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Shifting Gears

Passive House the most cost effective for seniors housing and health centre

By Andrew Peel, Peel Passive House Consulting

The world’s first certified Passive House car  dealership opened for business in the fall of 2019.  Designed by Cover Architectural Collaborative, Sublime Design and Peel Passive House Consulting and constructed by Black Creek Developments, the 2,420 m² (26,020 ft²) facility in Red Deer, Alberta houses the new Scott Subaru dealership.  It coincides with the 50th anniversary of The Scottsville Auto Group who developed the project.


While not an avid environmentalist, owner/developer Garrett Scott sought a low impact building that would support his growing business and recognized the myriad benefits of constructing to the Passive House Standard.

This is not the first environmental building initiative Subaru has undertaken.  Its Indiana automotive assembly plant was the first zero-landfill factory in the US and inspired the decision to pursue Passive House certification on this project.

Setting the Standard

Most, if not all, large car manufacturers have strict corporate standards regarding aesthetics, layout, and service requirements for their facilities and Subaru is no exception. In addition to these corporate standards, the client had some of its own. Chief among these was that any decisions made in pursuit of Passive House certification must not compromise customer or vehicle service in any way.  An additional major factor impacting the design was the local winter design temperature of -20oF (-29oC). Navigating these requirements proved challenging and demanded the best of the whole design and construction teams. 

Base Design

The building is divided into three main zones: a showroom, a repair shop, and a car drop-off zone. The showroom includes a car display area, customer reception and lounge and sales offices on the first floor, and back offices, meeting rooms, and staff kitchen on the second floor. The repair shop comprises a ground floor with 6 service bays and parts storage, and a second floor with mezzanine, storage, and cat walk.  The drop-off zone is a single storey area used to collect customers’ cars for repair and show off new cars housed in the parking lot to customers at night and during periods of inclement weather.


– Walls: 305-mm (12-in.) LVL studs filled with cellulose; 76-mm (3-in.) exterior insulation and 2×6 interior service cavity. Usi = 0.084 W/m2K (R-68)

– Floor: 305 mm (12-in.) below-slab floor insulation that fully wraps the footings.  Usi = 0.109 W/m2K (R-52)

– Roofs: 1,340mm (52-in) cellulose-filled, open-web wood truss roofs. Usi = 0.040 W/m2K (R-145).

One key envelope challenge was to mitigate the impact of the 65 per cent glazing on the west facing storefront dictated by corporate design requirements. Red Deer lies between two of the country’s sunniest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, receiving up to 50 per cent more west radiation than is typical in Germany (the conditions for which the Passive House Standard was originally developed).


The customer reception area. Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada  provided the split-type heat-pumps units, both indoor and out, and low profile fan coils.


Architecture  Cover Architectural Collaborative and Sublime Design

Mechanical & Electrical  908 Engineering

Passive House Consultant and Energy Modelling  Peel Passive House Consulting

Construction Manager  Black Creek Developments


OCH Carlington Hub

Passive House the most cost effective for seniors housing and health centre

By Stephen Pope and Marc Mainville

This new four-storey development in Ottawa serves as a mixed-use “hub” which combines affordable seniors housing for Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) with the Carlington Community Health Centre (CCHC). Affordable rental housing for seniors includes 42 independent living rental apartment suites on the upper three floors. The project marks the first time the city’s public-housing agency has partnered with a community health centre to build independent-living units for seniors with on-site health services.

Services include a medical clinic, diabetes clinic, community meeting spaces, nutrition consultants, seniors’ cooking, exercise and other classes, and a choir. Residents of this building have a welcoming and supportive environment to learn new things, meet new people, improve their quality of life and have fun.

The existing Community Health Centre, to which this project connects, sits on the eastern end of the site. The four-storey addition extends along the west side of the existing building and has a generous yard providing individual suites with unobstructed views and lots of natural light. 

The long building has been articulated to break down the mass and add visual interest along Coldrey Avenue. The site was designed to maximize the amount of green space on the property: the 64 parking spaces were the minimum number required to comply with local zoning bylaws and new trees have been incorporated throughout the site (specifically in the parking lot to reduce the amount of asphalt). 

