Zibi Complexe O

One Planet Living project one step in reclaiming former industrial site

By Figurr Architects Collective

Located in both Ottawa and Gatineau, the Zibi development aims to be transformative physically, environmentally and socially. The only One Planet Living endorsed community in Canada, Zibi occupies formerly contaminated industrial lands, and is transforming them into one of Canada’s most sustainable communities. Incorporating public spaces and parks, as well as commercial, retail, and residential uses, Zibi will be an integrated, carbon neutral mixed-use community, one that’ll help reinvigorate the downtown cores of both Ottawa and Gatineau.

Complexe O, located on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River, is Zibi’s first mixed-use building. It arose from the desire to create a socially responsible project that would set a precedent for future development.  The project takes its name from the word ‘eau’ (water) as it offers residents a panoramic view of the Ottawa River and the Chaudière Falls. The six-storey Complexe O building includes a range of housing from studios to two-storey mezzanine units, as well as commercial space on the first floor.

The location is significant; as under the ownership of Domtar (whose paper mill closed in 2007) the land had been inaccessible to the public for nearly 200 years. Now cleaned up and revitalized, the riverbank is once again available to the residents, not only of Complexe O, but all of Gatineau.

The architectural program is based on the ten principles of One Planet Living, one of the broadest frameworks for sustainable development, which sets a range of measurable goals. The fundamental principles guiding the construction of Complexe O are the use of carbon-neutral heating and cooling and sustainable water management. The project has achieved LEED Silver certification.

Carbon neutral energy is supplied from the Zibi Community Utility, a district energy system relying on energy recovery from effluents of the nearby Kruger Products Gatineau Plant for heating, and the Ottawa River for cooling. All the apartments in Complexe O are fitted with Energy Star certified appliances; LED lighting has been used throughout the entire building, including first floor commercial units and amenity spaces; and generous glazing reduces the need for artificial light.

The commercial space on the first floor is leased primarily to local and socially-responsible businesses, enabling residents to shop for essentials without having to rely on transportation. n addition, the central location in the heart of Gatineau is served by numerous bus lines from both Gatineau and Ottawa offering hundreds of trips per day.

This connectivity contributes to the Zibi development goal of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide associated with transportation as measured by the car-to-household ratio. While the rest of the province has a 1.45 car to household ratio, the residents of Complex O have reduced this to 1:1. In addition all parking spaces are designed to accommodate electric charging units.

The project is located right on the Zibi Plaza, in fact forming one wall of the plaza, which offers residents a quiet and relaxing outdoor space that is closed to vehicular traffic but crossed by a bicycle path. Art exhibits are held in the vicinity to support local artists and artisans. Complexe O also provides residents with 15 garden boxes; gardening being an effective way to foster community.


  • Architect  Figurr Architects Collective
  • Owner/ Developer  DREAM / Theia Partners
  • General Contractor  Eddy Lands Construction Corp.
  • Landscape Architect  Projet Paysage / CSW Landscape Architects
  • Civil engineer  Quadrivium
  • Electrical Engineer  Drycore 2002 Inc. / WSP Canada Inc.
  • Mechanical Engineer  Alliance Engineering / Goodkey Weedmark & Associate Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer Douglas Consultants Inc.
  • Other consultants  BuildGreen Solutions, Morrison Hershfield
  • Photos  David Boyer


One Planet Living is based on a simple framework which enables everyone – from the general public to professionals – to collaborate on a sustainability strategy drawing on everyone’s insights, skills and experience. It is based on ten guiding principles of sustainability which are used to create holistic solutions.

• Encouraging active, social, meaningful lives to promote good health and wellbeing.

• Creating safe, equitable places to live and work which support local prosperity and international fair trade.

• Nurturing local identity and heritage, empowering communities and promoting a culture of sustainable living.

• Protecting and restoring land for the benefit of people and wildlife.

• Using water efficiently, protecting local water resources and reducing flooding and drought.

• Promoting sustainable humane farming and healthy diets high in local, seasonal organic food and vegetable protein.

• Reducing the need to travel, encouraging walking, cycling and low carbon transport.

• Using materials from sustainable sources and promoting products which help people reduce consumption; promoting reuse and recycling.

