Reimagine Magazine | Issue 4: Winter 2016

Page 1


• Vertical farming • Historical buildings • Winter reimagined • CMHC conversions • Denmark’s Louisiana THE BEAUTY OF RETROFIT



The man behind the Rocky Mountain Institute on retrofits PM# 40020055


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.

GlasCurtain is proud to have collaborated with the Edmonton Community Foundation on their laudable new home and congratulates them on the beautiful and sustainable design.



Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art


10 Ask an Architect:

triple-glazed windows

14 Edmonton

embraces winter

18 Historic buildings net a new lease on life


A Paris theatre gets a welcome refresh

38 Non-residential building retrofits into housing

42 Lofty reimagining 43 Local artist brightens up a dull condo hallway

Cover image: Paris’ Alesia theatre rendering copyright KDSL

makeover enough?

9 Rethinking an

adandoned industrial park

12 An indoor farm

finds its home in a forgotten steel mill

28 Rocky Mountain

Institute’s Amory Lovins on retrofits

32 Parti all the time: office makeovers

winter 2016

Contents photos: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Aerofarms Judy Lovins Manasc Isaac

44 Is the Chateau Lacombe


reimagine ISSUE #4 WINTER 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 Veronique Arsenau, Sydnee Bryant, Elizabeth Daniels, Karamjit Grewal, Jen Janzen, Laura Lynn Johnston, Cory Schachtel, Richard White CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Cooper + O’Hara, Judy Lovins, D.L Darnell, Japhet Alvarez

Reimagine is a biannual publication produced by Venture Publishing for architectural firm Manasc Isaac. Manasc Isaac is a Canadian leader in integrated sustainable building with deep expertise in the reimagining of existing buildings, primarily those built between 1950 and 2000. Reimagine magazine showcases the best of reimagined spaces and promotes sustainable building practices in the community, and strives to be the authoritative business voice on the value of reimagined building practices.

Contents © 2015 by Manasc Isaac. No part of this publication should be reproduced in print or on websites without written permission. Manasc Isaac @ManascIsaac

Publications Agreement #40020055 Non-deliverable mail should be directed to: 10225 100 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 0A1




Vivian Manasc Editor-In-Chief

winter 2016

inter is in the air – it’s almost a year since our Winter Cities Festival in Edmonton. Revived after decades of hibernation, the Winter Cities Festival drew attention to the ways in which we can make the outdoor experience of winter in our cities, more delightful. In Ottawa, I shared ideas on winter cities and the design of our nation’s capital in the winter. Skating on the iconic Rideau Canal, I was reminded that the design of winter cities is about more than festivals – it’s about the scale and texture of buildings and all the many things that we think about to make our buildings winter-friendly. Maybe it’s that transformative part of winter that we love the best – and what I love best is how winter informs how we design buildings and the space between them in our cities. I’ve always lived and worked in winter cities – growing up in Montreal and Edmonton and I’ve led the design of buildings in the Arctic,Yellowknife and across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. And yet when I go to find photos of our winter cities, they are pictures at the ski hill and the skating rink, but few of the buildings and the city – which all seem to be taken in the summer. It’s time to rethink this perspective and focus more of our design attention on sustainable winter cities and winter buildings. In very real ways, winter informs every aspect of Canadian architecture. So how do we think about designing winter cities and winter buildings? Well here are a few starting points from an architectural perspective. Sounds of silence. Winter has unique sounds – muffled, softened, blanketed and subdued – and the sounds of winter cities and winter landscapes can shape the design of our cities. If we listen closely to our surroundings, we can reimagine buildings to be quieter as well as warmer, by carefully choosing glazing and window frames. Sunny days. Winter, especially in Northern Canada, has a few hours of daily sunlight. Sparkling crystal snow makes our cities feel fresh, new and pristine – for a while – and designing buildings as well as reimagining existing buildings to bring the power of the sun deep into buildings makes us feel

energized, indoors and out. Adding colour to the outside of buildings also takes advantage of winter’s short bright days, to create lightness and sometimes even humour that is needed to overcome the adversity of winter. In the shadows. Winter’s long shadows create streetscapes that need careful design attention – purple shadows create hidden corners that make it hard to discern building entrances, and create streetscapes that keep pedestrians away. Adding colour and light to reimagined building facades creates effective patterns to animate a streetscape that is in shade. North winds blow. North and west winds, typical through much of Canada, shape our outdoor and indoor spaces and influence how we design our building walls and windows. Older buildings are often leaky, and the wind pressures cause discomfort and air infiltration. Reimagining buildings allows us to add elements that shelter us from wind. Let it snow. Traditional buildings in winter towns and cities always had a porch or a verandah – the place where you are sheltered from the snow as you enter the building. Snow piles up around buildings only to slide off roofs at the first sign of a chinook. At times like this, sheltered entrances and canopies are helpful. Snow and wind simulations are sometimes done to model the behaviour of snow around a building – and the shape of our buildings and of their roofs can be modified to create the most pleasant entry areas. Through the roof. Designing buildings to keep heat in and cold out is one of the most basic elements of winter design and one of the simplest reimagine strategies – reimagining buildings to improve the thermal performance of walls, windows and roofs, adding vestibules and air locks and generally keeping the cold and warm air spaces separate which makes buildings more livable. The heart of darkness. The most noticeable element of winter cities is our long hours of darkness, calling on architects to help illuminate the night. And so we design our winter buildings to create beacons in the night and dispel the growing hours of darkness. In this, our fourth issue of Reimagine magazine, we will talk about reimagining urban spaces as well as buildings – small and large – in our communities and around the world.We hope you will find your inspiration and think more about what is possible with the existing buildings in your community. re



trends, innovations and ideas

SHIP TO SHORE AN OTTAWA-AREA MAN HAS CRAFTED HIS DREAM CABIN IN THE WOODS WITHOUT THE HEFTY PRICE TAG THAT OFTEN COMES WITH IT. What’s more, it’s made entirely of repurposed shipping containers. Spanning just 355 square feet, Joseph Dupuis calls his V1 a “self-sustainable off-grid shipping container cabin” on his website ( Dupuis, who studied engineering technology at Algonquin College, built the home from three shipping containers he bought for $3,400 each in 2012. He says he built 95 per cent of the cabin himself, with the remaining work done by electricians and subcontractors. Fully insulated, the shipping container home is also outfitted with solar panels, wood floors, a wood stove, full kitchen, and shower with room for a “future” toilet (right now it has an outhouse). Dupuis, 29, lived in the home, which he told Buzzfeed Canada cost him $50,000 to design and build, for two years before posting an advertisement on, listing the home for $58,000. It sits on family-owned land in Carp, Ontario, about 60 kilometres from Ottawa, and Dupuis says while he lived there his largest bill was for his phone. reimagine



WASTE NOT, WANT NOT From recycling to repurposing, underappreciated items are getting a second chance RECREATING FOUND OBJECTS. South African interior designer Katie Thompson has found a creative way to repurpose household junk, by making it into stylish furniture, lighting and home accessories. Her wares, which she sells online under the apt name Recreate, are made from everything from old suitcases and milk pails to tractor seats and bicycle wheels. Dubbing herself “a hoarder of all things useless, impractical, broken, colourful and shiny,” Thompson is based in Cape Town but Recreate ships orders worldwide, according to her company website.

For more information or to shop, visit RECREATE.ZA.NET

TAKE A SEAT. A Hong Kong-based design shop is looking to do its part to keep post-consumer waste out of the landfill with an array of products made from recycled materials. As an example, Kacama has taken polypropylene caps from plastic bottles – which are to be removed before recycling bottles and often end up in landfills or, worse, floating in the ocean – and used them as fill for its stylish beanbag chairs. As many as 4,000 plastic caps, reduced to chips, fill each flexible PP Capsule chair.

For more information on this and other innovative “upcycled” Kacama products, visit KACAMA.HK

IT’S HIP TO RECYCLE. Hipcycle has a trick up its sleeve for protecting your iPhone: a case made from a recycled firehose. Made from a pair of slabs of firehose fused together with rugged elastic material and lined with black cloth, this may be the perfect iPhone sleeve. It also includes a small strap to help you slide the phone out. And due to the nature of the material, no two sleeves will look identical, so your case will be truly one-of-a-kind.


winter 2016

For more information or to purchase this or other upcycled products, visit HIPCYCLE.COM





5.75 billion HOW SWEDE IT IS Sweden has more to offer than meatballs and easy-to-assemble furniture. The Scandinavian country is also doing its part to recycle, reuse and reimagine whatever it can, and so far it’s doing a great job – with a track record of recycling almost 99 per cent of its household waste. One way the country of 9.8 million people is achieving this is by locating recycling stations no more than 300 metres from residential areas to facilitate ease of use. Newspapers are turned into paper mass, bottles are reused or melted down to make new items and plastic containers become plastic raw material. Food is composted into soil or biogas, the latter of which becomes fuel for garbage trucks. Wasted water is also purified to become potable. Special garbage trucks travel through cities and pick up electronics and hazardous waste. Pharmacists accept leftover medicine. Swedes take their larger waste, including TVs or broken furniture, to recycling centres on the outskirts of urban centres. A few companies are even getting in on the repurposing action: H&M accepts used clothing in exchange for rebate coupons in what it calls “garment collecting,” and a company called Optibag has developed a machine that separates coloured waste bags, each with a different purpose. For example, people throw food in a green bag, paper in a red one and glass or metal in another. Optibag then sorts the bags automatically, eliminating a need for waste-sorting stations – or employees to man them. reimagine


The amount of square feet of building stock New York City contains in its approximate one million buildings.

71% + 94% Buildings are responsible for 71 per cent of the city of eight-million-plus people and account for 71 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions and 94 per cent of its energy consumption.


The year the city plans to meet it’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. In order to do that, most of New York City’s existing building stock must be renovated to high-performance standards.

900,000 The amount of buildings that will bought and sold in the next 35 years, which means about 26,000 buildings change hands every year.

LOOKS LIKE A $1B An aging, underappreciated industrial site in Brooklyn is getting the love and attention it deserves A group of private investors and developer Jamestown bought into Industry City back in 2013, adding to the list of owners which had included Cammeby’s and FBE Ltd. They have recently begun a $1-billion renovation that will include new retail spaces and a food court, which when complete will bring 20,000 workers to the site every day. Office space, manufacturers, big-box retail artist studios and an academic research facility have been floated for the site, as well as a hotel and conference centre. Industry City comprises 40 acres of its original 200-acre site at Bush terminal and was built during the late 19th century near Gowanus Bay. Counting among its new tenants ice cream maker Blue Marble, threedimensional printer creator MakerBot, the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and Time Inc., Industry City is currently about 70 per cent occupied. Tenants of Industry City pay between US$15 and $30 a square foot to rent the space.



of beer, what was once a mill and brewery are now extended stay hotel rooms and a pub – which appropriately still serves up Pabst Blue Ribbon. The building’s original brick walls and massive copper kettles grace the five-storey atrium, while wooden timbers from the old structure were reimagined as headboards and tables in the guest rooms. re

winter 2016

CALLING ITSELF THE “BLUE RIBBON HOTEL OF TODAY,” Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Brewhouse Inn & Suites was home to the Pabst Brewing Company from the 1880s to 1996. Following a renovation in 2013 that included fixing broken windows and repurposing a stained glass window of King Gambrinus, the patron saint


ask an architect


When it comes to installing windows, more panes means more gain

Reimagine sat down with Rita Melo, project manager and designer at Manasc Isaac, to talk about the benefits of triple-glazed windows



