ADDED TO NEW BOW The new bowed area of WSP Place features a new concrete floor and structural steel frame with suspended ceiling tile below. Radiant heating to the perimeter of the curved full height triple-glazed curtainwall.

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Manasc Isaac’s main challenge. Due to the extra layers of insulation added to the precast, the glass would now have to be moved “out,” further than it was prior to renovation. And there would be more glass than before, which was a consideration that required careful thought, says Turner. “We leveraged the decision we made to replace a large component of the exterior – the glass – to its optimum effect,” he says. “We found that the original glass for the building was significantly thinner than the glass we recommend to meet design wind loads today.” The combination of adding a heavier glass, a higher ratio of glass area on the facade, and moving it out further from the structure of the building meant that the facade engineering team needed to ensure that the existing envelope had the capacity to handle new structural loads. “Fortunately, the existing cladding will be able to adequately support the new glazing and cladding systems” says Turner. WSP Place doesn’t just have more glass than before – it has better glass. The number of panes has increased, having gone from a double-glazed to a triple-glazed high-performance curtainwall system. Additionally, the glazing boasts multiple low-E coatings, which act to select visible light over infrared to control heat transfer through the glass. Although these coatings are certainly not a new idea, the fine-tuning of specific glass coating combinations remains an often-overlooked detail in current facade design practice. Daylight is greatly improved inside WSP Place. The design team carefully balanced visible light on the various facades with the need to control heating and cooling energy. Ultimately, facade engineering has made a major impact on WSP Place’s performance. Using innovative and technologically advanced methods, the design team has calculated a 54 per cent reduction in the amount of energy required to heat and cool the building, contributing to the project’s target of LEED Gold certification. Now that’s more than a facelift! re



This Kansas library went from musty to modern, boosting sustainability and user experience in the process BY KENT MCKAY PHOTOS GOULD EVANS



A community meeting in Lawrence, Kansas, led in part to the town’s newlyreimagined sustainable public library.

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A hole was carved into the roof of the library, meaning every floor of the library would have a view of the sky. Below, a look at the library before and after reimagining.




Concrete-clad in the brutalist style, the library boasted gravitas and heft, anchored to its time in both look and feel. Windows were few and far between, meaning that many of its interior spaces never saw the light of day. Meanwhile, on the street, powerful concrete fins stood around the building like sentinels to protect the library’s contents from passersby. By 2010, the Lawrence Public Library faced a midlife crisis. Modern libraries embrace technology and celebrate community. Residents wanted more from their library, both inside and out. That year, Lawrence’s voters approved a bond issue to expand and renovate the facility with a mandate to improve the library’s aesthetics, performance and programming. The renovation was completed in 2014. “The building that we formerly had was outdated,” says Brad Allen, executive director at Lawrence Public Library. “It was having heating and cooling issues, and we knew it wasn’t energy efficient. Also, it had just outgrown its ability to service our public at the size of our city.” One option didn’t even make it to the table for discussion: tearing down the library. The location is perfectly situated, sandwiched between Lawrence’s downtown core and a residential neighbourhood. “Downtown is pretty central to the heart of Lawrence,” explains Allen. “And there isn’t a lot of space left there. We’re just a block off the main drag, so we wanted to keep the library in the same place.” Respecting the vast amount of embodied energy contained in materials like concrete, decision-makers also considered sustainability as a factor. “It would have been terribly wasteful and expensive to tear it down. We knew the right thing to do would be reuse the building.”

The renovation didn’t just make the library more beautiful – it also made it significantly more sustainable.

to read. The library’s old reading spaces were buried deep inside the building and too far away from the windows and the perimeter,” Zaudke says. Mandated to add an extra 20,000 square-feet to the library, Gould Evans decided to wrap the perimeter of the building with a continuous space that not only creates beautiful areas for modern programming, but also helps to make the building more sustainable. “The addition is a continuous series of glassed-in spaces. Some of them are meeting areas that the community groups can book. Additionally, there are large spaces that the community can book to hold speaking events and public presentations. There’s also a gaming centre which has been extremely popular with teens who visit after school, and there are a series of children’s cubbies for families to enjoy,” explains Zaudke. “Quite often, you’ll see parents and their children cuddle up with a bunch of pillows in the cubbies, and spend time reading as a family.”

The library even offers its patrons the opportunity to rock out: certainly a far cry from the clichéd libraries of yore staffed by stern librarians whispering “shhhh!” In the basement of the library, there’s a recording studio, where aspiring musicians can play and record their music. “There’s a strong music scene in Lawrence,” Zaudke says, “so one of the things we put in the library’s basement space is called Sound+Vision Studio. It’s a community recording space. There are soundboards, drums, you name it. People can actually visit and cut a CD. It’s become very popular and taken on a life of its own.” The library’s interior transformation was dramatic. Even the building’s most dingy areas have been transformed into inspiring amenities for patrons, thanks to the bold move of punching a hole in the centre of the building. Previously, the library’s business and computer centre was located on the lower level of the building, where it suffered from a lack of daylight. >

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Architectural firm Gould Evans was charged with the significant task of bringing the drab building into the modern era. Sean Zaudke, project architect at Gould Evans, quickly identified the primary problem spots within the building. “It didn’t have a lot of daylight to the interior, and the space had suffered through multiple renovations that had deteriorated the original design. Some of the windows had been covered up and it felt pretty dated inside,” he explains. “On top of that, the library wanted to update and expand their services inside a relatively old building.” Indeed, libraries have evolved a great deal since the 1970s. Far from musty book repositories, modern libraries now function as informational and community hubs. They’re expected to service and engage a public that wants access to amenities that span far beyond reading materials. “We had to create all kinds of new spaces for people to meet, and for people


Updating a community hub to make it modern, the Lawrence Public Library is now firmly rooted in the modern era.