• Making buildings and manufacturing energy efficient and supplying all energy with renewable.



Montreal Biodome

Interior redesign complements extant architecture with minimal use of materials

Housed in the former Velodrome constructed for the Montréal 1976 Olympic Games, the Biodome opened in 1992 and is a jewel in the crown of a consortium of facilities that collectively account for the most visited museum spaces in Canada.

After winning an international architectural competition in 2014, KANVA, co-founded by Rami Bebawi and Tudor Radulescu, was commissioned for the $25 million project by Space for Life, the body charged with overseeing operations of the Biodome, Planetarium, Insectarium, and Botanical Garden.

“Our mandate was to enhance the immersive experience between visitors and the museum’s distinct ecosystems, as well as to transform the building’s public spaces,” notes Rami Bebawi, a partner of KANVA and the project’s lead architect. “In doing so, we embraced the role that the Biodome plays in sensitizing humans to the intricacies of natural environments, particularly in the current context of climate change and the importance of understanding its effects.”

KANVA studied the complexity of both building and program, a living entity comprised of ecosystems and complex machinery critical to supporting life. They realized that any intervention they proposed must be very delicate, and would require careful coordination and management within a truly collaborative design process. The success of this approach serves as a model for the future to better address the environmental issues in design.

The team began by targeting spaces that could be transformed in ways that would maximize the value of the building’s architectural heritage. The carving of a new core combined with the demolition of the low ceiling at the main entrance opened the space skyward to the extraordinary roof, composed of massive skylight panels that infuse the building with an abundance of natural light.

This massive open space became the circulation core between the ecosystems. To guide visitors, KANVA worked with Montreal-based Sollertia, on the parametric design and construction of a lightweight fabric living skin [1] that could be wrapped around the ecosystems to guide visitors, differentiate spaces and modulate the multi-sensory experience of the exhibits. The fabric walls total 500 metres in length, with the largest section being 18m x 18m.

The complex curvature of this biophilic skin, with its aluminum supporting structure, required sophisticated engineering and minutely precise prefabrication. Using a combination of tension, cantilevers, and triangular beams for suspension, the system is anchored to a primary steel structure. Mechanical junctions accommodate a variety of movements and allow for on-site adjustments.

Text edited by SABMag editior Jim Taggart, FRAIC from material supplied by the project team.


  • Design Architect and Project Manager  KANVA
  • Collaborating Architect  NEUF architects
  • Textile Architecture Specialist/Fabricator  Sollertia
  • Electromechanical Engineers  Bouthillette Parizeau Inc.
  • Structural Engineer  NCK Inc.
  • Building Code and Cost Consultant  Groupe GLT+
  • Specification writer  Atelier 6
  • Lighting Design Consultant  LightFactor
  • Collaborating Exhibition Designer  La bande à Paul
  • Collaborating Set Designer  Anick La Bissonnière
  • Collaborating Museologist  Nathalie Matte
  • Wayfinding Specialist  Bélanger Design
  • Land Surveyor  Topo 3D
  • Acoustics Specialist  Soft dB
  • Photos  James Brittain

The complex curvature of the fabric membrane walls, with their aluminum supporting structure, required sophisticated engineering and precise prefabrication. The membrane chosen for the Biodome (Alphalia Silent AW by Sollertia) has acoustic properties which reduce sound reverberation and improve the comfort of the visitors.


Okanagan College Health Sciences Centre

Model of healthcare education targets Net-Zero Carbon, WELL and LEED Gold certifications

By Peter Osborne

Located on a narrow brownfield site on the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College, the Health Sciences Centre includes technology-enhanced and student-centred labs, classrooms, and offices for health and social development programs.

The chosen site allowed the building to make use of  existing campus infrastructure; create a new front door to the existing laboratory building; and provide opportunities for shared use. The 3,300m² building is organized around a three-storey day-lit atrium, with ample interior glazing providing views into the generous program spaces and facilitating social connections.

Contrasting the solid facade, ground floor entries and public spaces are transparent, guiding visitors into and through the building. This strategic use of glazing contributes to a high-performance building envelope, greater resilience and occupant comfort.

