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Good design and high performance break stereotype of affordable housing

By Stephen Kopp

Located at the historic intersection of Union & Wellington streets in the heart of Saint John, The Wellington is a 6-storey mixed-use development, with ground floor commercial space and 5 upper floors containing a total of 47 affordable and market rate apartment units.

On a tight urban site, the building massing steps back in three volumes to reveal the neighbouring landmark Loyalist House, views of historic church towers on Germain Street, and the leafy maples of Queen Square in the distance. A quarried stone-clad podium level with a wood entrance wall, together with the striking glazing pattern above are aesthetic departures from the standard box that often characterizes low-cost development. In the city of Saint John 22.5% of people live in poverty.

There are many barriers to people breaking the cycle of poverty, at the heart of which is access to affordable housing. Affordable housing projects often look low-cost, resulting in residents being further ostracized by their communities. These realities reinforce acre Architects’ conviction that modern housing should encompass sustainability, affordability and accessibility, and at the same time counter the stereotype that affordability and good design are mutually exclusive.


Designed to international Passive House standards, The Wellington is the first (soon to be) PH certified affordable housing project completed in Atlantic Canada.

The building employs the main tenets of Passive House design, and while not unique in its approach, the building exceeded performance expectations during its multiple testing periods. As such, it has set an important precedent for the Maritimes.

In keeping with Passive House standards, Acre Architects created an envelope with a balance of airtight design, high insulation value, and carefully considered window details.

Beyond the base wall assembly, which achieves a min. R-value of 55 for the roof and 37 for the walls, coordination with mechanical and electrical consultants was critical to minimize penetrations through the building envelope.

Internally, the heating and cooling system for the Wellington employs a highly efficient variable refrigerant flow (VRF) design that is able to deliver simultaneous heating and cooling year round. Each suite is equipped with a wall mounted evaporator unit that is integrated into the central VRF system.

The system is able to meet the heating targets even on the coldest days of the year. On exceptionally cold days, the building is equipped with electric baseboard heaters that supplement the heating load if required.


  • OWNER/DEVELOPER Saint John Non-Profit Housing Inc.
  • ARCHITECT Acre Architects
  • GENERAL CONTRACTOR John Flood & Sons Construction
  • LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Brackish Landscape Studio
  • CIVIL ENGINEER Fundy Engineering & Consulting
  • ELECTRICAL/ MECHANICAL ENGINEER Fundy Engineering & Consulting
  • STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Blackwell Structural Engineers
  • FIRE PROTECTION RJ Bartlett Engineering Ltd.
  • PHOTOS Julien Parkinson


  • ENERGY INTENSITY (HEATING) = 6.8 KWh/m2/year
  • ENERGY INTENSITY (COOLING) = 3.2 KWh/m2/year

Gold window frame extrusion detail. High-performing windows and frames were sought, with the additional ambition of finding a thin, low-profile frame in contrast to the less elegant ‘chunky’ units often used. The window units were sealed during installation with Contega Tape from 475 High Performance Building Supply.



A first for Passive House certification

By Holly Jordan

Building NX was constructed in 1989 as the main library for Humber College, also serving as the gateway to its North Campus. When the main library and entrance moved to the Learning Resource Commons, the five-storey concrete structure became an office area for faculty.

In 2015, Humber College launched its Integrated Energy Master Plan (IEMP) a long-term strategy designed to achieve 50% reductions in energy and water consumption and 30% reduction in carbon emissions across all its campuses by 2034. With major deficiencies in its base building systems and building envelope, including water leakage and air infiltration, a complete retrofit of Building NX was identified as a high priority.

Typical of 1980s design and construction, Building NX featured large sections of glass block and geometric articulation of the building form.

The extensive use of glass block reduced the thermal performance of the envelope; increased interior glare, and limited prime views to the campus courtyard. A large central skylight and a protruding entrance were vulnerable to water leakage and were also major sources of heat loss.