“It felt very dark, and there wasn’t much illumination,” recalls Zaudke. “Ultimately, we carved a hole in the roof of the library, and added clerestories so that now, even on the lower level of the building, you can see the sky.” For visitors and staff alike, the library experience has been elevated. “There’s very little I don’t love about the building,” says Brad Allen. “I love sitting at the welcome desk. It feels like a portico, like a covered outdoor space. All of the vistas where the library’s windows are make for a beautiful experience.” Gould Evans’ addition didn’t only improve the aesthetics of the library’s interior. The design team was aware that the former building’s robust yet uninviting facade failed to address its unique site context, as a building sandwiched between residential areas, the downtown core and a main thoroughfare. Every direction that the building faced saw a different type of use, and the design team thought that each side of the building deserved unique treatments. “We wanted to see every side of the building respond to each of its different perspectives,” explains Zaudke. “On the east side is a more pedestrian environment, for example. So we designed to activate the pedestrian streetscape, while on the west side, the building has a more vehicular context – the book drop – so we cantilevered a reading space over it, like a perch that actually hovers over the book drop area.” And the renovation didn’t just make the library more beautiful – it also made it significantly more sustainable. “There were lots of sustainability goals that we wanted to achieve,” Zaudke remembers. “Lawrence has a strong conscience about sustainability, and the community really supports it – so much so, that we actually had a community meeting that was focused on how the library would be sustainable.” Before launching the design work, Gould Evans performed energy modelling for the library, which gave the design team very prescriptive data on how to improve the building’s energy performance. This strategy suggested that the best way to optimize the library was to wrap the building with a new envelope. But it’s not just any old envelope. A terracotta rain screen wraps around the glass addition, a feature that defines the renovation both from a visual and a sustainability standpoint. Specifying terracotta was a strategic decision, according to Zaudke, for both visual and practical reasons. “There are lots of multi-storey brick buildings in Lawrence’s downtown area. We wanted to pick a material that complemented the brick, but we also wanted to recognize that this isn’t a building from that era, that it’s a modern building. It allowed us to bridge the library with the history of the downtown area.”

The location is perfectly situated, sandwiched between Lawrence’s downtown core and a residential neighbourhood.

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The terracotta rain screen was panelized, allowing the design team to make the most of the results from their daylighting analysis, assisting them in choosing locations to drop out panels of the screen so that the right amount of light could enter the glassed-in spaces behind. It also facilitates the library’s tight envelope, Zaudke says. “It’s the rain screen system which allows us to put a continuous thermal envelope around the building without interrupting the integrity of its insulation.” The Lawrence Public Library renovation has proven an astounding success, with the project garnering considerable acclaim for the architects and for the community. In April 2016, the library was selected by the American Institute of Architects to receive an AIA/ ALA Library Building Award, solidifying its recognition at the national level. One juror summarized the retrofit as “a progressive model for renovation and an ingenious transformation of an existing library.” The college town of Lawrence has benefited from the retrofit of their civic library. “People are thrilled,” Allen confirms, noting that the facility’s usage has increased by half and young adult use nearly tripled. “People really use the space to hang out. It’s become a community hub.” This is what Gould Evans set out to achieve, says Zaudke. “When the project started, I drove around with Brad Allen, visiting other libraries and we explored, talking about libraries and architecture in general. Brad had talked about how architecture offers an opportunity to create a symbol of hope through design. That really guided us, the question ‘How do you create a sense of hope through all phases of a project’s design?’ ” re




At The Wheel Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi brings an ambitious plan to Canada’s cities By Sydnee Bryant


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in Edmonton in 1981, the 18 year-old was entirely dependent on public transportation to get around. Now the federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Sohi’s early use of public transit has led to a lifetime of public service dedicated to improving not only Canada’s infrastructure, but also the public transit infrastructure of cities like Edmonton. When Sohi immigrated to Canada from the Indian state of Punjab under his older brother’s sponsorship, Edmonton’s LRT system was in its infancy. But public transit’s impact on Sohi’s life is obvious. “Public transit is what connected me to the community when I came to Canada – taking the bus to go to school, the library and recreational facilities. Just getting around would not have been possible if public transit had not been available,” he says. He later began working for Edmonton Transit System, before running for city council in 2004. He lost, but his bid for a seat in 2007 was successful. As a city councillor from 2007 to 2015, he led one of Edmonton’s biggest infrastructure projects, the LRT expansion of the Valley Line to Mill Woods. “Public transit is near and dear to my heart,” says Sohi. “I see public transit as not only a way to move people from one place to another but also as a venue for social mobility. It’s something that really helps you connect with the community and builds more options to prosper and find better employment or education.” Now, as the federal member of parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods and the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Sohi continues to support public transit, including the repair and upgrading of existing transit infrastructure and building new systems. “Our government has put forward a very big, ambitious agenda to support communities in building public transportation,” says Sohi, referencing the $20 billion the federal government has pledged >


One of the many LRT stops to be built with Edmonton’s new Valley Line LRT



to invest over the next 10 years. In the first year, $3.4 billion will go towards fixing and modernizing existing transit systems through technology, such as GPS trackers for buses. The goal is to make public transit more efficient, while improving customer experience. Alberta’s cities will receive public transit funding based on ridership numbers, and mid-size and large cities will benefit the most. “A big chunk of that money is going to come to Edmonton and Calgary because these are the two largest transit systems in Alberta,” says Sohi. Money will go towards expanding the LRT and transit systems in both cities, including the LRT to Mill Woods expansion in Edmonton, for which the federal government will provide $400 million. Technology will also be used to improve existing transit infrastructure. “We feel that we have a role to play in modernizing and optimizing the existing public transit systems by using better technology, by making it more accessible and ensuring that all modes of transportation, particularly sustainable modes of transportation and public transit, work together,” says Sohi. Ways of making transit more accessible include having bike racks on buses and realtime information on when buses will arrive. Sohi lights up when he talks about the Mill Woods LRT expansion. He says people were talking about the LRT coming to Mill Woods back in the 1980s and have been waiting for it a long time. “That’s my community,” he says. “I worked on that project as a city councillor for eight years. Now in my role as a federal minister, I am so pleased that we are supporting and moving ahead on that project.”