Internally, apartment units are designed with an open-concept to maximize the sense of space within a very compact layout. Windows are sized to optimize and balance the need for light and quality of view with energy efficiency demands on heating and cooling.

The large windows have an operating section that gives residents access to the sounds and smells of the neighbourhood. Operable windows are not needed for fresh air as the balanced ventilation system is designed with a capacity for two persons per suite but is run at 0.36 ACH, or 30 m3/h/occupant. Public corridors, stairwells and common laundry rooms all feature large windows to provide natural light and a connection to the exterior throughout the facility.

In accordance with the principles of the WELL Building certification, the design has a strong connection to nature both in the layout and the use of materials. Exposed wood accents are used throughout the building including two mass timber canopies and vestibules at the main entrances. Polished concrete floors are used throughout for durability and cleanliness.

The site had little room for special rain water collection equipment, nor the budget for greywater reuse. The focus of water conservation indoors was on the fixtures, namely, pressure-assisted flush toilets, and low-flow shower heads. The focus outdoors was on reducing demand through appropriate planting and management.

The priority in this project was to implement, for the first time, a Passive House design for affordable senior housing in a mixed-use building. Material consumption is addressed through durable construction and attention to construction and demolition waste diversion from landfill. All specifications called for materials with a high recycled content and all wood was FSC certified. The exterior enclosure is Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) composed of 300 mm EPS insulation. The main interior structure is steel infilled with wood framing for the floor and roof assemblies. All partition walls are wood except at the exit stairs which are required to be noncombustible construction.

Stephen Pope, OAA, BArch, BES, FRAIC, Associate ASHRAE is Sustainability Consultant, and Marc Mainville, MArch is an Intern Architect, both of CSV Architects.

The project is four storeys of independent-living units for seniors with on-site health services – a first for the city. Alumicor supplied the thermally-broken curtain wall, which contributed to the overall energy efficiency of the OCH building envelope.

Foundation wall construction. Quad-Lock’s insulated concrete form homes and buildings can offer exceptional indoor environments, ultra-energy efficiency and higher safety ratings at a lower cost of ownership.


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 132 KWhr/m²/year
  • Reduction in energy intensity = 49%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 39,384 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 40%


  • Owner/Developer  Ottawa Community Housing
  • Architect  CSV Architects
  • General Contractor  MacDonald Bros Construction
  • Civil Engineer  McIntosh Perry
  • Mechanical / Electrical Engineer  WSP Group Inc.
  • Structural Engineer  Cleland Jardine Engineering
  • Landscape Architect  McIntosh Perry
  • Commissioning Agent  Geo Energie
  • Photos  Krista Jahnke

Aurora Coast Cannabis Innovation Centre

Well being, energy and water conservation top the list at research station



By Heidi Nesbitt

Aurora Coast is a new cannabis research centre located in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. This unique facility provides a supportive and nurturing workplace for Aurora’s scientists to expand their genetics and breeding research, with the goal of realizing the full human benefit of the cannabis plant. 


The project aims to transform public perception of a previously illegal, underground industry, by housing it in a facility that fosters creativity and innovation. The first phase of the project consists of a mass timber building containing offices, labs, meeting rooms and support spaces for the adjacent greenhouse. A transparent network of collaborative workplace hubs was designed to encourage informal interaction and enhance the creative potential of the research team. 

As a project centred around plant health and vitality, every aspect of the building and site is designed to connect occupants to nature and to support health and well-being: an exposed, mass-timber structure was chosen for its low environmental footprint, and to provide a biophilic backdrop to what might otherwise have been a sterile laboratory environment; clerestorey windows bring natural daylight deep within the high-security, restricted-access areas; and views are provided to the restored pollinator habitat and orchard that surrounds the building. 