Given these existing conditions, the design team identified the strategies necessary to achieve the desired performance goals:

  • • Replace windows and walls with high-performance assemblies
  • • Remove chamfers from building form to reduce surface area
  • • Improve roof insulation
  • • Remove and infill skylight to address thermal and water leakage
  • Internalize vestibule to minimize heat loss
  • Separate canopy from building, both structurally and thermally

Following the change of occupancy from library to office in 2015, staff quickly found that the building was drafty, and work stations experienced solar glare and uneven lighting. To address these issues, the new building envelope uses punched windows with vision glazing, lower heads, and sills raised to desk height. Larger glazed openings are used at entrances and in key common areas.

Overall, the window-to-wall ratio has been reduced from 44% to 14%, yet still provides daylight to workspaces. Additionally, the high-performance, triple-glazed units achieve a superior level of thermal comfort, introduce operable windows and re-establish the visual relationship between interior and exterior. To improve airflow, the HVAC system was upgraded to a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) with local heating and cooling and heat pumps for space conditioning.


  • BASE BUILDING = 64 kWh/m2/year
  • PROCESS ENERGY = 22kWh/m2/year


  • ARCHITECT B+H Architects
  • OWNER/DEVELOPER Humber College
  • GENERAL CONTRACTOR Bird Construction
  • STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Morrison Hershfield
  • COMMISSIONING AGENT Morrison Hershfield
  • ENERGY MODEL RDH Building Science Inc
  • BUILDING ENVELOPE Morrison Hershfield
  • PHOTOS Double Space Photo



Urban infill delivers comfort and affordable living

By Marc Thivierge

The construction of the affordable housing complex known as “Mosaïq” is part of a much larger multiblock redevelopment set in the urban core of Ottawa’s Little Italy. The program called for a significant increase in density while designing to the stringent sustainability provisions of Passive House (PHIUS).

The initial concept of a single taller passive house building evolved into a three-building scheme which eased community acceptance and made for a more resolved urban experience.

However, the budget implications meant that the passive house component had to be contained to the taller building.

Nevertheless, the townhouses are integral to the project as they are tied into the overall energy system. Excess energy from the townhouses is used to heat the larger building, and their roof surfaces also account for a large proportion of the photovoltaic array.

Super-insulated airtight building envelopes reduce utility costs significantly for the low-income tenants. A partnership with Hydro Ottawa provides carbon neutral hydro-electric power in exchange for electricity generated by the building’s large rooftop PV array.

The site is part of a large urban parcel that was developed for social housing in the 1960s. After more than 50 years, those original townhomes had reached the end of their service life. This project is the first phase of a sustainable design vision that will provide higher density affordable housing while weaving into the existing urban fabric and enhancing community life. Site design included preserving some of the site’s existing trees, maintaining 35% of the site as landscaped open space with native plants, a children’s play area, and permeable surfaces to reduce stormwater runoff.

The integration of pedestrian paths with an array of amenity spaces and activity centres provides a platform for community building and health.

These include a gym, community garden, maker room, teaching kitchen, and multipurpose rooms. With easy access to nearby bike paths, cycling is encouraged as well with the provision of generous bike storage and maintenance facilities.

The building envelope consists of continuous insulation, the elimination of thermal bridges, highperformance triple-pane windows with U-values (IP) between 0.13 and 0.145, and air sealing of exterior components to 0.08 cfm50/ft.. Fresh air is provided through balanced ventilation with heat and moisture recovery.

The building was designed with window-to-wall ratios optimized by orientation and to achieve a radiation balance that allows winter solar gain to offset heating needs; and with window reveal depths, shading elements and glazing SHGC tuned to mitigate unwanted solar gains in the summer.