OF COURSE, THE VALLEY LINE EXPANSION is just one of the projects that Sohi is looking forward to. “There will be many other projects that we will be supporting in Edmonton,” he says. Public transit is only one aspect of the $120 billion in infrastructure planning the federal government has planned for the next 10 years. “We’re also making investments in green infrastructure, in water and waste water infrastructure to make our communities more resilient to climate change, as well as investments in social infrastructure, in housing, daycare facilities, recreational facilities, cultural facilities,” says Sohi. “We see infrastructure as a foundation on which we can build strong communities.” He believes collaboration and co-operation will lead to better results for those strong communities. Sohi continues to work closely with the city council he once held a seat on, as well as with other cities and the Province of Alberta. “I believe that, as politicians and as public servants, we have a responsibility to work together, and we need to deliver on the expectations of the people that we represent,” says Sohi. “For Edmonton, we are working with the mayor on delivering on our commitment to supporting the expansion of the LRT, as well as improvements into drainage, water and wastewater infrastructure to reduce the impact of flooding. Alberta has experienced streetlevel flooding in many communities because our infrastructure, when it was built, was not built to be resilient to climate change, and we want to make it so.” The federal government will also invest in more affordable social housing. “When we talk about building RENDERING COURTESY DIALOG ARCHITECTS

strong communities, if people in your community who are struggling don’t have an affordable place to live or if a woman fleeing domestic violence doesn’t have a safe place to go, or people on the street who are homeless are not given services and a secure place to live, they will not be able to pull their life together,” says Sohi. “That’s the role we want to play in the building of social infrastructure. Rehabilitation of the existing social infrastructure, particularly social housing, is very important to bring it to code, to make it more accessible and to reduce the impact on the environment, because old buildings do produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. If we can retrofit them to make them more efficient, you not only extend the life of that housing but you also reduce the impact on the environment. It really ties into the affordability aspect of it when you make your building environmentally more sustainable by reducing the consumption of energy. That means your utility bill comes down, so you have money for other needs. So that’s the idea – not only enhance environmental sustainability but also increase the affordability [of housing] for those people who rely on social housing.” Housing money will flow through the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC), says Sohi, adding that the federal government is in the process of negotiating bilateral agreements with the province. The province will work with the CMHC to identify where the resources will go.


- Amarjeet Sohi

Sarbjeet goes with me sometimes to Ottawa. But for the last six months, my life has been such that I’m travelling quite a bit throughout the country to meet with our partners and build relationships with provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous leaders, First Nations, et cetera,” he says. “It’s been quite a whirlwind for the last six months, but I’m really excited about it. This is an opportunity and a huge responsibility to make an impact on helping communities to be strong and sustainable.” When Sohi isn’t travelling and working, he’s busy learning French and spending quality time with family and friends. “It’s a difficult balance: you’re trying to balance your family life with your work responsibilities, but I would say that I am one of those blessed individuals who has such a strong family that support me, whether it’s my brothers, their families or my wife and my daughter. They have always stood with me and they continue to stand with me. I would not be able to do the work that I’m able to do without their support,” he says. “For the last six months, life has not been normal. It’s been pretty hectic. I’m hoping once this parliamentary session is over, I’ll have more time here in Edmonton to work with constituents, as well as spend more time with family and friends and try to bring some normalcy to life.” re

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as a way to support the community that helped him out as a young immigrant. “I came to this country at an age where I struggled quite a bit, and there were people out there who gave me the necessary support during those difficult times, so an opportunity to give back to the community that has given me so much to succeed was my motivation to get into public service,” he says. “I won [a city council seat] in 2007, and hopefully helped make a difference by helping to build a welcoming place. Then, the opportunity came for me to run for federal office, which I availed myself to do, with the support of family and friends and many people within the Edmonton community. This is an opportunity for me to contribute to building a stronger Canada and to build an inclusive, welcoming Edmonton.” Although he often travels, Sohi is still strongly committed to his life in Edmonton. “Edmonton is home and will always be home for us. [My wife]



room of their own


Edmonton’s Skills Society gives people with disabilities a space to ‘think differently’

By Josh Kjenner




place where people can think differently: that was what Skills Society originally envisioned for its Action Lab, a new space the non-profit was moving into. Most organizations have goals that are a little more conventional – a place where people can teach students, provide medical care, or where teams can work productively. The spaces needed to achieve those kinds of aspirations are well understood, with clear functional criteria that help shape their design. The path toward “a place where people can think differently” is perhaps one that’s less direct. It also happens to be the sort of path that Skills Society has a habit of walking down. The organization’s leadership in the social innovation community is well known. Skills Society is an Edmonton non-profit that supports people with disabilities by helping them to experience meaningful lives as valued citizens. Serving a wide range of clients, including children and adults, people with developmental disabilities, and survivors of acquired brain injury, Skills Society provides a range of services to this diverse group of clients. The organization aspired to

improve the co-creation techniques that it uses to develop unique service models tailored to individual clients. It is this sort of different thinking – participatory, collaborative and engaging – that Skills Society was hoping to facilitate in the new space, for both themselves and for the larger community of social service agencies.