Cannabis facilities face unique challenges, including security, odour control and public stigma. To help gain the support of the local community, a large, environmentally degraded, industrial site at a prominent intersection was rejuvenated by providing extensive, on-site stormwater management, and by restoring the ecological integrity of several hectares of land. The larger environmental challenge was to provide cannabis plants with the steady warmth, light and water they need to thrive without creating additional strain on local resources. 

Heidi Nesbitt, Architect AIBC CP MRAIC LEED AP  ENV SP, is an associate with Local Practice architecture + Design in Vancouver.


  • Owner/Developer  Aurora Cannabis
  • Architect  Local Practice Architecture + Design
  • Interiors  Albright Design
  • General Contractor  Heatherbrae Builders
  • Landscape Architect  Lanarc
  • Civil Engineer  McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd.
  • Electrical/Mechanical/Structural Engineers  Associated Engineering (B.C.) Ltd.
  • Envelope Consultant RDH
  • Passive House Consultant  Tandem Architecture Écologique
  • Greenhouse Consultant  ALPS


  • Energy intensity (building) = 162 KWhr/m²/year
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 8135 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building = 5 %


Fort St. John Apartment Building

One of the largest PH projects in Canada takes a simple, compact form

This six-storey wood frame building was developed through an integrated design and delivery process, to provide workforce rental housing for the duration of a large provincial project, before converting to affordable family housing for the community. The program consists of 50 units (two- and three-bedroom suites), common interior and exterior amenity spaces, fitness room, bicycle storage, outdoor playground and landscaped rain gardens. 

By Low Hammond Rowe Architects

The plan is a simple double-loaded corridor scheme with inset stairwells, central elevators and a 9-degree bend, symmetrical through the centre of the building. This simple gesture accentuates the main entrance when viewed from the street, orients half the building façade further towards the south, creates a natural break in the west façade, accommodates exterior balconies connected to common amenity rooms on each floor, and provides a larger landscaped setting for the ground-level suites on the east side. 

The north-south orientation provides each tenant access to direct sunlight and realizes an optimum use of the site with quality outdoor spaces. Each façade is designed to respond to the specific solar orientations of the site, while maintaining a cohesive character that is complementary, yet distinct from non-passive house, multi-family housing in the community.

The main exterior cladding is a cementitious rainscreen system, with deep recessed triple-glazed fiberglass windows and metal flashing surrounds. To achieve the required 200 mm insulation thickness and facilitate installation of exterior strapping, the thickness of the exterior plywood sheathing was increased, eliminating the need to blindly fasten the exterior strapping through to structural studs. This gave flexibility for placement of cladding strapping to suit the cladding joint patterns and colour changes. 

Not only did this construction method improve the construction schedule, the ease of maintaining the air barrier resulted in an air tightness reading of 0.2 air changes per hour in the final pressurization test. 

A mono-sloped roof system was built continuously under the mechanical penthouse to reduce the surface area of the Passive House envelope. The single-sloped roof is drained to the east through four scuppers connected to rainwater leaders aligned flush with the exterior cladding, avoiding unwanted roof penetrations and diverting roof water directly to rain gardens below. 

The building is heated and cooled by a heat recovery variable refrigerant volume air source heat pump system. The suites are ventilated by a central ERV, providing both fresh air supply and exhaust air extraction. The main floor auxiliary rooms have smaller dedicated ERVs.

All lighting fixtures are LED. Daylight sensor switches are used to control lights in common areas where enough daylight can be used and exterior lighting fixtures are controlled by photocells. The south façade incorporates larger windows into the living spaces, shaded with lightly louvered horizontal sunshades. North-facing windows are minimized with main living spaces receiving daylight from the east and west wherever possible. More than 90% of occupied spaces are within 7m of a window.

Fresh air is introduced through the ERVs and operable windows, providing an air change rate of 0.48ACH. The high-performance building envelope, passive solar design, and highly effective heat recovery ventilation reduce overall heating needs by nearly 90%, as compared to a traditional building of this scale.

Even in the cold climate of Fort St. John, these measures cause a shift from heating to cooling demand, making an electric air source heat pump space conditioning system practical and cost effective. The single VRV system can heat and cool the building, providing room level zone control, while also allowing the reject heat from cooling in one area to be used directly for space heating in another area.