The building utilizes waste heat generated by the nearby wastewater treatment plant, integrates photovoltaic panels for its primary heating and energy needs, requires no natural gas-fired HVAC systems and will earn the CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building Design certification through demonstration of zero-carbon balance, meeting a defined threshold for thermal energy demand intensity and the provision of on-site renewable energy systems.

It was important to the College that the architecture of this new educational facility embody the health and wellness its programs support, through its use of materials, light, and landscape. As such, it is a catalyst for sustainability and wellness-focused policy changes across campus.

The design process included comprehensive consultation with local First nations, whose traditional notions of health and wellbeing will provide new insights into healthcare education in Canada. The design grew from a narrative, developed in consultation with the Westbank First Nation, around the act of weaving. The narrative provided a contemporary methodology to explore the connected histories and futures of the Syilx people, the College and students. This is evident, both in the building’s facade that references the warp and weft of fabric; and in the mass timber clerestory that criss-crosses the length of the building. These consultations also informed the selection of traditional medicinal plant species for the two new landscaped areas that bookend the building.

Operable windows and the central atrium create a natural stack effect within the building, allowing air to move up through the building to be exhausted through an energy recovery ventilator. Daylight penetrates the floor plate through clerestory glazing and all regularly occupied spaces have access to daylight and views.


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 94KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building (under NECB 2011) = 46 %
  • Percentage of annual energy consumption met with renewables = 48%
  • Recycled material content by value = 29%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 80%


  • Owner/Developer  Okanagan College
  • Architect  GEC Architecture
  • General Contractor  Stuart Olson
  • Landscape Architect  WSP
  • Civil Engineer  WSP
  • Electrical Engineer  Falcon Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineer  CIMA+
  • Structural Engineer  RJC Engineers
  • Commissioning Agent Inland Technical
  • Sustainability Consulting  EcoAmmo
  • Photos  Latitude Photography

The Fibre C cladding supplied by Sound Solutions is a glassfibre reinforced cementitious product in Polar White Matt finish and Polar White Ferro finish. It has ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications, and an environmental product declaration (EPD).


The importance of Biophilic Design

Advancing our physical and mental well-being

By Heather Dubbeldam

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the importance we place on healthy homes and workplaces,

at least from the perspective of infection control. While

measures such as air filtration, sanitation and physical

barriers deal effectively with physical risks to health, much less has been done to address the mental toll the pandemic continues to exact on individuals and society as a whole.

There has been no more critical time in modern history for architects and interior designers to reflect on how their work can create environments that promote occupant health and wellbeing.

On average, Canadians spend roughly 90% of their time indoors between home and office. While we have long aspired to create healthy indoor spaces, the pandemic has highlighted how critically important it is. Over the past year we have seen a mini-exodus from cities as people seek healthier environments, more space and a reconnection with nature. City parks have confirmed their importance for urban dwellers as oases of refuge that offer green spaces and fresh air. Residential architects have been busy making homes more livable and more conducive to remote working. The crisis has also laid bare the shortcomings of social housing that has largely ignored occupant wellbeing.

While corporations have often looked at the office as a real estate transaction, fitting as many people as possible into a space, they are now looking at the workplace from a relationship perspective. With the upcoming return to the office and with work practices upended, employers will need to create workplaces that are seen as both safe and enjoyable. Businesses at the forefront of workplace design are investing in biophilic design to improve employee well-being and productivity, and to attract and retain the best staff.

So how can architects and designers create environments – whether residences, workspaces or institutions – that promote positive physical and mental well-being? One approach is through the incorporation of biophilic design.

Biophilic design is often confused with biophilia or biomimicry; although they are related, they are not the same:

• Biomimicry is the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modelled on biological entities and processes – the mimicking of nature in manmade things.

• Biophilia, meaning love of nature, focuses on humanity’s innate attraction to nature and natural processes. It proposes that we have a genetic connection to the natural world built up through millennia spent living close to or immersed in nature.  It explains why we feel more relaxed in a park, hiking in the woods or spending time at a lake.

• Biophilia also contributes positively to our health; research shows that regular exposure to green space and natural elements is associated with a multitude of positive neurological and physiological outcomes, including a reduction in blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol and improved quality of sleep.