  • SITE AREA 4,715 m2
  • ENERGY INTENSITY 60.6 KWhr/m2/year [Includes base building and process energy]


  • OWNER Ottawa Community Housing
  • ARCHITECT Hobin Architecture: Marc Thivierge, Doug Brooks, Gord Lorimer, Barry Hobin
  • ELECTRICAL AND MECHANICAL ENGINEER Goodkey Weedmark and Associates
  • LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT CSW Landscape Architects
  • PASSIVE HOUSE DESIGNER Prudence Ferreira
  • INTERIOR DESIGN Grant-Henley Design
  • PHOTOS 1, 2, 4, 6: Gleb Gomberg; 3: Steve Clifford, 5: Arriv Properties

Detail of windows by INLINE Fiberglass at south facade. In the event of power outages, the highperformance building envelopes would allow residents to shelter comfortably in place indefinitely, with ventilation systems remaining operational via the emergency back-up generator.

View of a lounge area. The mechanical system harvests waste heat for reuse in the buildings. Continuous fresh air ventilation is provided by two Swegon Gold RX energy recovery ventilators with MERV 13 filtration.



Creative spatial design makes for flexible living

By Allison Holden Pope

Located in an established single-family neighbourhood on the west side of Vancouver, this project takes advantage of recent zoning changes to create an energy efficient duplex, with lock-off suites, combining thermal efficiency and spatial flexibility, within an architectural expression that is both minimalist and contextual.

The project goes beyond the basic concerns of Passive House certification for energy efficiency and indoor air quality to embrace broader community issues of affordability and aging in place.

In Vancouver, where land comes at a premium, splitting the cost of land and construction between two families, while also creating income generating rental suites, made the dream of building a custom Passive House a reality for our clients. We capitalized on the City of Vancouver’s floor area incentives, which encourage Passive House construction by compensating owners for the additional space occupied by the thick envelope assemblies. These incentives increased the permissible FSR by 18%; translating into an additional 33.4m2 of useable interior floor area. This was a game changer for our clients, allowing each unit to have an additional bedroom and bathroom.

The folding roof line, like the wing of a bird in flight, is a modern take on a traditional gabled profile. The footprint of the home is continuous from foundation to roof, and incorporates a single notch in plan to create architectural interest while keeping the thermal envelope simple.

Nestled into the space created by this step-in plan, the main floor unit has a large south-facing covered front porch, featuring a Tyndall stone clad landscape wall for privacy. Above, and wrapped in the protective wing-like roof, the upper unit has a south-facing balcony. These outdoor spaces create a flow from inside to out while having a level of privacy from the street.

The planning of the duplex was an exercise in spatial optimization, as with a creative three-dimensional puzzle of interlocking pieces. The suites bend and fold around each other to maximize efficiency and create evocative volumes within the strict zoning regulations.


  • ARCHITECT  ONE SEED Architecture + Interiors
  • ONE SEED Architecture + Interiors
  • STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Timber Engineering
  • BUILDER Naikoon Contracting
  • CERTIFIER CertiPHIers Cooperative
  • LANDSCAPE DESIGN Acre Horticulture
  • PHOTOS Janis Nicolay

The duplex interior connects to the exterior through strategically placed windows and doors for ample daylight and cross-ventilation. Proclima Solitex Mento Plus from 475 High Performance Building Supply performs the dual role of water-resistant barrier and air barrier.


West 5 Office and Parking Structure

Ontario project demonstrates the possibilities of net zero in energy and carbon

By McMichael Ruth

The West 5 Office Building and parking structure is a Net-Zero energy and Net-Zero carbon project that forms an integral part of the West 5 development, Ontario’s first Net-Zero community.

The four-storey, 4180m² Class A office and commercial building and adjacent two-storey parking structure connect with surrounding existing buildings to create a self sufficient energy network. The building utilizes 876 solar panels mounted to the façade and roof, which generate more than 89 percent of the building’s required energy.

The remaining energy comes from the 1,116-panel solar canopy mounted above the 164-space parking structure.

Together, these panels generate 350 mWh of on-site electricity annually. The surplus energy from the solar canopy, which is more than 100 mWh, is fed directly back into the surrounding buildings, helping to offset their energy consumption.