In this city of 20,000, the centre of British Columbia’s oil and gas industry, the electric system allows for an easy transition away from fossil fuel use in the future, if desired by the owner.

LHRA is a privately owned Canadian architectural practice in Victoria, British Columbia, with a 34-year continuous history of operation.

Fiberglass triple pane windows with krypton gas fill by Duxton Windows & Doors.


  • Owner/Developer  BC Housing Corporation
  • Architect  Low Hammond Rowe Architects
  • Design-build Constructor  WCPG Construction Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect  Murdoch deGreeff
  • Civil Engineer  WSP CANADA
  • Electrical Engineer Beairsto  & Associates Engineering Ltd.
  • Mechanical Engineer (HVAC)  RENÜ Engineering Inc.
  • Mechanical Engineer (Plumbing)  Beairsto  & Associates Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer  Beairsto  & Associates Engineering Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent  E3  ECO Group Inc, West Rockies Services
  • Passive House Consultant / Energy Modelling  Marken Design +Consult
  • Energy Consultant  RENÜ Engineering Inc.
  • Building Envelope Consultant  Aqua-coast Engineering Ltd.
  • Geotechnical Consultant  Northern Geo Testing & Engineering
  • Photos  SILENTSAMA Architectural Photography


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 119.96kwhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under = 65%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 219,000 litres/occupant/year
  • Recycled material content by value = 12%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value =33 %
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 81%

Riptide House

Fresh take on traditional design provides high-level living comfort

By RHAD Architects

Just as a riptide in the ocean is a strong counterflow against a prevailing current, so Riptide House in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia represents a powerful oppositional force against the standard housing practices in Canadian cities. The clients, an East Coast surfing family, wanted a home that would fit in with their established urban neighbourhood, while simultaneously addressing the environmental issues faced by our society. 

As designers, our challenge was to respect the historic vernacular of the neighbourhood, while creating a contemporary house with superior energy performance based on passive design principles. The modernization of the deep-rooted wooden gable typology characteristic of homes on the Atlantic coast resulted in a modest 123 sq.m,, three-bedroom home with a potential secondary basement suite to encourage urban densification. 

The house replaces an older structure that was set back from its neighbours toward the rear of the north-facing lot. The new house is positioned to unify the streetscape, to increase the size of the south- facing rear yard and create a private courtyard for the family. 

The simple gable form was cut and slid apart, creating a primary volume containing the living and dining areas and kitchen on the main floor and bedrooms upstairs; with a secondary volume containing the laundry room, washroom and stairs. The traditional form was refined by tight eaves detailing and a clean, simple and durable palette of material, including V-groove cedar siding and corrugated aluminum. 

The shift in plan creates the opportunity for a covered front entry from the street and a mudroom entrance from the south-facing rear courtyard. The design is familiar enough to fit in, yet different enough to stand out. This difference creates an educational opportunity for members of the community interested in the energy saving strategies and other environmental features of the house. 

RHAD project team: Rayleen Hill, Megan Lloyd, Matthew Kijewski and Darren Fransen.

A combination of Kohltech fixed and operating triple-glazed casement windows, painted black exterior, are Passive House-certified for a perfect pairing of energy-efficiency and quality.


  • Owner/Developer  Jason Van Mee
  • Architect  RHAD Architects
  • General Contractor  Construction managed by Owner/Developer
  • Landscape Architect  UPLAND
  • Structural Engineer Andrea Doncaster Engineering
  • Energy Modelling  AmeriSpec
  • Photos  Julian Parkinson


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 125.41 KWhr/m²/year.
  • Total electricity demand = 15,426 kWh/year
  • Total floor area (not including basement) = 123m²
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 56%


Design makes access to natural light and the outdoors fundamental to patient health

Like any city that is reaching a new level of livability, Selkirk, Manitoba has grown to need significant health services and facilities for local residents and those living in the region. The new two-storey, state-of-the-art, LEED Gold Selkirk Regional Health Centre (SRHC) is a 184,000 square foot regional healthcare hub,  offering everything from a birthing centre, dialysis,  surgery, cancer care, MRI diagnostics and outpatient programs, serving the Interlake region.