What are the benefits of triple-glazed versus double-glazed windows? Double-glazed sealed glass units have been prevalent since the 1960s. They were developed to reduce the amount of heat lost from buildings. Consisting of two panes of glass, with one spacer in the middle, this once-innovative mid-century technology is now past its prime. Triple-glazed windows have three panes of glass, and two spacers. These extra layers of glass and air provide multiple benefits to the building and occupants – mainly a reduction in heat loss, and increased comfort. Windows are one part of a structure’s big picture: the “building envelope,” or the shell. How you choose to deal with a building’s windows is important, since very often the windows are the envelope’s weakest link. They’re the part of the building’s skin with the lowest R-value. Having a large discrepancy between very high R-value walls, and low R-value windows reduces the overall effectiveness of the building’s insulation. An energy modeller will tell you that the more opaque walls a building has the higher the thermal resistance it will have. This is true, but windows are important to the people who occupy a building. Daylight boosts the health and well being of occupants, and also reduces the amount of electric light we need. It’s part of a healthy building strategy. And for the past decade, the window and glazing industry has been evolving in a sustainable direction. The “holy grail” is to design windows with an R-value that can compare with a well-insulated opaque wall. Windows are a part of the overall strategy to make a building sustainable. It’s true that we need to produce energy sustainably and efficiently – but the first step toward sustainability is always to reduce energy consumption. It doesn’t matter how efficiently you’re producing energy, if you’re ultimately producing more of it than you should. This is why we are so focused on building envelope design. We want buildings to last for over 100 years, and their envelope systems are a crucial strategy to achieve our durable building targets. Our team has been pushing the envelope – the building envelope – for a long time. We adopted triple-glazed windows a decade ago. We knew that part of helping to introduce this technology was educating people that the jump from double to triple glazing is an investment, not an expense. The two challenges of using triple-glazed windows – additional weight, PHOTO COOPER + O’HARA

This thermal scan shows how each pane and spacer in a triple-glazed system contributes to a higher level of thermal resistance.

come down as this technology becomes more common. In Manitoba, for instance, Manitoba Hydro introduced an incentive for homeowners to replace older windows with triple-glazed units. As the market responded to this increased demand, the cost difference between double and triple glazing shrank. and somewhat higher cost, pay off not only in thermal comfort and reduced energy costs, but also in building value. There are so many variations with glazing selection, and each choice affects the performance. For example, you can add a low-emissivity coating, reflective coatings and films, on one or more of a glazing unit’s surfaces. These significantly affect the overall R-value of the glass unit. Selecting glazing becomes even more complex when you consider the solar heat gain coefficient, which influences the amount of sunlight that gets into through the glass. Each choice you make help to determine how efficient and effective the glazing system will be. Let’s compare a basic double-glazed window with a metal spacer; this window might have a 1.9 R-value. By using an insulated spacer, it could increase to a R2.4. Triple-glazed windows start at R2.7.You can get triple-glazed systems up to 6.4 if you use low-e coatings, insulated spacers and fiberglass frames.

What would you like to see in the future with windows in your projects? I hope that architects, engineers and specifiers that work with building owners will continue to push for the industry to keep improving. I’m glad to see that triple-glazed windows are becoming the industry norm. I hope they can take this momentum even further, maybe even going to quantum glazing. re

wnter 2016

What is the cost difference between a tripleversus a double-glazed window? Because there are so many options and details, it varies. Most of the triple-glazed products you see on the market today are about 10-15 percent more than double-glazed. The cost has

What’s a building you have done recently that improved the R-value through triple-glazed windows? A memorable project was Memorial Composite High School, in Stony Plain, about eight years ago. We had to do a lot of research and prepare a business case that triple-glazed windows were a worthwhile investment, because it was something they hadn’t done before. This project marked the breakthrough of the triple-glazed window as a product in Alberta. More recently, at PCL Building One, we utilized a triple-glazed, unitized curtain wall system, which will help us achieve LEED Gold [certification in progress] with no additional capital costs. Other projects we worked on even introduced “quad-pane,” or fourlayer windows.


leading edge


Vertical farm company aims to revolutionize farming, starting in the big city

By Cory Schachtel




or all the benefits agriculture has brought over thousands of years, it hasn’t changed much – new technology has altered how we harvest, but the vast fields, with all their waste, remain. An agricultural revolution has been long overdue, and one company is leading the way from an unlikely place: a former steel factory in New Jersey. AeroFarms is a Newark-based vertical farm company that retrofits unused buildings to house vertical stacks that grow tastier, healthier, more efficiently grown crops than any field farmer could. It’s the next step in humankind’s evolving relationship with food, and couldn’t have come at a better time. Marc Oshima, co-founder and chief marketing officer of AeroFarms, grew up in New Jersey, received his MBA from Colombia University, and now lives with his wife and son in Manhattan. Food has played a large role in his personal and professional life. “I am half Japanese and half German, so I’ve always had a healthy appreciation for a variety of high quality food, from bratwurst to sushi,” he says. Oshima was also fortunate enough to travel as a child and adult, and “it really opened my eyes to see the power of food, all around the world. I’ve always been excited about what it can do for a community.” Prior to AeroFarms, Oshima was the head of marketing for the Food Emporium, where he had yet another eye-opening experience with food. Partnering with the New York Food Bank, “We helped address what is an

While the company does consider doing ground-up construction projects, they look mostly at retrofitting buildings, often transforming clean-up zones into something green and productive.

unbelievable issue: that in the biggest city in the U.S., one out of four people faces issues around food security and not having access to healthy food options,” he says. “I started wondering how we could change that equation. How do we change the system?” It was around then that his longtime friend David Rosenberg reached out, asking what he knew about urban farming. Together they created a company called Just Green, and looked at every growing technology available, wondering how to address the global, macro issues showing up on the front page of newspapers each day – drought, population

increases, food safety and worker welfare. “That’s when we discovered AeroFarms, and we merged with it at the end of 2011 to acquire the technology,” he says. “We thought this was something truly scalable, so we put together a brand new business plan about owning and operating vertical farms, in repurposed spaces, all around the world.” Aerofarms was founded in 2004 by Ed Harwood, who remains the company’s chief science officer. He was a professor at Cornell University for more than 40 years with even more experience in agriculture, and is a “real out-of-thebox thinker,” Oshima says. The three of

On a per-cubic-foot basis, AeroFarm’s vertical stacks are 75 per cent more productive than any field.


taking place by Q3 of 2016. Due to demand, they’ve already started growing in a 30,000-square-foot vacant paintball entertainment complex, about a mile away. “Our head of operations has retrofitted and built plants from the ground up,” Oshima says, “and our head of construction has built warehouse distribution centres as well as retrofitted other spaces. So we have a lot of expertise, in house.” The retrofit process goes through a series of different stages, from finding the right market, site selection and partner development, to the actual construction. “Typically, we see the entire process taking 12 to 18 months,” Oshima says. “But once we’ve identified and done the build-out, the assembly of our equipment is actually quite fast. We’re growing and cash flow positive within the first year of operation.” On a per-cubic-foot basis, AeroFarm’s vertical stacks are 75 per cent more productive than any field. Their aeroponic process – misting the roots with nutrients, versus hydroponics, which bathes them – provides more oxygen to the plants. Instead of sunlight, fine-tuned LED lights deliver only the specific light spectrum shade that different plants need,

achieving better photosynthesis. The company’s patented growing material – a cloth made entirely out of recycled water bottles that is itself reusable – enables them to seed, germinate, grow and harvest all in the same medium. All of this yields about 30 crop turns per year – mostly leafy greens – versus maybe two or three in the field. There’s another vertical farm in Newark, one that’s much smaller than the others. It required no building retrofit and has no employees, but it represents the growing revolution just as well. Five years ago, AeroFarms collaborated with a local school and installed a small-scale vertical stack in the students’ dining hall. As part of their science program, incorporating biology, engineering and math, the sixth-graders oversee the entire process, making it the shortest seed-totable system possible. It’s the ultimate expression of AeroFarms’ mission – to fundamentally change how people think of agriculture. “It’s incredible to see the students’ reactions,” Oshima says. “It creates this strong connection with their food and provides a healthy option.That’s how you start to change behaviour and make a difference.” re

winter 2016

them built up a team and now have projects and developments on four different continents, employing about 50 people per farm, and creating a mission-driven company that focuses on people, the community and the environment. “We were thinking globally from the beginning, which was part of what was so exciting about Ed,” Oshima says. “It wasn’t so much his technology but where his focus was: how do we make a mass, positive impact?” While the company does consider doing ground-up construction projects, they look mostly at retrofitting buildings, often transforming clean-up zones into something green and productive. The company’s first farm in 2004 was a converted machine shop in upstate New York, and its current research and development farm is a 5,000-square-foot former urban apparel store/nightclub, where top chefs, supermarket chains, growers and green companies see what it was doing, and how the space was repurposed. Today, the company has already begun moving its global headquarters into its ninth farm, a 70,000-square-foot former steel factory. It’s a two-phase build, the second of which will see literal growth






on the continent. Here, winter weather often sprawls from October to April, blanketing the city with perpetual snow and frost, with temperatures dropping as low as -40 C (not including wind chill, as any Edmontonian would remind you). Over the years, the city has struggled with how to address the long, cold season. The 1970s and 1980s left a legacy of winter escapism; Edmonton’s downtown core boasts 13 kilometres of indoor pedways that connect more than 40 of its buildings. These passages meander above and below ground like the paths of an ant colony, and although they ensure that pedestrians aren’t exposed to the elements, the pedway system largely feels bleak and sterile. Now, the city’s dread of winter seems to be turning on its head. In recent years, Edmontonians have expressed a growing interest in embracing winter, as opposed to escaping it. City Councillor Ben Henderson feels that appreciating

winter is a natural inclination. “I visited a Grade 3 class of children,” he says. “They picked up on the winter thing. I told them that adults don’t like winter, and they all were surprised: ‘They don’t?’ The kids couldn’t get it – they love going outside in the winter. As adults, staying indoors is really our loss.” The city doesn’t struggle with the other seasons. Indeed, Edmonton has no problem investing in its beautiful summer months. Warm, long, sunny days and evenings are easier for people to love, and Edmonton has invested both money and infrastructure in solidifying its identity as a summer hotspot. This strategy has been very successful. In 2015, National Geographic identified the city as one of its best summer trips, citing Edmonton’s vibrant festival culture as key to drawing in visitors. “Edmonton’s success as a summer city wasn’t an accident,” says Henderson. “In the ’70s we really invested a lot in summer activities, like our park system and the Fringe Festival. Now we have to look at how to invest in winter.”

comprehensive design guidelines, which Henderson hopes to see published in late 2015. “We’re doing really great work on what it means to be a winter city – and we’re taking a leadership position in this area. The public feels ready for this. They’re excited to reimagine winter.”


cited Edmonton as a premier summer destination was its striking river valley: a resource whose value is not maximized by its current winter infrastructure. But this is about to change. The Freezeway, an innovative skating trail project with the ambition to become the world’s first skate-to-work transit system, will be taking a test run this year in the river valley. Matt Gibbs, a native Edmontonian, proposed the Freezeway for his master of landscape architecture thesis in a bid to improve the quality of life for residents of his hometown. “Moving to Vancouver for school, I was surprised how much >

winter 2016

Momentum is gaining for advocates of Edmonton as a winter city. In 2015, Edmonton hosted the Winter Cities Shake-Up, an international conference for planners, architects, business people and citizens, opening a discussion about how to better live, work and play in a winter city. The conference’s success came as no surprise to Henderson, who feels that Edmonton is ready to have this conversation. “We’ve risen to the challenge of accepting winter in really exciting ways,” he says. “It’s really about people changing their minds about not liking winter, and helping the public understand that winter can actually be an advantage. Support is really growing for winter infrastructure and events, and a lot of it has come from grassroots organizations. There’s a DIY approach to how Edmonton is learning to use winter to its advantage.” Indeed, many of Edmonton’s successful winter-oriented projects were spawned at the grassroots level. Formally, the city is articulating this journey through


TOP A proposed Freezeway would reimagine a railway corridor as a skating rink. BOTTOM The Freezeway would not only act as a leisure space, it would also lead to destinations, like the Ice District.