The vertically mounted PV panels on the east, south and west façades of the office building maximize the amount of solar energy harvested, avoiding the snow build-up that compromises the performance of angled panels.

Panels are strategically placed between windows to preserve light and views to the outside and ensure a comfortable environment for building users. The roof-mounted equipment is also screened by carefully placed vertically mounted PV panels.

The parking structure is integrated into the sloping site and utilizes the existing grade change to provide access to both levels of the garage. The upper level supports the solar canopy which is designed without perimeter columns to create the illusion that the canopy is floating.

The use of bifacial solar modules permit natural light to pass through the panels, illuminating the garage below, while simultaneously capturing reflected light to produce solar power from the underside.

To reduce overall demand to the level where net-zero energy is achievable, the West 5 Office Building employs passive design strategies and high efficiency mechanical and electrical systems to maximize energy conservation.

LED fixtures are provided throughout for the base building, and have become the standard for tenant fit outs. The lighting system features occupancy sensing and dimming capabilities. The energy consumption for the lighting was modelled at 16.6 KWhr/m²/year.

For ventilation, the building features a dedicated outside air system, which distributes treated and filtered air to each tenant space directly. The 100 percent outside air is pretreated through a heat recovery enthalpy wheel to reduce annual energy demand. Energy is recovered from both sanitary exhaust and general exhaust to ensure maximum heat recovery.

The mechanical system is an air source Variable Refrigerant Flow system, which heats and cools the building through condensers located on the roof with distributed evaporators in the tenant spaces. The ambient air is the heat sink or the heat source throughout the year. Thermal comfort is enhanced by providing multiple control zones throughout each floor space and also within tenant areas.

The exterior is partly finished with Alcotex ACM cladding in a custom woodgrain finish and Mouse Grey installed by Ontario Panelization. 

The project is equipped with CityMulti Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) energy recovery ventilators by Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada Ltd.


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 92 KWhr/m2/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under ASHRAE 90.1 = 38 %
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 4,051 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 55%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 98%


  • ARCHITECT  Tillmann Ruth Robinson Inc
  • OWNER/DEVELOPER  Sifton Properties Limited
  • GENERAL CONTRACTOR  D. Grant Construction Limited
  • LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT  Ron Koudys Landscape Architect
  • STRUCTURAL ENGINEER  VanBoxmeer & Stranges
  • Alcotex Facade Installer  Ontario Panelization
  • PHOTOS Ginzel Photography


The Road to Resilience

In the fall of 2022, the World Green Building Council published its guide for Climate Change Resilience in the Built Environment, outlining the principles for adaptation to a changing climate, applicable at the scale of cities, communities and buildings. This article is a collection of excerpts from the WGBC guide.

The consequences of climate change such as more frequent and worsening droughts, flooding and heat waves are already posing an existential threat worldwide.

This is felt acutely in our largest cities. Cities are important in this regard, not only because it is where most people live, but also where the most impactful solutions could be implemented.

Applying adaptation solutions to our cities will ensure that the built environment continues to protect, provide for, and connect urban citizens, despite a changing climate. Proactive climate adaptation can also deliver transformative health, societal and economic benefits. Most adaptation investments serve multiple purposes and quickly provide everyday benefits for better functioning cities and resilient communities.

For instance, strengthened river embankments can be used as pedestrian walkways, cycle lanes or parks; nature-based or ‘green’ adaptation solutions that use vegetation to reduce heat, drought and flood risk also help to improve air quality, environmental conservation, and citizens’ wellbeing, as well as absorbing greenhouse gases.

Reducing the risks of disasters also improves political security and helps reduce civil unrest, hunger, and disease, contributing to a stable environment for social and economic development.