By James Orlikow

The Centre features an interior contemplation courtyard with a light sculpture, three accessible roof terraces; and a green roof that is overlooked from patient bedrooms. The landscape and building connect seamlessly through an active, south-facing, family/staff courtyard with a sun deck and outdoor ‘kitchen’.

With a focus on having as much natural light as possible in the building, glazed curtain walls are located in all public areas, starting at the front entrance and completely surrounding the contemplation courtyard as a ‘light well’ wayfinding feature.

The colours and finishes of the building echo the water, sky and earth of the Interlake region. Shades of aqua and warm terra cotta balance the golden buff Tyndall stone walls. The first and last impression at every threshold on the site.

Selkirk Regional Health Centre is a replacement facility required due to the premature obsolescence of the existing 1980s hospital. Accordingly, SRHC strives for durability, maintainability, and sustainability within a responsible economic framework. The site configuration, building placement, and orientation responds to the program needs; connectivity to the adjacent health campus; future pedestrian linkages; land drainage requirements; and the horizontal loop geothermal system.

Beyond the functional drivers, SHRC’s strategic planning and design aspirations were ‘access to natural light and outdoor spaces’ for all patients, families and staff.

The SRHC campus transforms 12 hectares of vacant commercial lands, of which more than six hectares  have been converted to naturalized parkland and another hectare to xeroscaped plazas and courtyards. In addition, the building has a 250m2 green roof. 

A network of passive stormwater management features such as dry stream beds, bioswales, and seasonal retention areas work in concert with carefully sited buildings, shelterbelts, and low-mow grassland areas. This forms the framework for all of the other opens spaces on site while managing 100% of the stormwater generated by the new development and creating optimum microclimates that extend public use of the grounds to all seasons.  The development re-establishes the pre-existing aspen forest, tall-grass prairie and wetland ecozones of the Interlake on site.

The constant volume air delivery systems comply with CSA Z317.2 ventilation standard for healthcare facilities. Fresh air rates outlined in the CSA standard ensures indoor air quality to enhance patient recovery and the wellness of occupants. Most regularly occupied spaces are located on the perimeter of the building allowing access to daylight and views.


  • Owner/Developer  Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority
  • Prime Consultant  LM Architectural Group
  • General Contractor Ellis Don
  • Associate Architect  Stantec Architecture Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect  HTFC Planning & Design
  • Civil Engineer/LEED Advisor  MMM Group WSP
  • Electrical Engineer MCW / AGE Consultants Ltd
  • Mechanical Engineer  SMS Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer  Crosier, Kilgour & Partners Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent  Demand Side Energy Consultants
  • Interior Design  Environmental Space Planning
  • Photos  Gerry Kopelow


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 361.9KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 54%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 1,487 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 43%
  • Recycled material content by value = 23.67%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 10.95%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 63%

James Orlikow, FRAIC, Principal in Charge of the SRHC Project; Senior Advisor at LM Architectural Group, Winnipeg.



Solar chimney marks addition to Schulich School of Business, York University

Architecture and engineering are seamlessly integrated in the Rob and Cheryl McEwen graduate 6,166m²  academic research and classroom building to create a unique, climate responsive, hybrid environmental design  that promotes occupant wellbeing, while reducing energy use intensity to a level significantly below the model national reference standard.