These concepts are foundational to biophilic design, which utilizes natural materials, patterns, and sensory elements to maintain a connection to nature within the built environment. This is a human-centred approach to design, integrating natural principles to support the physiological well-being of building occupants. Incorporating ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’ elements of nature into the built environment has been demonstrated to reduce stress, while supporting cognitive function, increasing productivity, creativity and self-reported rates of well-being.

‘Direct’ elements of nature include views to the exterior, plant material, ample natural light, and access to fresh air; ‘indirect’ elements include a sensory experience of the natural world achieved through spatial strategies, forms, pattern or materials.

Biophilic design is not simply about organic forms and green walls, it is a series of design techniques that are integrated into the built environment in a more subtle, but equally meaningful way. Successful biophilic designs are inspired by the qualities and features of natural settings without being exact duplicates. The means by which this is achieved varies from spatial strategies to visual cues to forms and materials used in the design.

These strategies can be grouped into three categories:


The presence of nature in a space, visual, sensory or auditory, in the form of plants, water, breezes, scents, light, shadows, and other natural elements.


The representational presence of nature using natural materials, colours, patterns, and shapes incorporated into building design, facade ornamentation, or decor, including images of nature, simulated natural light and air, organized complexity, and biomorphic forms and patterns.


The incorporation of spatial elements commonly found in nature including:

  • Prospect:  Unimpeded views.
  • Refuge: Places for withdrawal in which the individual is protected from behind and overhead.
  • Mystery: Partially obscured views or other sensory devices that entice the individual to travel deeper into the environment, or a mild sense of risk – like stepping stones over a shallow pond or a double height space.

Heather Dubbeldam, OAA, FRAIC, LEED AP is principal of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design and founder of THENEXTGREEN.CA.


The Passive Narrowtive House

Infill project a model of gentle densification and adaptability to changing needs

By Nick Bray Architecture

“The Passive Narrowtive” is located on a narrow infill lot near the centre of Vancouver. The house is lived in by the architect’s young family, with a tenant living in the garden suite below.

The intent was to demonstrate that a certified Passive House could be built on a small and challenging site, rethink housing design, and test innovative products and technologies.

The size and orientation of the site presented unique challenges, being long and narrow with the south elevation limited to a width of only 5.5 metres. More critically, its location in a peat bog with a high water table, required an innovative, low-impact foundation system to maintain the natural hydrology and comply with new environmental regulations. The house sits on a grid of beams spanning between 46-12m deep piles, its basement waterproofed with a durable, high quality tanking membrane.

The original one-bedroom house was beyond repair and was deconstructed, with over 90% of materials recycled. The elongated plan of the new house, with a depth of 14.6 metres, resulted in a high surface to volume ratio and hence a less than ideal form factor for the Passive House energy modelling. The narrow south-facing elevation was designed with large windows and deep solar-shading canopies to provide sufficient natural light, winter-solar-gain, and to prevent overheating in summer.

Space-efficiency was a critical design objective, the main consideration being to minimize the environmental impact of the building over its anticipated 100-year service life.  The 246m²  home contains five spacious bedrooms and five bathrooms.

The above-grade walls built with pre-fabricated structural insulated panels. The air barrier used on the house, the NS-A250 barrier by Naturaseal, is an eco-friendly waterproof, vapour resistant, UV stable elastomeric coating that is cold-applied using a spray system.

Large glazed doors bring natural light into the basement apartment. The high performance triple-glazed wood windows and doors, and the HRV ventilation system, were supplied by Vetta Building Technologies.


  • Owner/Developer/Architect  Nick Bray Architecture Ltd
  • Contractor  JDL Homes Vancouver / Black Thumb Contracting
  • Structural Engineer  Miskimmin Structural Engineering
  • Commissioning Agent  Rudy Sawatzky
  • Photos  Martin Knowles Photo / Media


  • Total energy Intensity (base building and process energy) = 54.5 KWhr/m²/year


Multifaith Housing Initiative: Veterans’ House

Higher standard building enclosure and materials provide healthier living, lower operating costs

Jessie Smith and Stephen Pope

MHI Veterans’ House: The Andy Carswell Building is Canada’s first community housing project specifically designed for veterans.  Located on the former Rockcliffe Air Base, this three-storey, 40-unit apartment building provides safe, healthy, and affordable housing for veterans. The project is part of a contemporary mixed-use community that is walkable, cycling-supportive, transit-oriented, and built at a human scale.