These benefits outweigh the costs of potential losses by a factor of four, on average. Some leading cities are already taking innovative action. Wuhan is promoting ecologically-friendly alternatives to traditional flood defences and drainage systems city-wide called sponge city features. These features will not only work on principles of nature-based solutions to flooding (70% of flood water retention), but also bring multiple benefits to the city including creating cooler environments and creating amenity spaces.

The 15-minutes city concept (in which all a resident’s daily needs can be met within a 15-minute walking radius) is being applied through urban planning globally, from Bogota to Paris. This is not only due to its positive impacts to local economy and life, but also improving resilience to climate shocks. Cities are also implementing various local solutions to tackle increasing Urban Heat Island (UHI) effects. Los Angeles is installing cool paving; Medellin is creating a network of Corridores Verdes (green corridors); Melbourne and Adelaide are planting urban forests; and Cape Town is introducing water sprays in public parks.

Adaptation is needed in cities now. Policy makers, industry and wider stakeholders can ensure a safe and healthy future in cities by taking firm steps, adaptation is embedded in how we plan new and retrofit existing cities. This needs better planning, improved political will and financing adaptation solutions that can make our society more resilient to climate change.

We need to put people and nature first in pursuit of a world resilient to climate change – where we don’t just survive climate shocks and stresses, but thrive in spite of them.

The following sections present principles of built environment management for changes to weather- related climate change impacts such as: storms, high winds, droughts, floods, severe temperature change, and wildfires.

These principles are focused on measures of mitigation and damage protection from continual or gradual climate impacts and in some cases, extreme weather events.

In the words of Sachin Bhoite, Director of Climate Resilience, Climate Solutions and Networks at C-40 Cities, “Applying adaptation solutions to our cities will ensure that the built environment continues to protect, provide for and connect urban citizens, despite our changing climate.“

Strategic Decisions

• Assess and protect natural capital and resources with investment infrastructure – e.g. Prioritize greening of infrastructure in the urban area, including wildlife corridors. Integrate blue and green infrastructure into municipal urban planning. Manage water operations to avoid the depletion of available freshwater from building wastewater, including maintenance of existing water infrastructure.

• Collaborate with multi-disciplinary and public entities, enabling faster and more efficient

resilience and adaptation activities across the community and neighbourhood.

• Put in place early warning systems – command and control spaces – and emergency response plans for extreme climate events.

• Adopt sustainable strategies and frameworks that focus on community-scale planning, such as adopting natural capital based financial reporting to encourage nature-based solutions.

• Conduct detailed assessment of ecological health in the area to keep an eye on climate risks.

• Integrate indigenous knowledge and resources to help monitor key components of biodiversity, support sustainable use of environmental resources, and enforce conservation management through indigenous value system.


Interview with Sam McDermott of Enbridge Gas

Sam McDermott M.Eng., P.Eng., Technical Manager – Renewable Hydrogen, is part of the Business Development team at Enbridge Gas Inc., helping in the development of its hydrogen framework which includes delivery of a blend of hydrogen and natural gas to reduce the carbon footprint of natural gas.

1. Just to get to the basics, what makes hydrogen a clean energy alternative?

It comes down to how it’s made. Power-to-Gas (PtG) is a process in which electrical energy is converted to hydrogen through the electrolysis or splitting of water (H2O) into its basic components of hydrogen and oxygen. If only renewable sources of electricity are used, the hydrogen produced is called renewable. If hydrogen is produced from a mix of renewables and/ or other sources with a high percentage of the carbon captured (greater than 90 or 95 percent), it’s considered low carbon, or termed blue hydrogen. Most of today’s hydrogen is created using steam methane reforming (SMR), a process that separates the hydrogen molecule fom the carbon molecule of methane (CH4). The industry is vigorously working on ways to achieve carbon capture rates greater than 90 and 95 percent.

2. What are the advantages of hydrogen fuel?

Hydrogen is a non carbon energy carrier and produces no green house gasses. If used in a fuel cell, the only by-product is water. It is a versatile energy carrier like electricity. Hydrogen can be used to store electricity, and it can be turned back into electricity. Hydrogen is also used in a myriad of applications such as fertilizer manufacturing, food processing, methanol production, electronics manufacturing and transportation.