A planned move to new offices presented an opportunity for the organization to define a new type of space dedicated to this work. Ben Weinlick, its director of social innovation, realized that a 2,000 square-foot space would be perfect for the Action Lab he envisioned. Better yet, he anticipated that Skills Society

could cover the operational costs by renting the Action Lab to other interested groups. Yet, it was soon discovered that funding its design and construction would pose a challenge. Many non-profit organizations struggle to fund any sort of construction activities, which is one of the main

Mayor Don Iveson at the Grand Opening, joined by Social Innovation leaders from across Canada


iterative process of research, development and refinement. The foundation of this process is an initial collaborative design workshop in which a broad base of project stakeholders defines success in terms both specific and inclusive. It was here, following Skills Society’s selection as the winner of a Blue Sky Award, that the work of designing the Action Lab began. This workshop was held in the then unfurnished space the Action Lab would eventually occupy, after the previous tenant’s floors, ceilings and walls had been removed. During this workshop, participants further elaborated on their hopes for the Action Lab, and began to give us a sense of what this meant in practical terms. They moved through the space, creating furniture mockups from tape and paper, sketching out the locations of activities on the floor with tape and physically

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reasons architectural firm Manasc Isaac established the Blue Sky Award, which Skills Society applied for in hopes of advancing its project. This award provides $10,000 of design services to a selected non-profit organization, typically in the form of a design concept and accompanying report that can be used as the basis for subsequent design, construction and fundraising. No less valuable than this product is the process that leads to it. It is in the crucial early phases of the project that the design team helps clients to translate their desires, which are often abstract (wanting to make a space welcoming) into tangible and achievable terms, and help them to develop a strategy to make them into reality. Although the design report necessarily presents the concept it describes as almost self-evident, it is, in reality, rarely obvious. Instead, it is the product of an

enacting scenarios they anticipated for the space. In this way, we began to understand how we could enable the space’s users to think differently with the very concrete but simple tools available: wood, steel, drywall, lights and paint. The team also discovered during this workshop that an intervention was to be executed within a fairly limited scope, with flooring, walls and ceilings to be selected by the landlord. The building owner was planning to refinish the space in short order in a manner that would have been appropriate for a corporate office, but perhaps not Skills Society’s aspirations. This obstacle transformed into an opportunity when we suggested that Skills Society ask the building owner if a tenant improvement allowance could be provided in lieu of these improvements. The building owner agreed, and in doing so filled a hole that had until this point existed in the project budget. So what was the result? By working collaboratively with Skills Society, we were able to distill their wish list into a few key principles that could be directly recognized in physical form. The first of these was flexibility. The groups working in this lab could be of various sizes and configurations, working as one or simultaneously, seated with or without tables, or standing, with these arrangements possibly changing several times within a single session. The space needed to be able to accommodate groups of various sizes and compositions, sometimes concurrently. We thus gently shaped the space with the intent of providing several areas that smaller groups would naturally gravitate to while maintaining its ability to accommodate large groups. With an eye to providing variety within the space (another key principle), we sought to imbue each of these smaller areas with its >


room of their own RIGHT/BELOW Because collaborative diagramming is such a crucial part of group work, there are writable surfaces everywhere. Although it was important that the space read as distinctive and contemporary, it also needed to feel open and light, and not overwhelming.



own unique character. Each is distinct in terms of lighting, spatial character, acoustic treatment, and the provision of furniture and the mode of working expected in the space. (In some areas, one is encouraged to stand, while in others one is led to sit). All these factors affect the way people work and communicate with one another. Another important principle was practicality – this was intended to be a space for work, so we needed to make sure it worked. Lighting is, to the extent possible, adjustable, so people can see what they’re doing. Acoustic treatments ensure that people can hear one

another. Flooring allows furniture to be easily and repeatedly dragged across it, and is resilient and cleanable to allow “messy work.” Because collaborative diagramming is such a crucial part of group work, there are writable surfaces everywhere. Because food is an even more important part of group work, a kitchen with a large standing bar allows large groups of people to access food quickly. The functional criteria above finally needed to be knit together with a unifying aesthetic idea that embodied and communicated the appropriate emotional character. More simply, the space needed

to feel right. While less objective than the above criteria, this was no less important. The space couldn’t feel conventional – although appropriate in some contexts, this was not the place for vast expanses of suspended acoustic ceilings, carpet or off-white neutrals. Instead, we attempted to use irregular geometry (which included several pieces of custom millwork ingeniously and well crafted by our contractor for minimal expense), minimally finished ceilings and floors, and a few large blocks of distinctive colour – the yellow from Skills Society’s logo. Although it was important that the space read as distinc-

tive and contemporary, it also needed to feel open and light, and not overwhelming. Ultimately, the intention was for the space not to serve as the focus, but rather as a setting that facilitated the work taking place within it. In these ways, we attempted to create space that would enable people to think differently, using the tectonic means available to us as architects. Interestingly, doing so didn’t require us to think differently at all. It simply required us, as we do in all of our projects, to meaningfully engage the people who will be using the space and let them help us figure things out. re PHOTOS BY GARTH CRUMP, SHAYNE WOODSMITH

higher ground


The Tower at PNC Plaza is among the greenest and most efficient in Pittsburgh

By David DiCenzo



To answer that question, Gensler, his team and PNC developed three strategic design pillars to guide the effort: 1) create a building that is exemplary in terms of efficiency and capacity to harness passive strategy, which creates an extraordinary environment for people, with minimal use of energy and resources; 2) create a

structure that inspires a community to look at what a building could be, both in terms of its performance commitments but also its presence within a city and to speak to how architecture can be a driver of pride and inspiration; and 3) recognize that a building is for the people who work in it so the environment should >

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here are times a request might seem audacious. When PNC Bank was ready to add to its already impressive collection of innovative buildings throughout the United States, one of the big bosses envisioned a distinct jewel. The Tower at PNC Plaza would sit at the corner of Fifth and Wood, eventually enhancing the beautiful Pittsburgh skyline. But Gary Saulson, the company’s director of corporate real estate, had a bold idea that he voiced during a design meeting in the project’s infancy. “Gary said that he wanted this to be the ‘greenest skyrise in the world,’ ” says Mike Gilmore, PNC’s director of construction. “It sort of silenced the room.” While ambitious, Saulson’s demand was very much in line with PNC’s values and its construction history going back almost 20 years.The Tower at PNC Plaza, which opened for business in October 2015, is the third LEED-certified major building in Pittsburgh alone.The 650,000 square-foot PNC Firstside Center set the bar in 2000, becoming the world’s largest LEEDcertified building. Like the Tower, it was done on time (early, in fact) and on budget, but it also proved that building green on a large scale could become a reality. PNC had the track record (including approximately 150 LEED bank branches) yet its latest success story started with a puzzling question. “From the beginning, the mission has been multidimensional in terms of what building the greenest building in the world wanted to mean,” says Doug Gensler, managing director and principal at Gensler, the firm behind the project.