By Barry Sampson

Environmental design strategies include:

  • Optimized building orientation and façade design for effective shading and solar harvesting;
  • A high-performance envelope with window-to-wall ratio carefully calibrated for effective daylighting and maximized insulation;
  • High-efficiency mechanical systems including activated concrete with radiant heating and cooling, high output metal cooling acoustic baffles and dedicated outside air displacement system.
  • A hybrid active/passive bioclimatic system featuring a climate responsive solar chimney that uses stack effect to drive effective building-wide natural ventilation, and contributes to passive pre-heating of the fresh air supply.
  • The project is targeting LEED Gold certification and is also equipped with the energy infrastructure required to achieve net zero energy in the future, pending the addition of onsite photovoltaic panels and geothermal boreholes. Together, the bustling atrium and the landmark solar chimney are physical manifestations of the school’s dual goals: to break down the physical and social barriers to creative thinking, while simultaneously putting into action the School’s commitment to sustainable design.

The unique form and architectural identity of the McEwen Building results from the synthesis of climate- adapted passive system design, program planning, and urban design responses to challenging site constrains.

Folded surfaces are used to transform the building footprint from alignment with the south-east orientation of the campus to optimal solar orientation of the building’s south facade for effective shading and solar energy harvesting, in particular optimizing the solar preheat mode of the solar chimney.  South- and west-facing glazing with Inline Fiberglass windows is shaded in summer by solar awnings and louvered shading devices.

The south-facing wind-sheltered courtyard creates an extension of the building’s social terrain and expands the existing system of interconnected courtyards of the original Schulich complex.

With interior social activities of the atrium visible through the exterior glazed wall and the chimney illuminated above as a landmark at night, these two strategic elements emphasize the social and environmental roles of the building to the campus at large.  Access by public transit is straightforward, facilitating the hosting of a variety of events and conferences. With York University subway station just a three-minute walk away, there was no requirement for additional on-site parking; instead, numerous bike parking rings were installed near the building entrances.

The 28-metre tall solar chimney, situated on top of the central atrium, drives the multi modal hybrid active/passive ventilation and environmental control system. The building automation system monitors the rooftop weather station and controls the switching between three ventilation modes: passive hybrid natural ventilation mode in shoulder seasons, active preheat mode in winter, and active cooling mode in summer.

In active modes, during the summer and winter when windows must be closed to save energy and control humidity, the building uses a Dedicated Outside Air System (programmed to save energy by meeting ventilation requirements only, rather than heating or cooling which are provided by the Klimatrol [Klimatrol (Rehau)- (905) 454-1742 and Artech (Lindner) (905) 454-1742] radiant system), and low-speed displacement ventilation. This delivers a building-wide 1.8 air changes per hour (ACH); however, this is a rare maximum supply since occupancy sensors ensure that ventilation air is delivered only where required.


  • Owner/Developer  York University
  • Architect  Baird Sampson Neuert Architects
  • General Contractor  Ellis Don Construction
  • Landscape Architect  PLANT Architect Inc.
  • Civil Engineer  R.V. Anderson Associates Limited
  • Electrical/ Mechanical Engineer  Crosssey Engineering Ltd.
  • Structural Engineer  Blackwell Structural Engineers
  • Commissioning Agent JLL
  • Climate Consultants  Transsolar
  • Code Consultant  Leber Rubes Inc.
  • Building Envelope Consultants  RDH Building Science Inc.
  • Acoustical Consultants  Swallow Acoustic Consultants
  • Cost Consultants  Vermeulens Cost Consultants
  • Elevator Consultant  KJA Consultants Inc.
  • Photos  Steven Evans Photography & Cindy Nguyen


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 89.1 KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB = 74,2%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 2,170 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 47%
  • Recycled material content by value = 20.1%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 39,2%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 88.5%


High-performance office building rejuvenates downtown neighbourhood

Occupying a prominent downtown corner across from Victoria’s historic City Hall, this mixed-use commercial complex includes two levels of underground parking, a street level with landscaped boulevards and public plazas flanked by ground floor retail spaces. The six-storey, 10,362 m² west building and 13-storey, 16,299 m² east building house class-A office space above.

By Franc D’Ambrosio, Founding Principal, Erica Sangster, Principal, D’AMBROSIO architecture + urbanism and Andy Chong, Managing Principal, INTEGRAL GROUP.