3. How much hydrogen can be blended with natural gas to make it a practical energy source?

It depends on factors such as infrastructure vintage, the type of pipe and fittings used, the end use applications, and the policies in place to enable its acceptance, all of which affect blend percentages. You may hear of a blend of 18% or 20% for existing pipes, but the fact remains each gas system is different and must be evaluated on its own merits.

4. How is Enbridge getting into hydrogen production?

In 2018, Enbridge, with project partner Cummins Inc., (formerly Hydrogenics) opened North America’s first utility-scale PtG facility in Markham, Ontario. It converts electrical energy into hydrogen and was primarily used to help the IESO balance the electrical grid during system demand fluctuations. As of 2021, some of the hydrogen from the plant is being blended into the natural gas system as a pilot project to understand the efficacy of reducing carbon in the gas grid. The pilot will run for five years to provide 3,600 customers in the Markham area and insight into blending.

Also, Enbridge subsidiary Gazifere announced in February, with project partner Evolugen (a Brookfield company), plans to operate a 20-MW electrolyzer plant in Gatineau, QC by 2025. Serving about 40,000 customers, the plant will produce renewable hydrogen with the intent of injecting this hydrogen into Gazifere’s natural gas distribution network.

5. What are the next steps to move to a scaled-up use of hydrogen?

As identified in the Canadian Hydrogen Strategy, one of the main elements for the adaptation of hydrogen is de-risking of early developments via incentives such as a price on carbon, seed funding and the rapid development of harmonized codes and standards for the industry in Ontario, in Canada and the world. There is also an urgent need to have enabling policies to drive demand and bring down the cost through scale and innovation. Training and public education through awareness campaigns are vital enablers to move the industry forward and enable public acceptance. Society wants to change its energy reliance but paying for it generates pause. Unlike wind and solar, which took 20 years to realize the price points we see and enjoy today, climate change will not wait.

The City of Vancouver net zero carbon initiative

By Patrick Enright

The City of Vancouver’s initiative to

monitor, regulate and ultimately codify the embodied carbon requirements for buildings is the first of its kind in Canada and provides an example for other authorities, whether municipal, provincial or federal, to follow.

The City of Vancouver’s interest in monitoring embodied carbon in new buildings dates back to 2016. As work was being done on the original Zero Emissions Buildings Plan (designed to bring operational emissions for all rezoning projects to near zero levels) it was pointed out that embodied carbon would then become by far the most important (if not the only) consideration in terms of life cycle carbon for new buildings.

This realization highlighted the need for City staff to develop a better understanding of embodied carbon, and its contribution to overall life cycle carbon emissions. To get started on understanding embodied carbon, a requirement to calculate and report embodied carbon was included with the new rezoning policy that went into effect in 2017. This laid the foundation for a more comprehensive approach to be introduced in the future.

In January 2019, the City of Vancouver declared a climate emergency (joining a global movement that now includes nearly 2300 municipalities worldwide) and commissioned a Climate Emergency Response report to guide future policy decisions. Approved by City Council in April 2019, this report set a target of a 50% reduction in carbon pollution in Vancouver by 2,300 and carbon neutrality by 2050; accelerating the City’s previous climate efforts.1

It also added six major new objectives (referred to as Big Moves) for the next decade. One of the big moves identified in the subsequent Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP) was the phased introduction of embodied carbon standards for new buildings. This document enabled City staff to review the rezoning requirement and advise on process, enforcement, and outcomes. It also provided a better understanding of leading-edge practice for embodied carbon calculations, life cycle assessment protocols and related policies.

The data acquired through this reporting phase of the project enabled City staff to determine a realistic baseline against which future mandated embodied carbon reductions could be measured. The methodology for calculating embodied carbon was based on a standard LCA and a building service life of 60 years, with reporting covering the extraction, processing and fabrication of materials and products, construction, operating and deconstruction and disposal phases.