higher ground

The Tower at PNC Plaza isn’t just a place of business chosen in a specific location. Its commanding presence is representative of something bigger – the evolution and progression of a city, where the future is enticing.



be healthy, with rich daylight, incredible views, high air quality and spaces and places that offer choice. Though it’s a new construction, these three pillars are closely aligned with the principles of reimagining a space. “What we set out to do was build a building that was sustainable and a catalyst for people, for community and for environment,” says Gensler. “That, to us, was the reinterpretation of how we defined the greenest building in the world.” The 33-storey glass Tower at PNC Plaza opened last October as the home of the company’s headquarters with over 2,000 employees and long line of daily visitors. It’s a stunning addition to Pittsburgh’s downtown, featuring a number of technologies that have all been used elsewhere, but never in concert. Rainwater collection, water reuse and retention systems result in a significant reduction of water use. Stateof-the-art energy reduction technologies include the optimally oriented building facades, operable “popper” windows and occupancy-based heating and cooling systems. And a solar chimney facilitates natural ventilation, while helping reduce energy consumption. Gensler says that the intent was to create an ecosystem of both passive and active elements that worked to create a solution. The success of the Tower is a sum of its parts. “Every component of a building has a role in the ecosystem, and that includes the people,” he says. “The people have a role in driving performance as much as the innate object of the building. From the sourcing of the steel, the minimization of the weight of the steel, to the specifications of the concrete, all the way through to the building systems, the radiant versus forced air, all these pieces are part of this ecosystem. On top of that, there are the passive aspects, the harnessing of the ecology that is available to us from the site and the daylighting strategies.”

He says that the big mover of performance in terms of really driving the energy level down and at the same time creating a healthy environment, was the breathability of the building. Their idea was to create a building that takes that concept to a new level by using an operable wall, furniture that allows airflow and a solar chimney, which harnesses the power of the sun. “Our mindset was to extract as much value out of each system to make the entire system deliver a new level of performance,” says Gensler. The goal to be “the greenest building in the world” actually changed the design process. Architects typically design a building from an architecture they think is appropriate and work systems into the idea. But Tower at PNC Plaza building features were considered first, thereby shaping the aesthetics of the finished structure. Gensler refers to it as “reverse engineering,” an architecture that was an outgrowth of setting clear goals. “We beat these design pillars into submission,” he says. “We recited them at the beginning of every meeting. Frankly, we came to an agreement on them before we put pencil to paper.We didn’t come up

with an architecture and then try to back into a bunch of ideas that we needed to push into that architecture.The architecture came after we set the goals for the project. We wanted this to almost evolve the way Mother Nature would evolve.” The 100 per cent glass building is transparent, with the popper windows lined diagonally.When “popped open,” there is natural ventilation. Gensler says that they give the building texture and a unique architectural character in the city compared to other glass and stone buildings. He also compared the structure to an iPhone – a simple but elegant design capable of doing robust things. “Our intent was to create something that had a soft presence,” says Gensler. “Pittsburgh is filled with beautiful masonry buildings that have tremendous texture and this was a juxtaposition to that, a building that is very soft, very reflective. As you get to the street, we started to introduce masonry and dimension shadows, a level of detail that we thought would be more consistent with the texture of the city.” The features and design have made for an incredible structure, which people want to see. Gilmore says there has been

being discussed. Gilmore calls the Tower a “home run” for all involved. He grew up near Pittsburgh and has worked in the downtown core for 40 years, where he has witnessed first-hand the best and worst of times in America’s most famous Steeltown. The city is reinventing itself to have a younger demographic, thanks in part to an influx of Pittsburgh natives returning to their home after seeking work elsewhere. “I’ve seen it go from one extreme to another, being more or less rundown and tired to a city that’s enlivened and energetic, like we are now,” says Gilmore. “The city is completely turned around. It’s

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a definite impact on the community. Groups come through for tours and companies hold staff meetings there, making for rave reviews. For those employed in the building, it’s a workplace that has created high morale. “Some of the areas are just outstanding,” says Gilmore. “We have client gatherings at the indoor park on the 28th floor, but you can also go there during the day on a break or take a laptop up there to do some work. It’s just a breathtaking space.” The building has been operational for less than a year, but its legacy is already

great to be a part of that. “It shows that Pittsburgh has the type of businesses headquartered here that are here for the long term, that want to contribute to the city in a way that helps the community and also brings in the best talent. The best talent comes with a need for housing when they move here.” The Tower at PNC Plaza isn’t just a place of business chosen in a specific location. Its commanding presence is representative of something bigger – the evolution and progression of a city, where the future is enticing. “These are unique moments,” says Gensler, noting the leadership and responsibility PNC has demonstrated on the green building front, as well as the contributions of his firm’s dedicated team. “They’re about pushing the envelope for a building, an organization, its people and the environment. There are thousands of buildings being designed and built every day that make incremental improvements on the standard paradigm of what a building should be. Then there are moments in time when you get to rethink the paradigm.” Gensler says that his industry needs to be more thoughtful about the footprint left on the planet and about what people really want from the environments in which they work, live and play. The Tower at PNC Plaza is an example of that philosophy. “Is it the finish?” he asks. “No. In many ways, it’s the beginning of what I call performance-driven architecture. At the end of the day, the people that utilize and experience these projects are not looking at it from an architectural critic’s perspective, they’re looking at it from an experiential perspective – how does it work for them, how does it feel for them? That’s really getting into the mind of the user and not the critic. “We’re moving away from architecture as purely an aesthetic to architecture as a participant. That, to me, is what this building is about.” re


public eye

IMPROVING AN ICON Contest challenged designers to reinvent New York City’s 200 Park Avenue By Kent McKay