I missed the dramatic seasons – and was surprised that the beauty of the winter season wasn’t a celebrated part of living in Edmonton.” Surveying some of Edmonton’s most successful neighbourhoods such as Whyte Avenue, 104 and 124 Streets, Gibbs identified a commonality: all of these cultural districts are pedestrian-oriented communities, and are highly popular even on the coldest days of the year. “From the different places I’ve lived around the world, I realized that getting around in bad weather is negligible if your destinations are close by. “Instead of hibernating, I wondered, what would

it take to make people fall in love with winter? Looking at what Edmonton had in place for winter, I identified that the biggest challenge was a lack of free, fun civic activities. Then I noticed a former railway corridor that stretched across a pretty large expanse of land in central Edmonton. It’s level, and flat – perfect for skating, and at the moment, relatively underused. I realized that by retrofitting this underutilized space, the city could create the world’s first bike lane that transforms into a skating trail during winter.” The project clearly has widespread appeal. It won the top prize in the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative Coldscapes Competition in 2013, and has since been presented at the 2014 Winter Cycling Congress and the 2015 Winter Cities Shake-Up. Its YouTube teaser video has reached over 37,000 views, and it has been covered by Wired Magazine, Fast Company,World Architecture News and even the BBC. The benefits of a fully realized Freezeway would be manyfold, says Gibbs. For local commuters the skating trail could provide a new form of transportation, with employees skating to their office: a notion both romantic and practical. Also appealing are the potential tourist dollars that the Freezeway could generate for the community. The project’s pilot phase has been green-lighted, and Edmonton’s picturesque river valley will see the installation of a small skating trail for the 2015-2016 winter season. An extension of the existing Victoria speed skating oval, “the amount of funding required to create this pilot is pretty small,” says Gibbs. Maintenance for the Freezeway is estimated to be marginal, requiring approximately one hour of additional maintenance daily. “There’s room for over threeand-a-half kilometres of trails at Victoria Golf Course in the future. The pilot will help to prove the concept and will help to measure the demand for this kind of infrastructure.” Gibbs believes the Freezeway will solidify Edmonton’s reputation as a premier winter city on the global stage, forming an integral part of the city’s identity. “Calgary, for better or worse, has branded themselves as cowboys, and what I perceive is missing in Edmonton is an authentic identity as to what makes us unique. The city has tried Klondike

Ski 2LRT offers commuters a series of crosscountry ski trails leading to LRT stations.

In 2015, National Geographic identified the city as one of its best summer trips, citing Edmonton’s vibrant festival culture as key to drawing in visitors. Days (since renamed K-Days) – a theme that never really gelled. I think celebrating winter and making that our ‘thing’ would be an ideal opportunity to foster an authentic identity for ourselves. Our abundance of cold and dark aren’t drawbacks. In fact, they make Edmonton a perfect location for light displays and winter activities. There’s so much creativity coming out of Edmonton’s winter initiatives, and I think we can create something world class to offer the world.”



much more used to working with community groups. In the end, our rack was ground mounted on road right-of-way.” Ski2LRT hosted a number of “Brewskies”: informal parties attended by Ski2LRT stakeholders and track-setters, people who create tracks on unused, empty spaces. “The first party we had seven people, and it grew from there,” Rae remembers. “By the time we held a launch party, 150 people attended. We hope to have the program running earlier for the 2015-2016 season, so our number should be even higher. As soon as the snow flies, we’ll start.” Edmonton’s leadership in reimagining winter city design is contagious. Last winter, a few weeks after the Winter Cities Shake-Up,Vivian Manasc, Manasc Isaac principal, travelled to Ottawa to present at a winter city design symposium at the National Capital Commission’s Urbanism Lab in Ottawa. “The audience was impressed with how we live and design in Edmonton,” she recounts. “Ottawa has the famous Rideau Canal which acts as a “skateway,” but the Ski2LRT idea really caught people’s imagination.” In alignment with Edmonton’s DIY spirit when it comes to making the most of winter, Ski2LRT stands as an example of crowd-funded, low-cost infrastructure. “The cost was so marginal,” says Rae. “Donations, volunteer time and equipment loans made it so affordable.” It’s the embodiment of Edmonton’s warm embrace of winter. re

winter 2016

winter initiative offers another way for Edmontonians to travel. Shauna L. Rae is a co-founder of Ski2LRT, which offers commuters a series of cross-country ski trails around south Edmonton, which lead to LRT (light rail transit) stations, providing another way for commuters to get exercise while getting to work. “The genesis of Ski2LRT was when I saw people skiing around my neighbourhood. It looked like a great way to get exercise, so I picked it up. I started thinking – I’m only two kilometres away from the Century Park LRT station. Out on my skis, I looked over and saw that the only thing separating me from the station was an open field of snow. If I could ski there, that would provide an accessible way to connect to the LRT system.” Rae’s vision was simple: to carve out a series of cross-country ski tracks that would lead commuters to LRT stations, where they could rack their skis and connect with a train. Conversations with friends revealed a number of micro-funding opportunities both from private individuals and from the city. The project wasn’t without its challenges, though; a fair amount of red tape had to be hacked through in order to make the project reality, says Rae. “Sorting out the details with Edmonton Transit System (ETS) was a huge challenge. We wanted to install the ski racks on ETS property, but the process for approval was way too long and complicated. As an organization, they’re not really set up to facilitate partnerships. Fortunately, Sustainable Transportation was in the room and they’re




OLD MEETS NEW Revamping historic buildings can help maintain key pieces of the province’s heritage, while building for tomorrow BY KARAMJIT GREWAL

EDMONTON EXPERIENCED ITS FIRST building boom between 1904 and 1913, creating a number of significant public and private buildings, a few of which still stand. The question of how to reimagine historic structures is a particularly interesting and perplexing one. Relatively young architecturally, there are not many buildings predating the 20th century in Alberta’s capital city. The structures most loved by society or representing important parts of a community’s history will sometimes receive official historic architecture designation, protected from significant alterations. But for others, a new purpose is often needed. Adaptive reuse, the term used for the repurposing of historic buildings, can be thought of in a couple of ways. The first, static preservation, is the attempt to preserve a building in a single historical period. Meanwhile, dynamic preservation is the altering of a building to reflect changes in technological innovation and cultural ideas in a visually distinctive manner.

THE DYNAMIC FORM OF ADAPTIVE reuse is exemplified in both the EPCOR 1931 building and the Cromdale School (now the East Edmonton Primary Health

winter 2016

The EPCOR 1931 building

Centre). Both of these buildings represent the idea that society is constantly in flux. With their reimagining, by juxtaposing the old and new facets of the building, each element was accentuated. Manasc Isaac’s goal in each project was to strike a balance between respecting the past and present, displaying the characteristics of both while simultaneously allowing the structure to function as a useful part of the current urban fabric. Manasc Isaac was first approached by EPCOR Water Services to revive one of its original administration buildings into a new office for its senior management team in 2013. The EPCOR 1931 building was a provincially designated historic structure which had been renovated in the past, and was a storage and administration facility when the current project was commissioned. Many aspects of the building were outdated and unsuitable for the new proposed use, but it was of great importance to all stakeholders that all modifications to the building be completed with the utmost respect to the original structure and its history. Parts of the building were updated to preserve its original esthetic. Namely, the team dismantled its exterior brick walls, then reinstalled them with new mortar, greatly reducing the risk of water infiltration through the exterior envelope. The walls behind the brick were also insulated with spray foam to greatly increase the thermal performance of the envelope. Finally, the mechanical system was updated with a high performance induction system that minimizes the amount and size of ductwork required. While none of these changes are visually discernable, they greatly helped to improve the energy efficiency of the building, bringing it closer to modern standards. Some of the original elements of the building were kept in the renovation as they contained intrinsic historic value, including the original terrazzo flooring in the lobby. The original double-hung windows were restored and painstakingly refurbished to their initial condition, and now serve as beautiful reminders of the building techniques and technology of the 1930s. >


Pembina Hall

Additional examples of the static preservation technique of adaptive reuse include the original decorative stair railings and wooden doors in the lobby as part of the final building, which were all restored to their original splendour. The dynamic form of adaptive reuse can also be seen in EPCOR 1931 – in the visible and sensory shift between the historic elements of the building and the modern renovations.The new offices, meeting spaces and kitchen are distinctively contemporary; in their forms, use of materials and design philosophies.The spaces are divided by large glass partitions, allowing for the maximum amount of light infiltration. Modern ideas about light can also be seen in the electric light fixtures, especially in the kitchen where the LED backsplash constantly changes its bright colours.The use of materials and designs strikingly different from the original structure serve to express the new functions of the contemporary spaces.With the EPCOR 1931 building, Manasc Isaac was able to successfully express the new while also preserving the old.



method is apparant in Pembina Hall. This adaptive reuse strategy is exemplified by

the requirement that any new feature or addition to an existing building is to match the old in design, colour, texture and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. According to the Preservation Bylaw Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, “While the resource may not be demolished, it can be added to or altered if done without undermining its heritage value by respecting its character-defining elements. The preservation bylaw is put in place in essence to manage change.” Built in 1914, Pembina Hall was one of the first buildings on the University of Alberta campus. Part of the original university master plan as developed by Percy Nobbs and George Hyde, Pembina Hall, Athabasca Hall and Assiniboia Hall are three stunning examples of the collegiate Gothic style. The exterior of the building is composed primarily of brick, with sandstone details and embellished elevations as well as beautifully detailed stonework. There are recessed arches with stone mouldings around the entrances, as well as relief sculptures and stone quoins on the corners. Pembina Hall is punctuated with an innovative steel-and-concrete structure, used in lieu of the traditional wood

framing of the other two original U of A buildings. The structure is an important part of not only the University of Alberta’s history, but also that of the province, as Pembina housed some of the first female university students in Alberta. The hall was used to accommodate and treat patients from the global influenza epidemic of 1918 and served as a dormitory for Second World War soldiers when it was requisitioned by the Department of National Defence in 1941, providing accommodations for up to 300 men. Having successfully survived plans to be torn down and replaced by a newer residence building, Pembina Hall was most recently renovated in 2008 by Manasc Isaac Architects. The client wanted to ensure that the next incarnation of the structure would continue the legacy that had already been established over the previous 90 years. The reimagine team’s goal was to reduce the environmental impact of the building, while also respecting the history it represented. The team’s scope of work included demolition and updating existing building features. The dormitories and graduate student residences were to be

East Edmonton Health Centre

converted into classrooms, offices and academic spaces for East Asian, Native and Ukrainian studies. We made some of the most important changes to the windows, replacing the single panes with triple-glazed operable windows. The update allowed for vast improvements in the energy efficiency of the building, decreasing the tremendous thermal loss that was occurring through the windows. The new high-performance units looked almost indistinguishable from the original single-pane windows. As an example of static preservation, new additions were allowed but were required to be contextually appropriate with the site’s historic architecture. We maintained the exterior brick, an essential part of the building’s character, with the mortar repointed to ensure future longevity. The exterior doors were rebuilt or remade within the woodworking shop at the University of Alberta. We brought them up to current code standards, especially in their accessibility. It was important to have the patience to find the right tradespeople to complete the work. Likewise, any new material that was included matched the existing finishes. Our number one priority was to keep original elements, whenever possible favouring their restoration rather than replacement. Our resulting project fulfilled the fundamentals of static preservation – to renew the project while continuing the project’s legacy and honouring the architectural importance of the building to the University of Alberta. The building is firmly rooted in its original historical period.