The Embodied Carbon Strategy lays out a 10-year road map; and is designed to achieve the City’s goal of a 40% reduction in the embodied carbon of new buildings by 2030. In May 2022, the City took major action under the CEAP, proposing regulatory changes to the Vancouver Building Bylaw. The first change is to require embodied carbon reporting for all Part 3 buildings starting in July 2023; the next step (approved in principle) is scheduled for implementation in January 2025, when project proponents will have to start demonstrating reductions in embodied carbon below the benchmark levels. The advance notice will provide them with an adjustment period in which to familiarize themselves with the new requirements. 

The implementation of embodied carbon reductions will be a staged process: the first stage will require reductions of 10% for most buildings (including buildings up to 12 storeys constructed under the Encapsulated Mass Timber Construction (EMTC) code adopted by British Columbia and the City of Vancouver in 2020.). For buildings that are of 1-6 storeys, and permitted outright to be of wood frame or mass timber construction, the required reduction will be 20%.

Both the new legislation and the underlying strategy are ‘material neutral’. Proponents will be required to complete the life cycle assessment and submit the results. Establishing a reasonable benchmark at the outset is critical to the success of the program, so the initial benchmark for high-rise buildings is based on concrete construction. This ‘initial benchmark’ will be a baseline that teams create for each project based on their proposed building (as they do currently for LEED projects). Guidance on how to create a baseline will be published as part of the upcoming City of Vancouver Embodied Carbon Guidelines, to be finalized and published in January 2023.

Patrick Enright, P.Eng., is Senior Green Building Engineer with the Sustainability Group at the City of Vancouver.


8X On The Park

LEED Gold tower makes rigorous commitment to detail

By GBL Architects

Amid the many ubiquitous residential towers of downtown Vancouver, 8X On The Park stands out for its nuanced, contextual response to the varied urban context and its attention to detail.  GBL Architects guided the project through a complex, decade-long planning and design process that culminated in a 35-storey mixed-use tower of striking presence on the Vancouver skyline.

8X On The Park sits at the corner of Richards and Helmcken Street in Vancouver’s upscale Yaletown district, along the northern edge of Emery Barnes Park. Transformation of this intersection began on the northwest corner 10 years ago, with Jubilee House, an affordable housing project, also involving a collaboration between GBL and Brenhill.

Together, the two projects represent a substantial contribution to the neighbourhood of market, rental, and affordable housing units.

The site addresses multiple contextual adjacencies. A neighbouring heritage apartment establishes an urban scale and visual cadence along Helmcken Street to the west. To the east and travelling north and south along Richards Street, multiple towers of varying heights reflect the increasing densification of Yaletown. Emery Barnes Park presents a critical third contextual zone, offering desirable views and close proximity to public space.

The project team approached the design with a holistic urban and architectural vision that incorporates high-quality materials reinforced with high performance sustainable initiatives. Key design considerations for height, form, articulation, and tower programming are informed by a network of visible and invisible contextual variables resulting in a building that is highly responsive to its urban setting.

In addition to the visible contextual cues, the tower’s design is also shaped by other intangible planning factors. A compact site and two protected view corridors presented physical constraints and funding the non-market Jubilee House, as part of the project’s Community Amenity Contribution, created unique economic considerations. The resulting tower floor plate is double the size of the typical surrounding residential towers. In response to this and the competing adjacencies, the tower is subdivided into multi-faceted contextual zones, each with specifically tailored functional and aesthetic characteristics.

The building is bisected along its north/south axis into two primary volumes. The base is further articulated with a third volume that echoes the scale of the heritage Brookland Court building to the west. Continuity is maintained across each volumetric zone with a consistent rhythm of eight-storey modules that proportionally reference the height of the adjacent structure.