ew York City’s skyline contains many iconic shapes. One of these is 200 Park Avenue (formerly the Pan Am Building). Completed in 1963, the 59-storey skyscraper was the world’s largest office space of its day. Initially unpopular due to its gargantuan scale, the building has solidified its place in New York’s architectural history over the past half-century and is now a highly recognizable icon. But like any building of its age, 200 Park Avenue must reinvent itself. No spring chicken, it faces age-related defects in its facade that must be addressed in order to meet today’s increasingly stringent sustainability targets. It is for this reason that Metals in Construction magazine and the Ornamental Metal Institute of New York selected 200 Park Avenue as the subject of their 2016 Design Challenge. Offering $15,000 in prize money, the challenge invited designers to submit their vision for recladding the building with a goal of rising to the sustainability standards of the president’s Climate Action Plan and the Architecture 2030 Challenge. These initiatives’ aggressive energy reduction goals will require buildings like 200 Park Avenue to undergo deep retrofits to radically improve their performance. “There was a wide variety of solutions proposed, so we had a lot of really interesting conversations,” says Ben Tranel, principal at Gensler, and one of the 2016 Design Challenge’s jurors. “What we gravitated toward were the ones that balanced the project in the most holistic way possible.The winning entries had a way of re-skinning the structure while also thinking of the historic preservation of an iconic building, and also what the urban quality was like from the street.We looked for the most multifaceted presentations.” The triple-bottom-line benefits of sustainable retrofits are easy to understand. But when it comes to reimagining buildings like 200 Park Avenue, an additional challenge must be raised: how can designers charged with recladding a historic building strike a balance between preserving its architectural legacy and implementing innovative technologies? Does preservation have to come at the cost of innovation? “It’s an interesting challenge,” Tranel explains. “It asks the question, ‘Can we accomplish the Architecture 2030 Challenge by re-skinning?’ The winners we selected had tackled the challenge in a broader way. With new buildings, if you’re starting from scratch, it’s easier. For existing building stock, how can we address them with even a hope of meeting the 2030 Challenge? The

Design Challenge and all of the various submission formats we received show that to meet the 2030 Challenge, it’s going to be a collective effort and we’ve got to have fun doing it.” The Design Challenge was very popular, and Tranel remembers reviewing more than 100 submissions. The jury narrowed these down to six finalists, and ultimately decided to split the prize between them. Boulder, Colorado, firm StudioTJOA submitted one of the winning entries. “To us, this competition was an opportunity to address the sustainability and the performance of our existing buildings,” says Alex Worden, partner and architect at StudioTJOA. “We wanted to approach this competition with the idea of making our buildings smarter through passive techniques rather than mechanical means; for example, natural ventilation versus forced air.” StudioTJOA called its proposal Thermalswitch, a name that

This analysis quantifies the overcladding the existing precast facade with the Thermalswitch unit increases the thermal performance and relieves condensation potential while pushing the dewpoint into the centre of the precast rather than the occupiable space

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comes from the suggestion to add an additional layer over 200 Park Avenue’s existing precast panels. “The Thermalswitch proposal is an additional building enclosure unit comprised of ETFE, a transparent membrane, and a fibreglass frame,” explains Worden. “It’s installed over the existing facade to create a new interstitial cavity. The ETFE membrane is stretched over a frame that is hinged and connected to a metal wire composite, or bimetal, that lengthens and shortens depending on the temperature, thereby tilting the frame.This tilting component enables the unit to create a sunshade in the summer and expel interior air, while in the winter, it draws fresh air into the cavity.The sun warms this space, which creates a current that pulls the preconditioned air into the occupied spaces.” The proposed re-skin relies on passive design approaches, and

the StudioTJOA design team kept it simple. “We wanted a system that didn’t rely on complex mechanics or computer-controlled devices.We asked ourselves, how can a building facade control itself based on a few simple rules, like the Bedouin tent or the Trombe wall, which create conditions that promote natural convention currents,” says Worden. Though it would mean a major intervention for 200 Park Avenue, implementation of the Thermalswitch proposal wouldn’t pose a major disruption to the tenants inside the building. Installation of the enclosure was integrated into the design process to minimize occupant inconvenience. “This overcladding only requires two floors to be vacated at a time: the loaded floor and the recladding floor,” writes StudioTJOA in its proposal. “As the crew moves up the building, the loaded floor becomes the reclad floor while the remainder of the offices above and below can continue to occupy the space until the reclad has reached them.” The Thermalswitch proposal innovates on the sustainability front, but the design team also took the iconic status of the building into consideration while developing their concept. Ultimately, the Thermalswitch proposal is a nod to the original techniques employed in the building’s construction. The first step in their process was to research the existing building – focusing on the original facade design and construction, says Worden. “When it was built in the 1960s, 200 Park Avenue was one of the first buildings to implement a unitized precast enclosure system. This system was based on the idea that Walter Gropius had for a textural facade, which was a departure from the simple glass curtain used at the Lever House and the Seagram Building just north of Grand Central Station.” And even back then, the building’s construction was not a small undertaking. “In order to achieve this textural effect, the precast units were anchored and hung from the concrete floor slabs and the glass units were set into the precast frames after they were installed,” says Worden. “We wanted to be faithful to this construction method, and designed the Thermalswitch facade to hang directly over the existing facade rather than the traditional method of anchoring through the existing facade. This informed our material choice of ETFE rather than glass in order to be light enough to drape over the facade.” StudioTJOA’s proposal seeks to improve the experience of all who interact with 200 Park Avenue.“We wanted the facade improvements to feel like a natural addition to the building,”Worden affirms.“It was important to us that the changes we proposed would >


public eye


Manasc Isaac’s dream-like vision for 200 Park Avenue stacked varied and exotic programs on each floor of C I P A T E D P R the building, ranging from cat cafes to bathhouse