structure and starting again represents a huge loss in embodied energy, both physically (in terms of the materials and labour invested in the original building, and then again to remove it) and intellectually (building techniques, and representations of important portions of a society’s history). Buildings are physical embodiments of our collective historical and cultural identities, and record the evolution of society. By preserving structures we can understand the changes in technological innovations, individual preferences and cultural ideas. Through a static adaptive reuse strategy, the historic aspect of a building is maintained and respected. In this method, emphasis is placed on ensuring the project is kept in a specific time period. We are able to read and experience the structure as it existed when it was first designed and built, gaining important insight into our own collective past. By adaptively reusing a building with a dynamic preservation strategy, we are allowing the structure to express its own history. We are able to visually understand the different elements built up over time, expressing the various uses, owners and programs. All of these changes imprint themselves on the building to create a new visual history. The building is proud of its past and accepting of the contemporary realities. re

winter 2016

team at Manasc Isaac was successful in giving a historic building a second life was the Cromdale School project, where we were tasked with integrating the historic structure into the East Edmonton Health Centre. The new healthcare centre was to serve the diverse neighbouring community with a wide

range of medical and community services such as home care, communicable disease control, school health, and speech and language services. One of the important elements to preserve in this project was the building site. Located in an established neighbourhood, the site was very pedestrian-friendly and surrounded by mature trees that were retained. The scale of the new additions was kept comparable to the neighbouring structures allowing the project to be better integrated into its surroundings. In contrast to the EPCOR 1931 project, the Cromdale School project visually expresses the different elements built up over time through its exterior elevations. This building clearly expresses through its architecture a unique story based on its history, site, users, owners and periods of occupation. Each phase of the project merged to create a combined architecture that is proud of its past and accepting of contemporary conditions. The Cromdale School project is a wonderful example of the dynamic form of adaptive reuse and the flexibility required to alter a building to house new functions, accept contemporary context and represent cultural change. Architectural preservation is closely connected to defining a city’s identity. Removing all traces of the previous





This seven-time reimagined Denmark museum is a testament to user-centric architecture and intelligent design BY LAURA LYNN JOHNSTON


winter 2016

Denmark will take you to the quiet municipality of HumlebĂŚk. Walk five minutes into town from the train station and you will come across a building almost entirely enveloped by its surrounding landscape, with an entrance overgrown with ivy that appears as though it might lead to some secret, hidden world. Pass through it, however, and you will find an impressive collection of international modern artwork which spans more than seven >


The design of Louisiana is acutely sensitive to the fact that its patrons are real, living human beings, ones that have basic needs that are met thoughtfully during their visit through intelligent design.

decades, housed within one of Denmark’s finest examples of modernist architecture. Although not widely known in North America, the privately-owned, stateauthorized Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is one of the most visited museums in the world. For those who have set foot within its walls, it is easy to understand why. Louisiana is an unparalleled specimen of user-centric architecture. It is a masterpiece in itself of fluidity, intuition, and thoughtfulness whose floor plan transforms the concept of a museum map into a mocked absurdity. Unlike most European museums, where visitors are generally expected to circle a room before being required to double-back in order to enter the next adjacent room, Louisiana guides its guests through a continuous, circular path which starts and ends within its gift shop. Its low profile snakes through the landscape, occasionally taking patrons underground and then above, while offering heart-stopping vistas of its striking surroundings.




is acutely sensitive to the fact that its patrons are real, living human beings, ones that have basic needs that are met thoughtfully during their visit through intelligent design. Instead of lumping user facilities at the museum’s entrance and forcing guests to temporarily exit the artistic sanctuary in order to access them, Louisiana has user amenities intuitively placed throughout it in anticipation of the guest’s needs. If a visitor arrives at the museum at the hour it opens and takes in the artwork at a comfortable pace, he or she will encounter the museum’s cafeteria approximately two hours later – just in time for lunch. An hour later, when patrons have had proper time for digestion, a restroom will reveal itself. Smartly angled roof overhangs ensure the artwork remains out of direct sunlight but that the visitor enjoys plenty for the duration

of a visit. It’s almost as though Louisiana knows when she is tired of standing – and will provide a quiet, gently lit room with welcoming mid-century modern sofas and a panoramic view of the Øresund Sound. Louisiana’s cohesive user experience does not end at the building’s design. The museum’s simplistic typographic branding tastefully graces even the napkins and water bottles of its cafeteria. Wayfinding and signage, where required, is minimalistic and delicately integrated into architectural elements in a complementary manner. The gift shop, rather than tacky knick-knacks, purveys only the finest examples of Danish graphic and industrial design, artfully displayed as though it were the museum’s final exhibit. Its selection of books alone would bring any architect or designer to her knees. Even the silence that envelops Humlebæk feels like it is part of the Louisiana experience, as though the visitor enters the museum as soon as she exits the train.

Of all places, it’s no surprise that such a museum would exist in Denmark. The Danes are unrivalled in that mastery of user-centric, functionalistic design. The culture breeds forethought and tackles problems at the initiation of the design process – nothing is left as an afterthought. The museum’s effective consideration for its users, too, has been done continually since its concept was initially conceived.

WHEN THE MUSEUM’S first owner, Knud W. Jensen, acquired the property in 1955, he selected architects Jørgen Bo (1919-1999) and Vilhelm Wohlert (1920-2007) to collaborate in bringing his vision for a museum harmoniously embedded within the breathtaking landscape to fruition. Together, they spent months touring the property, crafting a plan to connect the museum’s pavilions through a series of sun-soaked pedways with the intention that visitors would feel as though they were on a covered stroll through the park.

The heightening of the room now provides artwork with plenty of surrounding space and optimal daylight for improved viewing. And rather than expanding vertically and obstructing views of the Sound, the south wing was built into the terrain to help maintain Louisiana’s low profile.


Site sensitivity was also a primary objective throughout the planning process. “It was an ideal location for a museum,” Jensen wrote upon the museum’s 40th anniversary, “but the lot made its own demands and became, in a sense, our employer, making the final decisions about where the buildings should stand and where the sculptures should be placed.” Successfully crafting a well-designed building for and of its time is one thing. Ensuring that the building successfully remains timeless and functional as it matures and new technological needs develop is something else entirely. Michael Sheridan, an American architect based in New York is one of the world’s leading authorities on modern Danish architecture and design. He is currently in Denmark completing his research on Louisiana for his upcoming book Louisiana

Museum of Modern Art - Architecture and Landscape, which is to be published in October 2016. Sheridan recognizes that it was the founder’s ceaseless imagination that has victoriously maintained both Louisiana’s form and function over the decades. “Jensen was constantly imagining how Louisiana could be improved and expanded, how the museum could be more than simply a repository of the artworks and serve as a cultural centre,” Sheridan says. Since its opening in 1958, Louisiana has undergone an astounding seven renovations, all of which were carried out by Bo and Wohlert’s firm. This has allowed the museum to stay true to its primary design intentions, remain integrated with the terrain, and respect the building’s individual style and personality throughout its evolution and expansion. “Even as >

winter 2016

Louisiana’s construction began in mid-1956 and lasted until the museum’s opening in 1958. Bo and Wohlert’s original design concept featured long whitewashed walls, exposed structures, laminated wooden ceilings, carmine tiled floors, and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows that open into the surrounding landscape and sculpture gardens – elements which are still a part of the Louisiana experience today. Their inspiration was taken from both sides of the Pacific. Wohlert’s time studying at the University of California in Berkeley acquainted him with “Bay Area” architecture. Louisiana also evidently incorporates the traditional elegant simplicity of Japanese-style design, which has been married to its Californian-style with coherence and gentleness through its discrete pavilions, architectural lightness, and glass corridors.


The key reimagining of Louisiana took place in 1991, with the construction of its east wing. This extension allowed the museum buildings to become connected in a roughly circular form, greatly improving the floor plan so that visitors could now traverse the entire museum in a continuous route.



Jensen’s vision for the museum expanded,” Sheridan says, “he continued to work with Jørgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert because Jensen wanted to ensure continuity and unity among the different buildings.” This enviable parental commitment and stewardship to the museum seems to be something valued culturally by the Danes, as it was only made possible by generous grants from the Danish Ministry of Culture and significant contributions from private donors. “As Louisiana expanded, it evolved from a small, private collection of Danish art into a museum of international stature,” says Sheridan. Between 1966 and 1976, the original framework (now referred to as the north wing, which included three pavilions connected to the property’s original villa by glass corridors, the atrium cafeteria with a view of Sweden, as well as the Giacometti Gallery and Jorn Hall) was expanded to include the west wing and

a concert hall for musical performances, public debates, lectures and other events – everything a small museum would need to evolve into a thriving cultural centre. In 1982, the addition of the south wing included an exhibition room with higher ceilings and more space than in the previously existing buildings. “At the same time,” Sheridan explains, “the character of the art on display and in the collection changed from relatively small easel paintings to large-scale canvases, installations and all the other forms of art that emerged during the 1960s and ’70s, so the character of the exhibition spaces also changed.” The heightening of the room now provides artwork with plenty of surrounding space and optimal daylight for improved viewing. And rather than expanding vertically and obstructing views of the Sound, the south wing was built into the terrain to help maintain Louisiana’s low profile.

The key reimagining of Louisiana took place in 1991, with the construction of its east wing. This extension allowed the museum buildings to become connected in a roughly circular form, greatly improving the floor plan so that visitors could now traverse the entire museum in a continuous route with a shifting focus between views of the artwork, the outdoor sculpture gardens, and the Sound. The underground portion of the east wing is referred to as the Graphics Wing. Its design allows the opportunity for exhibitions of drawings and graphics that must not be exposed to daylight, such as photographic, video, and light artwork. The east wing also leads through the Great Hall, located beneath the sculpture-filled Calder Terrace outside the museum. Further extensions designed and constructed between 1994 and 1998 saw the addition of the Children’s Wing and improvements to the museum’s visitor facilities, including a

Of all places, it’s no surprise that such a museum would exist in Denmark. The Danes are unrivalled in that mastery of user-centric, functionalistic design.


guided by one simple principle: the modernized systems for heating, insulation, ventilation, and security should not be visible or disturb the buildings’ aesthetic integrity. This commitment to preserving the museum’s unique character and respect for Jensen, Bo, and Wohlert’s collective originating vision, even with the trio now deceased, is a true testament to how creativity and ingenuity can meet contemporary demands within the constraints of a classic modern structure.

IN 2005, DISTINGUISHED French architect Jean Nouvel – who has been responsible for producing some of

winter 2016

more suitable space and location for the gift shop, which now serves as the entrance and exit point. Now that Louisiana’s concept had come to complete realization during the 1990s, the new millennium demanded the introduction of several technological improvements to bring the museum into the 21st century. The long windowed corridors, which are hallmarks of the museum’s design, also put challenging demands on security and climate controls that did not exist when the museum was first constructed. A comprehensive modernization was carried out from 2003 to 2006 to address these requirements,

Europe’s most notable cultural architectural masterpieces – collaborated with the museum to create an exhibition called Louisiana Manifesto, which passionately celebrated the property’s unexampled uniqueness. Nouvel returned to the museum this year to reflect on the exhibit, and he still gushes with the same adoration for Louisiana as he did ten years ago when he penned the manifesto. He repeatedly uses the term “belonging” when speaking of Louisiana. “When you walk around the museum, the landscape belongs to the museum.The museum belongs to the landscape.The buildings belong to this place... that’s what’s totally unique,” Nouvel says. “Everything belongs to everything. And this doesn’t exist anywhere else.” Nouvel isn’t alone in his passion for this special place. The belonging that he speaks of is a mutual feeling shared by everyone who is lucky enough to experience Louisiana. Each “Louisianan,” as Nouvel calls them, knows that it is something extraordinary, a paragon for other buildings to aspire to, a prize to be cherished and preserved. “Each thing is directly felt and everything is at home. The flowers are at home, the sea is at home, the sky is at home ... and visitors are at home,” Nouvel says. This sense of home has not come about without pride of ownership. The Louisianans have protected and guarded this architectural treasure throughout its many transformations. Louisiana’s owners and architects have dutifully perpetuated its distinct style throughout its evolution. Louisiana’s patrons and the government have donated to contribute to its maintenance. The village even named its train station for Louisiana to ensure visitors can easily find their way. In North America, it is not only Louisiana’s timeless design and user-centric experience that we should aspire to, but also this respectful stewardship as our shared public spaces are re-imagined, to create our belonging to these places as much as they belong to us. re