Twenty percent of the units and all common amenity spaces inside Veterans House are fully accessible, while the remaining suites are ‘visitable’. Partnering non-profit organizations have access to shared office space on the ground floor, enabling them to provide a variety of support services for veterans as they adjust to civilian life. Communal spaces, including a multipurpose room, a fitness room, and a shared kitchen promote community engagement and healthy living.

In preparation for this project, MHI invited Ottawa Salus Corporation and several veteran-focused groups to attend a ‘Plan of Care’ charette to discuss the design features that would best support the needs of veterans. Of particular importance was the provision of extensive landscaping to ensure residents would have easy visual and physical access to nature.

In response, the site was designed to maximize the amount of green space on the property. This has provided individual suites unobstructed views and access to abundant daylight. Walking paths and a dog run surround the building to promote a healthy lifestyle. The landscape design also includes healing, meditation, and vegetable gardens to provide a place of respite for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who may find comfort in the solitude.

Inside the building, finishes were selected to avoid trigger colours for those suffering from PTSD. Exposed wood accents are used throughout the building, including large mass timber canopies, to evoke a sense of calm.

MHI chose to follow the Passive House standard for the design and construction of the building. Extra investment was made to achieve high levels of air tightness and thermal control of the building envelope. Ventilation air is provided by premium energy recovery ventilators, supplying continuous and balanced outdoor fresh air. Energy modeling shows that the building has a 43% energy use reduction and 57% carbon reduction relative to the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) 2015 reference model.


  • Owner/Developer  Multifaith Housing Initiative
  • Architect  CSV Architects
  • General contractor  McDonald Brothers Construction
  • Landscape Architect  Lashley & Associates
  • Civil Engineer McIntosh Perry
  • Mechanical/Electrical Engineer  Smith & Andersen
  • Structural engineer  Cunliffe and Associates
  • Commissioning Agent Geo-Energie
  • Photos  Krista Jahnke Photography, CSV Architects

The main entrance. Windows by NZP Fenestration are certified for Passive House.


PH-1 Lonsdale Avenue

Restaurant/office realized with design collaboration and prefabrication

By John Hemsworth

PH-1 is a small restaurant and office infill project in the Lower Lonsdale district of North Vancouver that employed virtual design and construction (VDC) and off-site prefabrication to meet challenges of access and constructability. VDC also made possible the installation of a prefabricated Passive House-compliant building envelope, including a zero-lot line wall adjacent to an existing building.

Originally an area of waterfront warehouses and marine service facilities, the neighbourhood has been transformed over time to a high density, mixed-use community centred on the Lonsdale Quay Market and Seabus Terminal. The consolidation of land required by the introduction of higher density zoning had left lots like this exceptionally difficult to develop.

As a family that had owned the property for three generations, the client was waiting for the right opportunity to do something special on the site. The idea of combining Passive House performance with modern mass timber construction was enthusiastically received, despite the many challenges and uncertainties it presented.

A waiver of the on-site parking requirement made it possible to design a three-storey building (with a ground floor restaurant and two storeys of offices above) that would achieve the full 2.53 FSR permitted by the zoning. The building made use of exemptions (applicable to the extra thick walls used in Passive House construction) to achieve a three-storey building, however, the 92% site coverage eliminated the possibility of an on-site staging area for materials and equipment, typically required for site construction.

Architecturally, the concept was to use the traditional warehouse vocabulary of an exposed heavy timber structure with brick cladding, but to interpret it in a contemporary way. This strategy has translated into an exposed glulam post and beam structure with cross laminated timber (CLT) floors, stair and elevator shafts.

The non-loadbearing brick cladding at the southeast corner of the building is ‘eroded’ away and replaced with large areas of glazing, providing restaurant patrons and office workers with an oblique view to the harbour.  The remainder of the south façade includes extensive glazing at ground level, with a staggered pattern of vertical windows, coordinated with glulam bracing elements, on the upper floors.