not disrupt the original feel of the building both as an occupant of the building and a pedestrian on Park Avenue.” Balancing sustainable design aspiring to the energy reduction levels demanded by the 2030 Challenge, as well as deep respect for the aesthetic and construction of the original building, the Thermalswitch concept offers an innovative yet practical solution to address an aging icon. Some of the contest’s other submissions were considerably more esoteric, and more difficult to implement. Edmonton firm Manasc Isaac submitted a proposal and the design team didn’t hold back. “Ours is a very dream-like approach to what it would be like to live in a building that isn’t regimented, prescribed and uniform across every floor,” says Carey van der Zalm, intern architect at Manasc Isaac. Manasc Isaac’s design operates on the premise that a building can adapt in the same way that a human body can adapt, van der Zalm explains. “We used primarily passive strategies, inspired by the human body, to make the building more sustainable. We kept the existing grid, to minimize structural intervention, to create a vertical city. We integrated three different panels for each one of the programs we implemented in the building and this allowed the building to “breathe” (passive ventilation), “grow” (green walls) and “self-regulate” (optimize on natural daylight). These treatments responded to the levels of privacy that the occupants needed for the programming on each floor. “Every floor is designed to elicit a different response, by implementing a different program, inspired by the urban scale, the building scale and the human scale. For example, offices remain, but there are also residential spaces, schools, libraries, pools and various commercial spaces.We wanted to have fun and add spaces that are exotic, surreal – like a Japanese-style cat café, and a bathhouse – things not typical in North American culture.” Manasc Isaac’s submission would see a dramatic change to the facade of the building, which is currently uniform on all sides. “There were various facades implemented to respond to the various types of programming we placed in the building,” van der Zalm explains. “Our programming is aligned with the facade orientation as well – for example, if we’re putting a gym in place, the north side of the building is the best location, since it’s cooler.” Should the world expect this dream to come true anytime soon? “The initial approach was non-implementable,” says van der Zalm.“The modern monolithic structure – how uniform it is on all sides – is not sustainable, so really any intervention is a step toward sustainability.” It will be interesting to see what the future holds for 200 Park Avenue; at the very least, the contest has gotten the ball rolling on what could be for the much-loved Big Apple address. re RENDERING VEDRAN SKOPAC, CAREY VAN DER ZALM

what’s trending


It’s time to consider the legacy of midcentury modern buildings as a record of our time and culture

By Shafraaz Kaba


Canada. We must be careful not to destroy buildings just because they do not conform to contemporary values or are seemingly dated. Instead, we need to determine how they should be preserved, rehabilitated or restored.The Public Safety Building is likely the best example of brutalist concrete in Winnipeg. It would be worth saving as an artifact of that time. It is worth considering how an existing building might be more environmentally beneficial than a new structure. Existing buildings come with a huge amount of embodied energy in their materials and construction. Imagine all the resources needed to harvest raw materials, convert those materials into construction products, ship them to the building site and

install them on site. One must wonder if a building that replaces a mid-century modern structure is an improvement, and whether the materials used will be durable and stand the test of time.The City of Winnipeg believes $7 million is required to restore the Tyndall stone exterior of the Public Safety Building. That’s a relatively small investment considering that replacing a building of its size would cost tens—if not hundreds—of millions of dollars. We should also consider if mid-century modern buildings are suitable for today’s needs and functionality. Modern buildings were often built by pushing the limits of structure and technology.When air conditioning was invented, buildings were sealed up tight and didn’t

incorporate operable windows. Unfortunately, this created poor performing buildings in terms of thermal comfort, energy use and building maintenance.The modern era was also rife with the use of asbestos as cheap insulation. Remediating these problems likely stretches beyond the means of building owners. Ultimately that’s what destroyed the Public Safety Building: dollars trumped heritage. Our mid-century modern legacy should be a record of our time and culture. It’s far less wasteful of energy and material to reimagine our old building stock.With creativity and imagination, we can overcome the flaws of modern buildings and bring them up to today’s standards of comfort, health and functionality. re

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his year, Les Stechesen will witness a sight many architects dread – the destruction of a building he designed 51 years ago.Winnipeg city council has decided that the brutalist concrete Public Safety Building isn’t worth saving after seeking a report on costs of its redevelopment. “We can delude ourselves and say we don’t have to consider [the cost], but I can tell you we have a lot of heritage buildings that really need to be protected,” says Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, the chairwoman of Winnipeg’s historical buildings and resources committee. Mid-century modern architecture consists of buildings constructed between 1930 and 1969, which typically boast flat roofs, exposed or articulated structure and large “curtainwall” glass that follows the “International Style” and Bauhaus movement of that period. When evaluating our mid-century modern building stock, we first need to assess if the building is a cultural artifact: the British government created a guide called the Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings, used to determine if a building is of “special architectural or historic interest” and Canada has a similar document called the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in


material world


With Alberta’s new energy code making it tough for architects and builders to use conventional aluminum curtain wall in projects, Canadian product designers are innovating

By Lyndsie Bourgon




arlier this year, an old fire hall in Winnipeg got a facelift. Not only would the brick building, originally built in the 1960s, now be home to dozens of preschool kids attending daycare, but its exterior would change as well. It was being reimagined – no longer the classic rectangular, small town fireresponders’ hub, Grosvenor Fire Hall’s large 25-foot bay doors were replaced with a modern slate of curtain wall. “The two giant bay doors were entirely replaced with curtain wall,” says Peter Dushenski of Alberta’s GlasCurtain Inc., which supplied the product. Dushenski’s company produces a curtain wall that does the seemingly impossible – using fibreglass frames, it’s much more energy efficient than conventional aluminum-based systems, meaning it’s a boon for sustainable buildings. “There’s a real opportunity here; with just a modest upgrade we can completely renew a building’s lease on life,” he says. GlasCurtain’s product is a technological leap with a very practical purpose in Alberta. The Alberta Building Code 2014 (ABC 2014) and the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings 2011 (NECB 2011), due to come into effect in November, make it increasingly challenging for architects and builders to maintain code with standard glass curtain wall. With its relatively new product, GlasCurtain is bridging a divide between design and policy, meeting the market demand for environmental accessibility. When the province’s new energy code was announced, it left many architects and builders feeling unprepared. The code makes it a priority for new buildings to be far more energyefficient by instating a number of efficiency processes in the design stage. Energy-drainers like curtain wall will soon be much tougher to include. Now specifying curtain wall for architects will become far