An Agent of Change

By Sydnee Bryant

The brains behind the Rocky Mountain Institute shares insights on deep retrofits, merging with Carbon War Room and the Empire State Building reimagining IN 1971, TWO YEARS PRIOR TO THE 1973 OIL



crisis and decades before energy became a common field of study, Amory Lovins wanted to do a doctorate in energy. A research don at Merton College, Oxford, at the time, Lovins found his idea was met with polite derision. “The college and university, after mulling it over, said ‘Energy? What’s that? It’s not an academic subject, is it? Pick a real subject.’ So I said ‘I think energy is going to be important rather quickly and I need to go work on it, so it would be simplest if I just resigned my fellowship,’” says Lovins. It turns out Lovins, co-founder of the think-and-do tank Rocky Mountain Institute, was not only right but also prophetic about the importance of energy. At the heart of his work today, the subject remains the thing that connects all other important issues. “We create a clean, prosperous and secure energy future [at RMI],” says Lovins. “Particularly in my office of chief scientist, I still cultivate the wide-angle lens that goes with that sharp focus to make sure that energy is properly connected to economy, security, development, environment and other issues. It was clear even in the late 1960s that energy was the master key that could unlock many parts of that tangle. In other issues, like water, it could give us some broad hints about how to proceed.” Not only was he ahead of his time, his academic career was also anything but conventional. Lovins did two years of undergrad work at Harvard College, interrupted by a year’s knee repairs. Afterwards, he transferred to Magdalen College, Oxford, as a graduate student, nominally in physics, then after two years he became a Junior Research Fellow of Merton College. He only completed two of the three years of that fellowship before the aforementioned disagreement over the importance of studying energy came up. It prompted his move to London in 1971, where his intended stay of a year or two grew to a decade, “cross-pollinating the energy grapevine across the Atlantic.” As a result, his Oxford master’s degree was by virtue of

being a don, and his 12 doctorates are honourary. “I got a good education, despite the overly specialized institutions,” he says. “I’m a recovering experimental physicist with a fairly coherent but unconventional education in physical sciences, plus a parallel track that went chronologically: music, classics, maths, linguistics, law, medicine and mountain photography – then I began to diversify.” Since then he’s taught at 10 universities, but only subjects he’s never studied, he says, “so as to retain a beginner’s mind.” His diverse background has served him well. 1982, Lovins co-founded Rocky Mountain Institute with his then-wife, L. Hunter Lovins (the pair divorced in 1999 after 20 years of marriage). They founded the think-and-do tank to “drive the efficient and restorative use of resources,” Lovins explains. “The larger vision the institute pursues is a world thriving, verdant and secure, for all, for ever – “for ever” is two words by the way, I learnt that from the South African Constitution.” RMI began as a solution to a problem the Lovinses encountered when they moved back to the U.S. from London: There weren’t any companies they were excited to work for. “We knew we wanted to gather a handful of colleagues so we could be more effective than just a mom-and-pop [business],” says Lovins. “At the time, we couldn’t think of a private sector or public sector or public benefit outfit that we would really want to work for – that’s no doubt improved since – so our choice, therefore, was to start a small, entrepreneurial non-profit to contain our expanded activities.” The institute was originally based out of the Lovinses’ home in Old Snowmass, Colo. (Hunter Lovins left the institute in 2002). “The house was the incubator for RMI in its first 18 years and still occasionally hosts special functions for the institute. It’s also had, as of a decade ago, over 100,000 visitors because it’s one of the most efficient and integratively designed buildings anywhere,” explains Lovins. The curve-shaped house


Amory Lovins is shown outside his home in Snowmass, Colorado. The 380-square-metre home is a net energy positive passive building and functioned as the original headquarters for the Rocky Mountain Institute for its first 18 years.

winter 2016

is about 380 square-metres, and is a net energy positive passive building. Lovins completed the energy and conceptual design in 1982, and moved into the house in 1984. Located at 2,200 metres of elevation in the Rocky Mountains, the house is built to handle Colorado’s temperamental weather – temperatures can drop as low as –44 degrees Celsius, with as many as 39 continuous days of cloud cover. The building originally used 99 per cent passive solar heat and got the remaining one per cent from a couple of wood stoves. “The savings on the space heat was more than paid for up front, with US$1,100 left over through the capital cost saved by eliminating the heating system. The engineering textbooks say to insulate your house in a cold climate only as much as will repay the extra cost from the saved heating fuel. This is methodologically wrong because it leaves out the capital cost of the heating equipment. We used upwards of twice the insulation required by local building standards,” says Lovins, “eliminated all that kit, reinvested the saved construction cost to save 99 per cent of the water-heating energy, half the water, and 90 per cent of the household electricity, and achieved a 10-month payback on all the savings.” When Lovins renovated the house six years ago, he decommissioned the two wood stoves. “Now, we have no place left to burn obsolete energy studies, as we used to,” he jokes. “We replaced that one per cent backup with an active solar system. I cast radiant coils into the floor slabs in 1983 in case we ever needed them, so in 2009, hooked up those coils to the solar water heating system, whose size we doubled. Now, the last one per cent of space heating is active solar and we do no combustion – that’s so 20th century.” The house is laid out in an unconventional style, with two small bedrooms and one bathroom up a few stairs, and a utility room in the back behind the entrance foyer. As you go east, you’ll find a large kitchen and a shared living/dining room that doubles as a space for entertaining guests. In the middle of the house lies an 85 square-metre tropical jungle. At the moment, it’s filled with six banana trees (one bearing his 59th banana crop), but he’s also grown papayas, figs, passionfruit, mangoes and >


grapes. Behind this tropical oasis are four round spaces – an office, bathroom, reading nook and lazy Susan for storage. There’s also a 120-square-metre library and research centre – the home of RMI from 1982 till 2000. This quiet room is where Lovins still does all of his serious writing. His home doubles as a gallery for both his work and that of his wife Judy, a fine-art landscape photographer. The house is a net exporter of energy, even after providing enough juice for the house and an electric car. “I’m probably the only member of the National Petroleum Council driving a battery electric car whose licence plate says ‘Off Oil’ – and that’s not aspirational, that’s done,” notes Lovins. “Never having built a house before, I didn’t know that what we were trying to do was impossible – and that made it possible.”




Colo., RMI is finishing up its new 1,450 square-metre innovation centre. The building combines a 50-person office with a studio that can convene up to 80 people for events. “That building is also passive, with no central heating or cooling equipment,” says Lovins. “Like our house, it will be hooked up to work with or without the grid. The building will be every kind of green you can think of, and it’s quite beautiful. It’s designed by ZGF in Portland, Ore. We have a 20square-metre conference room that we’ll label something like ‘The room formerly known as the mechanical room before we designed out the mechanical systems.’ ” Although RMI’s Innovation Centre is a new building, the Institute also looks at ways to save energy in older buildings. “Deep retrofit is our term for radical energy and resource savings in existing buildings, typically large commercial buildings, and preferably done at the time when you’re touching the building anyway to renew the facade or the mechanicals or something else that is expensive to touch,” explains Lovins, citing for details. He has worked on many major deep retrofits, the best known being the half-billion-dollar renovation on the Empire State Building. “We were asked to lead the conceptual design of the retrofit that ended up saving two-fifths of the energy with a three-year payback,” says Lovins. “The key was first to remanufacture onsite, in a temporary window factory set up on a vacant floor, all 6,514 double glazing units. They were remade into super windows that insulated about four times better and were almost perfect at letting in light without heat. That, plus improvements in the lights, day lighting, lighting controls, insulation and terminal air systems reduced the peak cooling load by one-third. This let us renovate smaller chillers instead of adding bigger chillers. That saved US$17.4 million of capital costs, paying for most of those efficiency gains and reducing the payback to just three years. If we had counted the non-energy benefits to

the owner or tenants, the payback would have been well under one year,” says Lovins. “It was considered magical at the time because a large energy service company using the usual disintegrated design was offering a three year payback but saving only seven per cent of the energy, not 38, as we ended up doing by using integrative design that optimizes the whole building as a system instead of isolated components. That 38 per cent was thought to be quite good until three years later, when our team did another deep retrofit in Denver.” That project resulted in a 70 per cent savings. “It was quite a tough building. It was historically listed, faced the wrong way, and needed, among other things, complete asbestos remediation and federal blast resistance retrofit.Yet with a very creative team, it still ended up saving 70 per cent,” says Lovins. “That made it more efficient than the most efficient new office in the United States, which had been put up in 2010 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., with cost comparable to or a bit lower than offices nearby.” Lovins has been a leader in proving to corporations that energy efficiency isn’t a roadblock to profit. “One of the things that has been really impressive about his approach is that Amory has always been very business friendly,” says architect Victor Olgyay, a principal in RMI’s Buildings program. “He understands that energy efficiency is inherently profitable. By showing businesses how they can make money by incorporating energy efficiency as the first fuel, as the first approach before we go to renewables, he has shaped the way that industry moves and that has now become commonplace. Motivating industry in that way has become a standard way of discussing things, which probably would not have happened without him.” In the 33 years it has operated, RMI has not only worked on some amazing projects but has also grown dramatically. In 2014, the non-profit group Carbon War Room merged with RMI. The combined company now has about 165 employees and offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colo., plus New York City, Washington, D.C., and Beijing. “Carbon War Room still maintains its separate brand identity, theory of change, programmes, and ways of doing things, but we are a merged organization with a single CEO, board and set of books, and with strong synergies – which is why we did it,” explains Lovins, who remains the institute’s chief scientist and chairman emeritus. “Carbon War Room is a younger, smaller organization that was particularly strong on finance and entrepreneurship, complementing RMI’s technical strength. CWR tended to make short, sharp, tactical interventions and was very good at drawing attention to its successes. RMI tends to be more low-key and play a long game, making transformational changes over

The RMI’s new innovation centre will house a combined 50-person office and a studio to hold events.

decades in very big, complex systems.” The companies also share a common mission. “We are both strongly committed to market-based and technologically informed transformation towards a clean, prosperous, and energy-conscious future. CWR is particularly committed to, and measures its success by, gigatonne-scale reductions in carbon emissions. RMI shares that commitment and a broad appeal based on motives beyond climate, such as improving competitiveness, prosperity and security,” says Lovins. “It’s a very good marriage. It’s been working out very well. We’re learning from each other in many ways, and since our activities are intensively cross-pollinated, I think the mutual learning has accelerated and deepened efforts for both.”


winter 2016

RMI, his fingerprints remain on the company he co-founded, says his friend and colleague of more than 25 years, Marty Pickett. “As a founder, his values are in our DNA. A lot of the culture still is from Amory’s being such a profound leader in the organization for so many years,” says Pickett, a managing director and general counsel at RMI. “The building where RMI was started was actually his residence. It was built keeping in mind that there would be nine to 12 staff working at all times, probably young interns, staff rotating through the organization. We’ve grown dramatically since, but some of the things that have remained are the culture of having internships, where young, smart people come through on an annual basis and add to that intellectual capacity. We certainly have many more middle and senior levels now but internships are still a major part of our organization.” Lovins notes that those interns provide some of the best permanent staff, and that RMI just promoted a one-time intern to managing director. Lovins also gave birth to RMI’s systems-oriented approach. “He is holistic. We’re really systems oriented at RMI. That does come from Amory,” says Olgyay. “He has a lot of understanding of different subject areas and he takes an interdisciplinary approach.