While the Code permitted the three exterior walls facing the streets and lane to be of combustible construction, it required the north wall abutting the adjacent property to be non-combustible. Such walls are typically built block by block in concrete masonry, a method incompatible with Passive House performance. A more sophisticated solution was clearly required, one in which the continuous exterior insulation and vapour barrier essential for Passive House performance could be installed without accessing the outer face of the wall in the field.

Using a VDC process involving the architect, structural engineer, building envelope consultant, contractor, and the mass wood fabricator and installer, a prefabricated and pre-insulated wall system was devised, then alternative detailing, assembly and installation strategies explored and optimized.


  • Owner  Babco Equities Ltd.
  • Architect  Hemsworth Architecture
  • Structural Engineer  Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
  • Electrical/ Mechanical Engineer  MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Civil Engineer  Vector Engineering Services Ltd.
  • Geotechnical  GVH Consulting Ltd.
  • Building Code Consultant  LMDG
  • Passive House consultant  Peel Passive House Consulting Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect  Prospect & Refuge
  • General Contractor  Naikoon Contracting Ltd.
  • Photos  Ema Peter


Little Mountain Cohousing

Compact plan visually connects all building levels to shared outdoor space

By Simon Richards

Little Mountain Cohousing (LMC) is the second cohousing project to be completed in Vancouver. The project applies the well-understood principles of cohousing to a compact, medium density urban building form. The design has been developed for 25-member households, all of whom participated in the design process.

The result is a building with 14 different unit types to satisfy different needs, ranging from two-level townhouse units to apartments with one to four bedrooms. Each unit has its own generous outdoor space. As well as the individual units – and key to the cohousing model – the building contains a common house space to accommodate a range of social purposes including regular shared meals.

Other common spaces include a children’s play room, quiet lounge, visitor suite, workshop and music room. There are multiple places for casual encounter; the upper roof is developed for shared outdoor social use, children’s play, and urban gardening. The LMC residents also asked that the circulation system sustain the dynamics of community, and specifically that the shared outdoor space be visually connected to all building levels.

The design concept needed to reconcile this in a manner that also conformed to the relatively tight massing constraints and design guidelines of the Little Mountain Development Area. The resolution took the form of an ‘L’-shaped building plan with the open vertical circulation at the intersection of the two arms of the L, giving those using the stairs a view of the courtyard garden and Common House below. Each level has a small meeting area at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical circulation.

The 14 different unit types, ranging from two-level townhouse units to apartments with one to four bedrooms, have their own outdoor space, and a common room accommodates social functions. The project showcases the high performance triple-glazed wood windows and doors from Vetta Building Technologies.


  • Heating Demand  14.7 kWhr/m²/a
  • Primary Energy Demand – PER  58.2 kWhr/m²/a
  • Airtightness  0.6 ach (n50)


  • Owner/Developer  Little Mountain Cohousing Group
  • Architect & Passive House Designer  Cornerstone Architecture
  • Cohousing Consultant/Project Manager  CDC – Cohousing Development Consulting
  • Structural Engineer  London Mah & Associates Ltd.
  • Mechanical Engineer  DIALOG
  • Electrical Engineer  Nemetz (S/A) & Associates Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect  DKL
  • Building Envelope  Aqua-Coast Engineering
  • Interior Design Nielsen Design
  • Passive House Certification  RDH Building Science Inc.
  • Code Consultant/CP  Camphora
  • General Contractor  Peak Construction Croup
  • Key PH Component Specification and Supply  Small Planet Supply
  • Airtightness Testing  E3 Eco Group
  • HRV Commissioning  Dome Energy Consulting
  • Photos  Martin Knowles Photo/Media


Doig River Cultural Centre

Community building brings superb energy performance to northern climate

By Peter Hildebrand 

The Doig River Cultural Centre in Rose Prairie, BC is among Canada’s most northerly PHI-certified projects and the first certified First Nations community building completed. The main level comprises 250m² of community-oriented space with an upper mezzanine for additional seating and a lower level comprising a daycare and an Elders lounge. The design, which allows for multiple uses within a single building, was intended to promote inter-generational interaction and fulfill the community’s desire for a safe and healthy space for all its members.

In such a small and remote community, a close network of buildings is crucial to establish a central gathering place and create a critical mass for community functions. The project’s site locates the Centre close to the existing community administration building to create a somewhat civic centre. This proximity also minimized the need for major infrastructure expansion.