more challenging. Curtain wall tends to be highly inefficient, but it looks good, and is in high demand with clients and developers, Dushenski says. “It’s increasingly common to see buildings that are 50 to 70 per cent enveloped in curtain wall,” he says. “That’s very energy inefficient, even when you have triple-glazed windows.” There are a number of ways that designers can make sure the new guidelines are met in their projects, but the most common – and in many ways simplest – method is to involve manufacturers of products like curtain wall in the planning stage, balancing where a builder is willing to take energy loss and where they can make it up. “At this time, we could provide the designer with the incremental costs to achieve certain performances on the building envelope,” says Pat Arts, who manages construction and manufacturing at Calgary-based Ferguson. “These costs can be balanced with mechanical and electrical system inefficiency to see where the most costeffective location is to spend their dollars on a building. We prefer this approach, and have the in-house expertise to provide designers with systems to meet their requirements.” With the new guidelines, an increased emphasis is going to be placed on efficiency across the board, as well as cost-effective

New high-performance curtainwall framing using composite materials helps owners meet more demanding energy codes


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solutions in curtain wall. “There are a lot of variables that you have to account for,” adds Dushenski. Enter GlasCurtain, which has developed a fibreglass mullion to replace the aluminum structures commonly used, as aluminum is very conductive and not a good insulator. “What we offer is really quite unique in the market; there’s no one else who’s offering curtain wall with this level of performance,” says Dushenski. “We give architects more flexibility in the overall design of their buildings and allow them to use more curtain wall than they would otherwise.”

With fibreglass instead of aluminum used as a structural guide for the wall, buildings are also more comfortable. “It’s more like wood in terms of its feel,” says Dushenski. “It’s a very well-insulated material.” For GlasCurtain, the process was to redesign the frame entirely rather than trying to improve the aluminum itself. “We went back to step one,” explains Dushenski. “No one was really doing this because no one saw the need. And until these latest energy codes, it was hard to argue with them.” But now there’s a need, and GlasCurtain is well-placed to step into the spotlight once the new regulations take full effect. And while its product has been on the market for less than five years (so it’s not known if it has an effect on the longevity of a building), the company is confident its system will significantly reduce operational costs – since fibreglass acts as a thermal break, whereas conventional aluminum framing acts as a thermal bridge, leading to a much higher performing building envelope with the fibreglass system. And Arts says the cost of the curtain wall would be well worth the investment: “You would save the dollars spent on building envelope systems, mechanical and electrical systems,” he says. Still, there are challenges: the code means more work for architects, and less flexibility for contractors if designs are completed without an early cost analysis. Still, from the architect’s perspective, the design should essentially be the same – Dushenski calls it “plug-and-play.” The only true difference is in installation, which GlasCurtain continues to train their fabricators on. “There is a learning curve,” admits Dushenski. There is less room for error with fibreglass – which, unlike aluminum, isn’t as amenable to dent repair. “It’s very strong, but we’re very selective about our fabrication partners because there’s a level of expertise and professionalism required.” Overall, Dushenski says his firm is very much looking forward to the new energy codes coming into effect. “We’ve been planting the seeds for a while, and with the new codes coming to the fore, we’re really seeing interest pick up, in Alberta and Manitoba in particular.” The new guidelines are championed by Arts, as well: “Although they may seem scary, it just forces everyone to come up with an overall efficient building,” he says. “It forces every company involved in the design and construction to work together and come up with the best solutions.” re


last word


Manasc Isaac’s team worked in the Skills Society Action Lab to create this list of building-sector climate change ideas for Canada


6 CHANGE BEHAVIOUR Label our buildings like we label our food! Showing building performance in real time encourages occupants to use less energy and water.


GREY WATER Allow the use of grey water for toilet flushing in commercial and institutional buildings to reduce our fresh water consumption and energy use.

7 RETROFIT INCENTIVES Encourage owners to retrofit instead of demolish, preserving our architectural and historical legacy while saving vast amounts of embodied energy.


GREEN LEASES Demand a LEED Gold minimum for buildings the province leases, to encourage landlords to improve the energy performance and indoor environmental health of existing buildings.

8 CENTRE FOR INNOVATION Establish a hub where green building products, processes and technologies are tested and showcased.


INCENT DISTRIBUTED GENERATION AND MICROGENERATION Implement strategies such as feed-in tariffs to encourage building owners to install on-site power generation to reduce our reliance on coal-generated electricity.

9 LEAD BY EXAMPLE Invest in the sustainable planning, design and construction of schools, post-secondary institutions, health facilities, seniors housing and other public facilities, and commit to LEED Gold minimum.




PROCUREMENT PRACTICES Mandate that the province’s procurement processes specify materials, products and services that reduce our carbon footprint.

10 NEXT GENERATION Integrate an awareness of how important buildings are to overall sustainability into the K-12 curriculum. This will increase awareness of how the built environment impacts our planet.

DECONSTRUCT SMARTER Set up a provincial facility where deconstructed building materials can be stored, inventoried and made available for future use, in the form of a reuse centre.


The Film and Video Arts Society of Alberta

Ronald McDonald House CharitiesÂŽ Northern Alberta

Manasc Isaac created the Blue Sky Award in 2011 with a vision to help Albertan not-for-profit organizations achieve their dream projects. This year the award offering was enhanced by 818 Studio and PCL, offering the winning organizations $30,000 worth of deliverables that they will use to secure partners and funding for their projects! Manasc Isaac @ManascIsaac

as canadian leaders in net zero design, we work with communities to shape healthy, beautiful and sustainable environments.


Calgary Manasc Isaac @ManascIsaac

Gilead Sciences New Laboratory is the company’s new cold-climate home in Edmonton. It facilitates Gilead’s mission to develop innovative medicines to help patients who face life-threatening diseases.

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