In that way, it builds a much more complete image of what things are like – the whole is more than the sum of the parts. I think that’s something that Amory always strives to understand.” He has inspired others at RMI to become their own leaders, says Pickett, and he remains extremely influential in multiple industries. “Amory really has been active at the nexus of energy, resources, environment, security, economy – because that is the way he thinks, not in silos but with everything interrelated and integrated – in more than 50 countries since the late 1960s, when he says he realized that energy was a master key in solving those other big problems,” explains Pickett. “He’s been a real change agent in the design and efficiency of automobiles and trucks. He’s had a great influence over transportation because of the way that he was so ahead in thinking in that industry in thinking about lightweight, aerodynamic, alternative school vehicles.” Born in 1947, Lovins is around the age most people retire. However, he doesn’t appear to have any intentions of stopping anytime soon. It’s no surprise, as he is known for his dedication to his work. “It’s indescribable, really. He lives and breathes his work. He considers it his life’s work so he takes it very seriously. He’s brilliant and he’s serious about change. He spends every possible opportunity convincing someone, influencing someone, marketing, speaking, presenting. It really is the way he has organized his life around his work.You get emails from Amory at all hours of the day, 24-7,” says Pickett. Energy efficiency is truly Lovins’s passion, confirms Olgyay. “It’s something that consumes him, in a way, and I think that’s not in a bad way. It’s not like he is obsessive, per se, but he is very diligent and he perseveres. If he has something on his mind, he tends to always have that on his mind until he completes what he is working on, whether it’s a magazine article or a piece of analysis. His work ethic is almost a lifestyle, in a way. He really thinks these things through and he’ll work on it a lot. Not that it interferes with his home life, because he and Judy seem very happy together and I think that they have a lovely time outside of work. But, within his work ethic, he sits down and that’s what he does. He loves to work and takes his time.” As for Lovins, whether he chooses to retire soon or not, he can look back on his career, his multiple awards and his legacy at RMI and know he has had a huge influence on multiple industries and lives. “He’s like an intellectual gardener – he cultivates ideas, sows seeds, waters certain areas,” says Olgyay. “And, in this way, he’s not the one growing all the ideas but he’s helping the garden grow. By doing that, he gets the best out of everyone in the institute and even beyond the institute by engaging in this very broad way across many different ideas.” re


room of their own


From a creative curtain wall system to an adult slide, two reimagined interior projects mix professional and recreational spaces

By Elizabeth Daniels and Veronique Arsenau




veryone loves a good parti: especially the design team at Reimagine Interiors by Manasc Isaac. This word boils down to what makes a project successful. Our integrated process starts with charettes, or collaborative conversations that are part of the process of discovery. Our starting-point questions include: “What is it about this client that sets it apart from another? What can our client bring to the design that will make the reimagined space amazing?” Our designer then identifies a “thing” that will drive the design – the central idea or story. This is a parti: an idea that weaves throughout the process, influencing everything from the space organization to the finishing touches. The site, the client, the program or even the way that light enters the space could inspire a project’s parti. Sometimes an abstract or loose idea to begin with, the parti becomes more concrete and focused as the space is established. Once defined, the parti and the client’s needs are integrated into a project development strategy, which sets the timeline, scale and details for the project. As the

strategy is implemented, the design begins to take shape, both theoretically and tangibly. Project development is an iterative process and one of trial and error, and refinement. As a result, the design may start off in one direction only to veer in another, as it improves towards the final stages of design and construction.

The ongoing conversation between the client team and the design team, which steers the direction, is supported by active illustration. Our 3-D model changes “in the room” as we discuss the requirements. When all team members, including architects, interior designers, consulting engineers and clients are able to see the

same image in real time, the clarity of the design emerges. Ferguson Glass has been pushing the envelope in construction for more than 40 years. An integrated organization specializing in curtain wall and glazing systems, it is known for its innovation and skill, and has become a leader in their industry. Ferguson’s work is

LEFT/BELOW - The Ferguson example demonstrates how the site, the client, the program or even the way that light enters the space could inspire a project’s parti.

ABOVE - A cross-section of the Ferguson interior shows its colour.

ANOTHER RECENT INTERIOR experience is our new office space for Myntex. One of the largest mobile encrypted communications providers in Canada, Calgary-based Myntex specializes in personal and small business solutions. To Myntex, the future is fun and exciting, and its staffers needed a space that reflected that while still maintaining a professional culture. The Myntex office was designed around the employees and their needs, as the office doesn’t have many client visits. When the company purchased >

winter 2016


characterized by the most challenging and complex integrated curtain walls projects in Western Canada, including Calgary’s South Hospital, Devonian Gardens and its new Central Library. When Ferguson Glass came to Manasc Isaac to reimagine an existing building into a new and fun office space, it was clear that their intention was to showcase what they could do in both workmanship and quality, unequivocally telling clients what the company is capable of. The Ferguson Glass team issued us a mandate: “challenge us!” Ferguson’s ambition to strive for quality and innovation informed the project’s parti, which we call “The Beehive of Tomorrow.” For Ferguson Glass, client involvement emerged as one of the most exciting components of the project since the company was behind the creation of its new office

space. The designers at Manasc Isaac collaborated with the Ferguson team on pushing their curtain wall systems to create amazing patterns filled with vibrant colours and shapes. There was also a desire to showcase the existing building’s sense of history. By exposing the ceiling plenum and integrating the building’s structure into the design, the proposed space boasts a greater sense of scale and openness. Working together, Ferguson Glass and Manasc Isaac Architects were able to conceptualize a new style for how the Ferguson team works. Engaging a design approach called activity-based-working (ABW), we identified a variety of spaces for the three C’s of concentration, collaboration and chatter. The Ferguson team expressed a desire to add some fun shared spaces, while maintaining individual workspaces where efficiency could thrive. Using a mix of different types of spaces allows for flexibility within the work environment and an environment custom tailored for how the team at Ferguson wanted to work. This progressive shift in work style encourages Ferguson’s team to remain natural, vibrant and lively.


room of their own

LEFT/BELOW - The Myntex example demonstrates how sometimes an abstract or loose idea to begin with, the parti becomes more concrete and focused as the space is established.



its new, 4,300-square-foot space, it identified two primary uses: an office space for management, sales, marketing and programming; and a data centre, which emerged as a strong consideration in the design. The size of the data centre mandated its placement in the space. Rather than hiding such a key aspect of Myntex’s business, we located the data

centre near the entrance, to allow for easy access and to showcase the area. The idea of data guided the project, influencing the lighting layout and wall murals. Ultimately, being in the Myntex office is meant to feel like you are in a big computer. This dichotomy of the professional world they existed in and the recreational one they desired led to a tongue-

in-cheek “mullet” parti: business in the front and party in the back. We designed the project to be an adult playground for all those who are still kids at heart. The new Myntex office now includes both an espresso bar and an adult-sized slide. Visually, the primary goal for the space was to keep it as playful as possible. Bright colours and graphics fill the walls

to encourage worker creativity and energy. Allowing for future growth, the spaces within the Myntex office had to be as flexible as possible. The layout includes several collaboration spaces and constructive chatter spaces, allowing for work that feels like play. Open workspaces encourage the communication and sharing of ideas while also creating a space of trust and transparency. Ferguson Glass and Myntex are two different projects, but for both, integrated client involvement led to designs that are collaborative, unique and delightful. Working together and learning from each other, both parties have authorship. It is through the many drafts and workshops that we discover new solutions to accommodate the surprising needs of tomorrow’s workplaces. In design, not knowing everything is the best part. re

material world


A revamp of the Alesia theatre in Paris will help amplify the movie-going experience for its patrons

By Jen Janzen



renovation, the venue traded in its blue exterior for a more toned-down beige version. Through all of these reinventions, the Alesia’s exterior retained its shape, its 25-metre facade stubbornly calling back to the 1950s even as the buildings around it changed and >

winter 2016

ocated in the centre of Paris, France, the Alesia theatre is undergoing a rejuvenation that will not only recreate the physical space the theatre occupies but also breathe new life into the cinematic experience. Owned by Gaumont-Pathé group, the Alesia was built in 1921 under the name MontrougePalace and was then a one-screen theatre with 2,800 seats and an orchestra pit. The structure was made of reinforced concrete, which, Manuelle Gautrand, principal of Manuelle Gautrand Architecture, says represented a daring and modern approach to architecture. “Until the beginning of the 20th century,” Gautrand explains, “concrete was used most of the time for pipes and industrial buildings.” She adds that many architects would have scoffed at the idea of building a theatre out of reinforced concrete, preferring the material for utilitarian buildings rather than cultural landmarks. After the 1900s, though, “reinforced concrete began to be used by modern architects as a new approach.” This isn’t the first major renovation the Alesia will see. It’s been through several transformations, first in 1951 with a new 2,000-seat cinema and again in 1973 when its named was changed to GaumontSud and the rooms were sized down to create a total of four movie screens. A decade later, the building was again rejigged to offer seven cinemas. Under the name Gaumont-Alesia, the building sported a new blue facade with enormous, jaunty clapboard affixed beneath the name. In 2004, during its last


material world

TOP - Seating in the rooms will be bleacher style, in small amphitheatres. BOTTOM - The theatre before its reimagining.



modernized. Something had to be done, explains Gautrand. “The theatre is implanted on a very commercial street, and the old boutiques have progressively been replaced by brand new shops or restaurants with modern equipment and facades,” she says, adding that the muted tones of the exterior also looked a bit bland. “In this environment, the Alesia theatre as it was looked a bit outdated.” In 2011, the Gaumont-Pathé group decided to completely reinvent the Alesia to not only improve the quality of the movie-going experience but also create an enticing space that, on the outside, captured the imaginations of passersby and, on the inside, lit up the eyes of its customers and created a sense of movement and discovery all throughout the theatre. The company operates many theatres in France – 16 in Paris alone – and is working on reconstructing many of them. The theatres are often “installed on magnificent sites but suffering from a sometimes dated image,” according to a press package about the project, created by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture. The goal, then, is to create not only a movie theatre, but a cultural space that is lively during both the day and at night and able to mix film with other cultural programs. “The image of the movie theatre in the city must be totally renewed,” the company says. Construction on the €12-million project began in 2014. The new vision for the theatre: eight movie screens with a total of 1,380 seats in a 5,000-square-metre space. The rooms will be assembled in a way “where the rooms intertwine, one next to the other, in an elaborate puzzle,” says the press kit. Seating inside the rooms will be bleacher-style, in small amphitheatres. The shape of the bleachers will be visible from underneath, and the stair motif will continue into the other spaces, encouraging guests to circulate through the public space. The screening rooms themselves will have excellent acoustics and high-quality images, but the facade will be the crowning glory of the Alesia theatre. Dressed in a transparent screen made of thousands of tiny LEDs, the facade will broadcast images on the front and the back. “It was a wish to have the public wandering into the atrium,” Gautrand says of the unique design element, “having at the same time a view on the street with a moderate visibility and a view on the facade with the LEDs illuminating the inside with soft light.” The facade is made of 12 vertical panels. “Each thread is supporting several facets, successively oriented upwards or downwards,” explains the Manuelle Gautrand Architecture press release. The transparent screen uses LEDs of varying density, with the highest-density LEDs at the centre of the screen, the image becoming lighter as it gets closer to the edges of the facade. In the

centre of the screen, the panels are glazed and covered with bars of LEDs while on the edges of the facade, the panels are built of metal cladding to make them opaque. Then they’re either covered with the same LED-coated bars as the middle of the panel, or just pleated to “reproduce the rhythm of the LEDs.” Gautrand says she wanted the building to be more than a place to display movie posters. “This is why I decided to make the whole building a screen,” she explains. “Not a screen you

The fluid nature of the design will be reflected in the way guests reach the upper-story projection spaces, going through walkways, footbridges and escalators that take the audience through different mezzanines, all in a three-storey atrium that connects the floors and allows guests to see the spaces below and above them, as well as the street.