The façade detail. The solid cladding on the west half of the tower consists of Equitone Tectiva from Engineered Assemblies

The west half of the tower has inset balconies insulated with Schöck Isokorb® concrete-to-concrete thermal break connections on the north facade. The building also uses Schöck Bole® stud rails for punching shear reinforcement in the concrete support pillars.

Project Credits

  • Owner/Developer  Brenhill Development
  • ArchitecT  GBL Architects
  • General Contractor  Ledcor Group
  • Landscape Architect  PFS Studio
  • Civil Engineer  Aplin Martin
  • Electrical Engineer  Nemetz (S/A) & Associates
  • Mechanical Engineer  Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer  Glotman Simpson
  • Commissioning Agent  Kane Consulting
  • Energy Modelling  Kane Consulting
  • Photos  Ema Peter

GBL Architects Inc. is based in Vancouver.


Roam Transit Operations and Training Centre

Light industrial meets the CAGBC Net Zero Carbon Standard

By Mike Woodland and Eric White

The design of the Roam Transit Operations and Training Centre responds to the challenge of creating a CAGBC Net Zero Carbon Standard facility in an area that is both a Canadian National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Operated by the Town of Banff, the new centre supports the operations of the Roam Transit bus fleet in the Bow Valley, encouraging the shift to alternative transportation in Banff National Park. The single storey 1,414 m2 building stores 12 buses inside, with a canopy structure to cover an additional 20 buses on the exterior. The building program also includes offices, a driver training classroom, a state-of-the-art training simulator, staff lunchroom, washrooms, and ancillary support spaces.

The facility will be used primarily for bus storage and fleet administration, although there is an area for light maintenance and a bus wash bay. Roam Transit currently operates four electric buses, with more on order. The buses are recharged overnight at this facility.

The Roam Transit Operations and Training Centre represents the unprecedented integration of several low carbon technologies including ultra-efficient mechanical systems, a super-insulated building envelope, district heating from a biomass waste-to-energy plant, solar photovoltaics, and electric bus charging.

High Performance Building Envelope

The building envelope incorporates a combination of insulated metal wall panels with 152 mm of rigid insulation and hybrid walls with 102 mm rigid and 140 mm mineral fibre insulation giving an R-value of R-44.6 for the storage area walls and R-34 for the administration area walls. The storage area roof contains 406 mm of fibreglass insulation, while the hybrid administration roof integrates 152 mm of rigid insulation and 102 mm of fibreglass insulation to provide R-values of R-43 and R-33 respectively. Triple pane glazing with double low-E coatings, argon fill, and warm edge spacers are incorporated into thermally-broken aluminum framing with glazing U-values of 1.14 to 1.42.

Mechanical and Electrical Systems

Strategies to improve the efficiency of the mechanical and electrical systems include: 63.8% effective heat recovery on the storage area HVAC system; 83% sensible heat recovery for the administration area HVAC system; variable speed, high-efficiency hot water pumps; and lighting controlled by occupancy sensors.

Project Credits

  • Owner/Developer  Town of Banff
  • Architect  MTA Urban Design Architecture Interior Design Inc.
  • Structural engineer  ISL
  • Mechanical engineer Remedy
  • Electrical engineer  SMP
  • Civil engineer AND Landscape ARCHITECT  ISL Engineering
  • General Contractor  PCL Construction
  • CaGBC LEED and ZCB Consulting Services Integral Group
  • Energy Modelling and Commissioning  Integral Group
  • Photos  Lattitude Photography

Project Performance

  • Total energy use intensity = 88kWh/m2/ year
  • Thermal energy use intensity (TEDI) = 34 kWh/m2/year
  • Summer peak demand = 23.6kW
  • Winter peak demand = 23.5kW

Mike Woodland, AAA, AIBC, MRAIC, LEED AP is a principal at MTA | Urban Design Architecture Interior Design Inc.  Eric White, Dip. A.T., CPHC, LEED AP BD+C, Homes, WELL AP IS Associate, Sustainability at Integral Group.