Nestled into the slope in a grove of birch and aspen trees, the building complements its natural surroundings and offers a gesture of welcome at the entrance to the community. The slope also facilitates grade access to both levels, which eliminates the need for an elevator or wheelchair lift.

The choice of building form and orientation were critical, with a large south-facing roof and extensive glazing required to maximize winter solar heat gain and optimize PV panel exposure. This orientation also creates a dynamic display of light and shadow across the splayed walls as the melting snow constantly shifts and changes shape as it makes its way down the surface of the glass. The compact two-level plus mezzanine organization of the program minimizes the building’s footprint, reduces the surface-to-volume ratio, and lessens the environmental impact of the building on the site.

The structure is a hybrid of site-built and prefabricated components, thus increasing quality and precision. The primary structural system consists of glue-laminated arches with prefabricated panels between them that arrived on site with pre-installed insulation. An additional 300mm of insulation was added around the entire perimeter of the building, which was secured using wood strapping and 350mm screws.

The screws were oriented at opposing angles in a truss-like configuration to ensure vertical rigidity and prevent the insulation from sagging. Fastening the thick layer of insulation to the face of the sheathing required careful detailing and a new approach to the cladding system design. The exterior cladding materials comprise standing seam metal roof and wall cladding, and a composite shake product made from recycled plastic and wood fibres that comes with a 50-year warranty.

The sleek, straight-lined Prolok profile of the metal cladding, supplied by Westform, provides long-term durability in unlimited colour options.


  • Architect  Iredale Architecture
  • Owner/Developer  Doig River First Nation
  • General Contractor  Erik Olofsson Construction Inc.
  • Landscape Architect  Urban Systems
  • Civil Engineer Urban Systems
  • Electrical Engineer  EDG Corporation
  • Mechanical Engineer  Rocky Point Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural engineer  Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
  • Passive House Consultant  RDH Building Science
  • Passive House Certifier  Edsco
  • Geotechnical Engineer  Golder Associates


Eco Flats 1.0

Upgrade preserves existing building while supporting low carbon living

By Carla Crawford

Eco Flats 1.0 is a conversion of an aged Toronto rowhouse into an energy-efficient, all-electric triplex. The ambitions for this project were: to increase urban density; provide quality housing during a housing crisis; create homes for multiple tenants that support a carbon-free lifestyle; and make it a super energy-efficient, all-electric building.

With the Ontario power grid being 94% renewable, it was not only possible to do this, but also to disconnect the original gas supply to the building. With greatly improved airtightness and super insulation, the overall energy intensity of the renovated building is 108 kWh/m2/year, an 89% reduction compared to the original.

With a walk score of 93, transit score of 99, and bike score of 100, this property was the perfect choice. The nearest intersection has two streetcar lines and one bus line, two of which connect to the subway in just a few minutes. The intersection is also a hub for the West Toronto Railpath, which connects pedestrians and cyclists to The Junction neighbourhood, and is slated for expansion that will eventually connect to downtown. In addition, the local area is well serviced with grocery stores, schools, daycares, walk-in clinics, a hospital, a YMCA, and more. Everything is accessible without reliance on a car.

The design optimizes daylighting, as well as passive heat gain and cooling. This does not always mean more glazing: large third floor windows required shading to reduce overheating. Each of the three apartments are equipped with their own independent Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV), which reduces energy consumption by transferring heat and moisture from outgoing air to fresh incoming air.

The apartment layouts are designed to accommodate a variety of tenant types: individuals, families and roommates. Each apartment has its own unique entrance directly from the outside, with the upper unit entering from the front sidewalk, and the main and lower apartments entering via a communal patio space in the rear.


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 108KWhr/m2/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 89%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 16,060 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 45%
  • Owner/Developer/General Contractor Lolley Knezic Projects Inc.
  • Architect  Solares Architecture Inc.
  • Mechanical Engineer  ReNü Engineering Inc.
  • Structural Engineer  Kattakar Engineering Associates Inc.
  • Commissioning Agent/Envelope Testing  Blue Green Consulting Group
  • Grey Water Systems  Greyter Water Systems
  • Photos  Solares Architecture Inc.