their soft light from the outside,” she says. “I wanted to give importance to this part of the theatre which is, according to me, as important as the projection rooms by themselves.” As per City of Paris requirements, the new building will consume a smaller amount of energy than its predecessor. The LEDs are low-energy lights and an energy-efficient heating and cooling system will be installed. The building isn’t set to open until spring of 2016, but Gautrand says reactions to the redevelopment have been positive. “The neighbours have been impressed to see the old concrete arches that dated the first cinema in 1921. The renewed attention for this building was really enjoyable to observe,” she says, noting that many people have been taking pictures of the project and sharing the images on social media. For Gautrand, as well as the Gaumont-Pathé Group, reinventing the Alesia theatre was never just about providing a place to watch movies. “I wanted to make this cinema an exceptional cultural site,” Gautrand says. “This project had to be highly visible on the street and very attractive. The whole building is a tribute to the art of the cinema.” re

winter 2016

can see in projection rooms, but a screen in a poetic way.” Inside the building, an LED-covered canopy will also broadcast images and animations. “I wanted to make the audience feel like they are going inside the image as they enter the building,” Gautrand says. The building is accessible via a hallway that extends from one side of the building to the other. Depending on what side of the building the guests enter, they’ll either see the ticket office and machines or a place to purchase snacks and drinks. On the other side of the entrance lie the paths to the screening rooms, going either upstairs or downstairs. The fluid nature of the design will be reflected in the way guests reach the upperstory projection spaces, going through walkways, footbridges and escalators that take the audience through different mezzanines, all in a three-storey atrium that connects the floors and allows guests to see the spaces below and above them, as well as the street. Gautrand says her favourite part of the design is the new atrium. “It is a meeting place, almost a space of leisure by itself. It will be quite a magical space, with the LEDs projecting


public eye

REUSE IT OR LOSE IT Adapting aging non-residential building stock yields viable affordable housing options for Canadians By Richard White




s cities and towns across Canada age and evolve, old buildings become outdated or are no longer needed for their original purpose. Neighbourhoods also change – what was once a warehouse or industrial district near downtown becomes a trendy upscale place to live. What was the wrong side of the tracks is now the right side, and low-income housing is being replaced by upscale homes, making affordable housing scarce. As Canadian cities and towns today evolve and face the question of how to provide affordable housing for their residents, they are increasingly looking to nonresidential stock to fill the void. There are several advantages to converting non-residential buildings into housing says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. CMHC studies identify seven advantages of converting non-residential buildings into housing over building new, including lower construction costs; faster delivery of housing; less resistance from neighbours; an opportunity for historical preservation and neighbourhood revitalization; and environmental friendliness, when taking into account the reuse of materials and parts of the building, itself. The key barriers to conversion, from CMHC’s perspective, may include difficulty in obtaining traditional financing, additional time needed for design, delays with land use changes and building permit approval. There is also the potential for expensive environmental cleanup, loss of community

employment and unexpected construction problems. But clearly it’s an avenue worth pursuing in spite of the obstacles, and funding is available to make it happen. “CMHC provides provinces and territories with funds through the Investment in Affordable Housing program, which gives them the flexibility to invest in affordable housing programs and initiatives to meet local housing needs and priorities,” says Karine LeBlanc, CMHC media relations officer. These initiatives, according to LeBlanc, can include new construction, PHOTO COURTESY REVERA PROPERTIES

LEFT Regina’s Rennaissance Retirement Residence BELOW Penthouse at the New Cambridge Lofts

into apartments. Meanwhile, warehouses and factories are suitable choices for open-concept live-work spaces.

As Canadian cities and towns today evolve and face the question of how to provide affordable housing for their residents, they are increasingly looking to non-residential stock to fill the void.


THE DUTCH STUDY’S AUTHORS CONCLUDED success factors for the conversion of offices to residential buildings included low purchasing price, adaptable floor plans, government subsidies, and the better likelihood of purchase and conversion by housing associations that, in general, work with long-term investment scenarios. According to the authors, a municipality may use several approaches to encourage the conversion of non-residential buildings for the purpose of affordable housing. These approaches include adopting flexible zoning policies such as those for mixed-use developments and live-work spaces, and allowing residential conversions as a permitted or conditional

winter 2016

renovation, home ownership assistance, rent supplements, shelter allowances, and accommodations for victims of family violence. While there are no specific limitations on which nonresidential buildings may be converted for residential use, certain building types lend themselves more easily to conversion – old schools, hospitals, offices, motels and hotels can all be converted

ONE OF THE MOST OBJECTIVE AND COMPREhensive studies of the feasibility of converting non-residential buildings into housing was conducted in 2014 in Europe. The research, Adaptive Reuse of Office Buildings: Opportunities and Risks of Conversion to Housing, looked at 15 buildings in the Netherlands, all of which were office building conversions to housing. The study cited the preservation of the heterogeneity of architecture in a neighbourhood and a better load-bearing capacity as advantages when renovating office buildings. In most cases, additional floors could even be added to improve the economic feasibility of the project. The study also identified the reuse of a vacant or derelict building and the consequential diversity being added to the housing inventory of the community, which attracts new and diverse residents as positives. Design challenges identified in the study showed that older buildings don’t meet modern building codes, and that residential buildings require more vertical shafts for electricity, water and plumbing than office buildings. Other challenges cited were that many older buildings lack parking, green space and balconies – attributes which can help create attractive residential buildings. In addition, their low ceilings don’t allow for the higher ceilings that are the norm in modern residential development today.


public eye

use in appropriate commercial or industrial zones. Other municipality-led initiatives include undertaking an inventory of vacant public and privately owned buildings that may be suitable for conversion and notifying affordable housing providers about publicly owned, non-residential buildings that are suitable for conversion and offering these buildings to such providers on favourable terms. Critical to successful adaptive reuse projects is providing technical assistance from building inspectors and planners to groups interested in converting non-residential buildings into affordable housing. And finally, providing tax exemptions, fee exemptions, waivers, reductions and grants offer other effective financial incentives.



THERE ARE MANY EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL conversions in Western Canada. In early 2005, Regina’s Derrick Building was an abandoned City-owned, five-storey office building, unoccupied for 15 years. By late 2006, it was transformed into a seven-storey seniors’ residence with a mix of market and affordable units.The conversion of the building into the Renaissance Retirement Residence was carried out by a private company with support from all three levels of government. The project budget was $14.5 million (or $92,357/door), financed through private investment, mortgage financing and $2.1 million from Canadian Association Heritage Professionals ($1.05 million from CMHC and $845,000 from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation). In addition, the City of Regina provided a five-year property tax exemption, valued at $211,000 as the project supported the City of Regina’s priorities of downtown revitalization and conversion of nonresidential buildings into affordable housing. The architectural firm of Alton Tangedal designed the converted building. Structural analysis showed that it would be possible to add two more storeys to the five-storey building, thus improving the feasibility of the project. The conversion retained the shell but fully gutted the interior, creating a total of 157 units (comprised of 104 studio suites, 42 one-bedrooms and 11 two-bedrooms). In addition, there are two floors of common amenities. The main floor has a lounge and reception area, while the downstairs has a large recreation area complete with a theatre, library and dance floor. In addition, outside there is an 800-square-metre deck with gardens that the residents help maintain. There are only 25 parking spaces for residents. A priority for new and repaired government-assisted housing under the Canadian Association of Heritage

Professionals (CAHP) is improved energy efficiency to contribute to a greener environment and to lower costs for residents. This was achieved at the Renaissance Retirement Residence by incorporating 30 solar panels on the roof as well as a system of geothermal wells with 54 boreholes to a depth of close to 150 metres. The integration of these two systems maximizes the seasonal efficiency of heating and hot water for the building. The government assistance enabled 80 of the 157 units to be offered as affordable accommodation with optional assisted living services, renting at around 25 per cent below market rates. The Renaissance has been highly successful and currently has a long waiting list for residents. Edmonton, Alberta, saw the conversion of many former office towers in the city’s downtown core through the early 2000s. Kickstarting a revitalization of the neighbourhood, these office-to-residential conversions brought residents (and all the amenities that residents require) into an area that fell underappreciated during the 80s and 90s. New Cambridge Lofts is a reuse success story that continues to build momentum. The 18-floor tower was completed in 1968 and functioned as ahigh-end modern office building but fell vacant during the 90s. In 2002, it was transformed into a condo complex and is home to over 200 units, including a striking Rubik’s Cube of a penthouse designed by Vivian Manasc, principal architect at Manasc Isaac. ON SALT SPRING ISLAND, A POPULAR RESORT AREA in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, a 27-affordable units housing complex was created by the conversion of an unused fish plant gifted by long-term residents the Murakami family. The capital cost was $5,037,150 (or $186,561/door), back in 2008. Murakami Gardens would never have happened without CMHC-provided seed funding and proposal development funding of $31,000, plus $648,000 in Rental Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program monies. The Ministry of Housing and Social Development provided $1.8 million in interim construction financing and one-time grants totalling $1,312,000. The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, through Community Action on Energy Efficiency (CAEE), provided $15,000 towards energy upgrading. The Murakami family provided $442,412 in land equity and a forgivable loan of $200,000, while Salt Spring Island resident John Lefebvre provided a $500,000 interest-free loan for construction. The Capital Regional District provided $324,000 in Regional Housing Trust funding. Salt Spring Island

Welland Mills Centre in the Niagara Region of Ontario

The value to the environment of adapting existing buildings rather than demolishing them is huge. And, there is no replacing the inherent value of retaining and reimagining older buildings.

Community Services contributed $110,000 cash and $104,738 in-kind donations. Finally, the Real Estate Foundation provided $50,000, while the Islands Trust approved zoning allowing for a higher-than- normal density. Murakami Gardens has been considered an overwhelming success since day one.


winter 2016

ANOTHER EXAMPLE IS THE WELLAND MILLS CENTRE, an imaginative reuse of an old stone flour mill building located on a 16-acre historic landmark site in downtown Thorold, Ontario. The building was converted into an 18-unit affordable housing development for singles and seniors by Keefer Developments Ltd. with finance help from the City and Region. To improve affordability of the project, the City waived $40,392 in development charges and provided $237,633 in municipal grants, while the Region of Niagara waived $47,880 in development charges. With further funding from the Ontario government and the feds, as well as a $100,000 developer contribution, the Welland Mills Centre was built. Completed in 2006, the total cost of the project was $2.2 million (or $122,222/ door) and it continues to serve its community well.

WHILE THERE ARE MANY EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL reuse of old buildings, some architects, engineers and developers caution adaptive reuse is not a slam-dunk every time. It is not a panacea for old neighbourhoods and it comes with risks, costs and compromises. The structure represents about 20 per cent (or less) of the value of a building and the cladding (or skin) may be another 20 per cent. So the potential savings of reimagining an older building versus a new facility are generally about 30 per cent. This 30 per cent savings can be eaten up by the challenges inherent in fitting residential uses into a commercial or historical space and by the cost of renovation versus new construction. On the other hand, the value to the environment of adapting existing buildings rather than demolishing them is huge. And, there is no replacing the inherent value of retaining and reimagining older buildings. Indeed it is clear from the three Canadian case studies that the significant subsidies available, as well as benefits of heritage preservation and community pride are the key factors in adaptive reuse of old buildings into affordable housing. Where there is a will, there is a way. re


what’s trending


A Seventh Street Lofts reimagine study seeks to preserve the condo complex’s history while giving it a sustainable future

By Kent McKay




eventh Street Lofts is a gem of a historical condo complex in the warehouse district of Edmonton. The building’s former iteration as a warehouse gave it great bones: exposed timbers, vintage brickwork and high ceilings. Designed by Dub Architects and consisting of three distinct buildings, Phase 2 of the project was added in 2005 joining an existing 1929 brick warehouse and 1950s yellow brick warehouse. This current phase feels both industrial and modern and was designed to convey a sense of transparency and openness, articulated by expanses of translucent glass. The condo board for Phase 2 invited Manasc Isaac’s reimagine team to create a long-term vision, a reimagine report on how to make the building more sustainable for the future. This report not only addresses a building’s “must do” tasks, but also a number of “should do” tasks, as well as the team’s favourites, the “nice to do” ideas. These “nice to do” options inspire building owners to consider what could be, pushing innovation, design and

technology to the next level. They also allow the Manasc Isaac team’s designers to flex their reimagine muscles, encouraging the team to develop an authentic outsidethe-box reconceptualization of the existing structure. For the Seventh Street Lofts, the most intriguing concept that Manasc Isaac suggested is adding an “umbrella” over the entire building, in the form of a green roof, filled with planting or vegetable gardens for the condo’s residents to enjoy. Beneath the green roof, the existing structure would become a rooftop patio,

another benefit for condo occupants to enjoy. Skylights would be punched into the green roof portion, allowing the covered rooftop patio to be day-lit. In addition to looking fantastic, the green roof “umbrella” would serve a functional purpose, extending the life of the roof membrane by protecting it from the elements and simultaneously protecting balconies against problematic water penetration. As of fall 2015, work is already proceeding on the “must do” components of the Seventh Street Lofts reimagine study. Admittedly,

some of the more visionary suggestions from reimagine studies inevitably wind up on the cutting room floor of the studio, but concepts like an “umbrella” green roof for the Seventh Street Lofts are still important. They help to inspire the community to conceptualize what life could be like: a more sustainable, beautiful future – and they keep our architects, engineers and other members of the reimagine team at their sharpest. Who knows – in another decade’s time, Seventh Street Lofts may very well be singing in the rain, sheltered by a green roof umbrella. re RENDERING MANASC ISAAC

quick wins

LOFTY IMPROVEMENTS Condo conversion makes the most of high ceilings and wall space aplenty with a splash of public art By Kent McKay


Within one week, the blank wall had evolved into a vibrant, whimsical art piece containing the neighbourhood’s most iconic landmarks, from the Muttart Conservatory to the Low Level Bridge.

he used as inspiration for the mural. Within one week, the blank wall had evolved into a vibrant, whimsical art piece containing the neighbourhood’s most iconic landmarks, from the Muttart Conservatory to the Low Level Bridge. Make no mistake – despite the mural’s reasonable cost and quick delivery, the New Cambridge Lofts’ space has been transformed, proving that you can exercise your reimagination on a budget that’s tight on time and money. re

winter 2016

ou don’t need buckets of cash and extended timelines to reimagine a space. In fact, simple gestures are sometimes the most effective. A recent transformation of a condo lobby space proves that with a little creativity, a small reimagine can go a long way. The New Cambridge Lofts is a former office tower located in Edmonton’s downtown core. Built in the 1960s, the tower was converted into residential lofts. The condo developer was not keen on details, and since the renovation budget was limited, some of the resulting finishes in the residential spaces’ common areas left much to be desired. Over the years, the New Cambridge Lofts condominium corporation has chipped away at the list of improvements the building community wanted to see, renovating nearly all of the tower’s lobbies. Perhaps the most striking change at the New Cambridge Lofts is its most recent: an expansive, colourful mural painted on the back lobby wall on the main floor. Over the years, this wall had seen a lot of abuse; the back hallway of the lobby is where move-ins and move-outs take place, which led to myriad dents, bumps, marks and scratches in the drywall. To reimagine the wall, the condo board first removed the layer of drywall, exposing the concrete behind. This step instantly added texture to the lobby space and simultaneously lessened the chance of damage to the wall – exposed concrete is robust, if nothing else. A few months later, it occurred to owners that this wall could be done even better. A hit of colour would make the space pop and align with the bright and energetic colour schemes found across the upper lobby floors. A quick conversation identified Edmonton artist Jason Blower as a first choice – his whimsical artwork has become increasingly popular in the city in recent years, and his ability to capture the essence of a community made his work stand out as a perfect fit. The board invited Blower to assess the wall, which he agreed would make a perfect canvas. A visit to the building’s 19th-floor penthouse yielded Blower striking views of the downtown landscape, which


higher ground


Edmonton’s aging Chateau Lacombe gets a much-needed makeover, but is it enough?

By Kent McKay




n example of modern architecture, Edmonton’s Chateau Lacombe stands tall above the city’s picturesque River Valley. Since it opened in 1966, the hotel has been a recognizable Edmonton icon on Bellamy Hill, a key gateway into the city’s downtown core. A luxe addition to Edmonton’s hotel market, the round-shaped building opened in 1966 and offered a true Swinging ’60s esthetic, even boasting a revolving fine dining restaurant atop its 24 floors of guest rooms and conference facilities. Over the years, however, the building had aged, and having changed hands a number of times since 2000, it had become clear that in order to remain an attractive option for visitors and compete with upcoming hotels, the tower would need to be reimagined. Modern buildings of the Chateau Lacombe’s generation face a grim challenge in today’s glass-tower-crazy market. First, they have fallen out of favour esthetically with the general public, which finds them cold, plain and uninviting. Second, from an operations standpoint, these towers do not offer the efficiency or amenities of a modern tower and are therefore less appealing to occupants.

The new owners of the Chateau Lacombe are aware of this fact, and have begun to reimagine the tower in a bid to make the building more comfortable and appealing, inside and out. “There are three aspects for a reimagine project,”

says Vivian Manasc, principal architect at Edmonton architectural firm Manasc Isaac. Manasc lives and works in the area of Chateau Lacombe, and she has been watching the reimagine project take shape as she passes by it daily.

“The first element is the urban context or how the building looks to the passerby,” she says. “The second aspect is the building envelope and how the building performs from an energy perspective. Finally, there is the interior

LEFT - As you can see from this in-progress image, the original tower’s muted colours have given way to highly reflective tinted glass and bright colours that are anything but 1960s. When complete, the tower’s facelift will make it all but impossible to guess its era.

shell of a relic.” The Chateau Lacombe certainly seems to fall in the latter camp. The original tower’s muted colours have given way to highly reflective tinted glass and bright colours that are anything but 1960s. When complete, the tower’s facelift will make it all but impossible to guess its era. And the changes at the Chateau Lacombe aren’t just skin deep. A comparison between the old and new portions of the tower reveals that the renovation may yield some benefits to the other elements of the reimagine approach. For one, the glazing of the tower is now highly reflective. Mike Turner, partner and engineer at Manasc Isaac, explains that this is not an exclusively esthetic consideration. “The reflective glazing on the windows will help with the energy efficiency of the building,” he says. “The electrical cooling loads will be lowered, which will help to lower operational costs.” The new windows also feature an operable section, to allow fresh air in and increase comfort for guests, and can also help to reduce the need for air conditioning across the tower’s

307 guest rooms. The interior experience for guests at the Chateau Lacombe is evolving, too. In 2015, the hotel launched the Concierge Floor, with refreshed guest rooms and lounges, marking progress toward the third aspect of the reimagine strategy. There are as many different reimagine approaches as there are creative designers – so how would Manasc Isaac’s reimagine team have approached the Chateau Lacombe renovation? “From a design perspective, I would have emphasized the verticality of the building, rather than a horizontal emphasis,” says Manasc, referring to the rectangular coloured spandrels that are the signature of the building’s retrofit. “Modern architecture is underappreciated in Edmonton, so I would have approached it with sensitivity toward the design of the building. The white vertical fins of the original building are finely proportioned and their prominence is lost in the new design.” Additional opportunities to add sustainable features could have been taken, she suggests. “You can insulate a building from the outside, or the inside, and that’s definitely

something that this renovation could address, improving the building energy performance and comfort.” Because the tower experiences different intensities of solar gain depending on the side it faces, techniques to treat each face differently could be considered, Turner says. “Instead of treating the glazing as a uniform, monolithic entity, different types of glass can be used on different faces of the building, allowing for more transparency on the north facades and more reflectivity on the south.” Debate may reveal varied perspectives on the esthetics of the transformation and thoughts on the depth at which the renovation addresses sustainability, but one benefit of the reimagine project is clear: it will inspire other building owners in the city’s core to consider reimagining their aging buildings and recapitalize their investment. The renovation of the Chateau Lacombe speaks to a growing recognition that Edmonton’s modern and brutalist building stock can be resuscitated, and that old dogs can be taught new tricks. re

winter 2016

experience, which refers to how a building’s occupants experience the space.” The Chateau Lacombe renovation project appears to target the urban design component, and sees the exposed aggregate of the tower’s original design covered by aluminum siding of various colours. Blue, white and red spandrels wrap vertically around the circular tower. Online reactions to the new tower’s look appear mixed; some feel that the refresh ushers the tower into the modern era, and others feel the transformation disrespects a classic, morphing it into a shiny barbershop pole. “There is more than one point of view on how to renovate buildings like the Chateau Lacombe,” Manasc says. “To some degree, it’s a matter of taste. Some people believe that these are structures of historical significance, heritage buildings. This point of view would argue that the appearance of the tower shouldn’t change during a renovation – just its performance. The other point of view would argue for the value of contemporary design. These people seek to create a building of today out of the


last word


Energy efficiency building retrofits are attractive investments for more than just cost savings

According to the study, How to Calculate and Present Deep Retrofit Value by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), deep energy retrofits use a variety of energy efficiency measures, not only reducing operating costs and improving the satisfaction and health of the occupants, but also helping increase sustainability leadership, reputation and risk management. RMI founder Amory Lovins had this to say about deep retrofits: “Deep retrofit is our term for radical energy and resource savings in existing buildings, typically large commercial buildings, and preferably done at the time when you’re touching the building anyway to renew the façade or the mechanicals or something else that is expensive to touch.” The following can serve as a practice guide that defines and provides guidance for real estate investors, which can be used for identifying, calculating and presenting the elements of deep retrofit value.

SALES REVENUES Higher net operating income, increased investor demand and risk reduction resulting from deep retrofits can bring sales revenue premiums.




RETROFIT RISK ANALYSIS This helps maximize value from other elements. By identifying and evaluating risks, owners can mitigate and price them.




These costs represent the initial capital investment against which future cost savings and other benefits are measured. Maintenance and insurance costs and occupancy churn rates can be reduced by deep retrofits, increasing a building’s occupied space through equipment downsizing and better use of space. These are generated when building owners are able to put a dollar value on enhanced demand after a deep retrofit, including increased rents, occupancies, absorption and tenant retention

PASSES TEST reimagine



Reimagine an Icon Prize: $15,000

Accept the Architecture 2030 Challenge to radically reduce energy consumption in the built environment. Submit your vision by February 1st for a high-performance, eco-friendly facade that rejuvenates one of New York City’s most recognized landmarks. Learn more at JURY

Fiona Cousins, Arup Billie Faircloth, Kieran Timberlake Hauke Jungjohan, Thornton Tomasetti Sameer Kumar, SHoP Areta Pawlynsky, Heintges Ben Tranel, Gensler


Challenge Your Creativity The goal of the design challenge is to use this well-known Park Avenue landmark to explore the possibilities for such alteration and the potential impact on both energy use and architectural legacy. Built a half-century ago as the world’s largest corporate structure, the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) at 200 Park Avenue in New York City initially enjoyed little praise in the architectural press. Critics found the massive brutalist structure an assault on Grand Central Terminal and an obstruction to views up and down Park Avenue. Despite this controversial beginning, the building today is firmly in the grip of nostalgia, its location atop a rail hub now the model of urban efficiency and its facade one of the most recognizable in the city. Given this legacy, it is almost understandable that, when a 2001 investigation revealed age-related defects in the facade, the principal objective was to restore it to sound condition. At the time, there was no inclination to alter its widely familiar appearance in order to harness the latest technological advances. But with the call for global energy reduction driving the Architecture 2030 Challenge, a more compelling case for this type of alteration exists today. For more information visit

The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce: presented at Greenbuild 2015 and striving toward Living Building Challenge certification.

We are Canadian leaders in net zero design, working with communities to shape healthy, beautiful and sustainable environments.


Calgary Manasc Isaac @ManascIsaac

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.