Urban Design and Architecture

The developer’s aim was to contribute to the resurgence of Victoria’s downtown, provide much needed high-quality office space and set a design benchmark in the regeneration of a moribund city block. The building forms have been sculpted to define street edges and create public spaces that are welcoming, human scaled, and integrated with both the street fabric and the building activity.

The fundamental massing strategy was to divide the site laterally and thereby locate two separate and distinct buildings.  As a complex of two buildings, the project is in scale with the surrounding context. The separation has allowed for gracious public open spaces and also facilitated phased construction.  The two buildings share aspects of form and materials, but differ in their massing and façade composition. Both outwardly express their function, with slender office wings and primary circulation routes clearly articulated in concrete and glass.

The public focus of the project is the Rotunda, a 500m² sky-lit atrium that brings natural light into the centre of the west building and also functions as the return air plenum for the ventilation system. To support the 20-metre diameter skylight, a unique structure comprising six ‘boomerang-shaped’ radially arranged, glue-laminated timber members was designed. The members are connected with steel tension rods, as well as concentric steel tension and compression rings – a solution that is economical in material use and maximizes daylight penetration.


The project’s  Energy Utilization Intensity (EUI) was reduced by high-performance in three main areas: building envelope; ventilation heat recovery; and building heating and cooling.  Building envelope options were optimized using energy modelling, and include a continuous layer of exterior insulation to achieve R-30 in walls. 

Combined with high-performance double-glazing and a strategic window-to-wall ratio, the building enclosure minimizes both heat loss, and cooling requirements due to solar heat gains.

Heating and cooling for the building is driven by a hybrid air/ground-source heat-recovery chiller plant.  This system can operate in either air-source mode (taking advantage of Victoria’s relatively temperate climate), or in ground-source (maintaining compressor efficiency, while using only a modestly-sized borehole field). Radiant ceiling panels provide heating and cooling to all office spaces, using moderate water temperatures and eliminating the need for fans to distribute space heating and cooling.


The larger east building uses underfloor air distribution and displacement ventilation. Dual core heat recovery technology reverses intake and exhaust pathways every 60 seconds, alternately charging large aluminum cores to achieve more than 80% effective heat recovery; much higher than conventional fixed-plate or wheel-type systems.

Variable speed AHU fans and automatic VAV dampers modulate the supply of dedicated ventilation air (no recirculation) in response to CO2 and humidity levels, maintaining indoor air quality and exhausting latent heat gains, while conserving energy for fans, heating, and dehumidification. All systems are controlled by a comprehensive digital Building Automation System.


  • Energy Intensity = 102 kWh/m²-yr
  • Thermal Energy Demand Intensity = 22.9 kWh/m²-yr
  • Energy Consumption Reduction vs. ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (LEED 2009) Baseline = 45%
  • Energy Cost Savings vs. ASHRAE 90.1-2007 (LEED 2009) Baseline = 33%


  • Owner/Developer: Jawl Properties
  • Architect: D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism
  • General Contractor / Construction Manager: Campbell Construction   
  • Energy Model: Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer: RJC Engineers
  • Building Envelope: RDH
  • Landscape Architect: Murdoch & de Greeff
  • Electrical Engineer:  AES
  • Mechanical Engineer  Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer:  RJC Engineers
  • LEED Consultant:  Integral Group
  • Photos: Sama Jim Canzian



Advanced sustainable design strategies improve performance in this challenging building type

Completed In 2017, this 8000m² hybrid competition and community aquatic facility replaces an aging indoor and outdoor pool complex, no longer capable of meeting the University of British Columbia’s changing needs. The challenge was to create a facility that would balance the high-performance training requirements of the university successful competitive swim program, with the increased demand for lessons and leisure opportunities from the rapidly expanding residential communities on campus.

By Jim Taggart

The Aquatic Centre is divided north south into four linear program ‘bars’ – lobby and change rooms, community aquatics, competition aquatics, and bleachers. Daylight is used to differentiate between the two aquatic halls. A line of Y-shaped columns supports a continuous six-metre wide skylight that bisects the aquatic hall, delineating competition and leisure areas. A translucent screen creates a luminescent barrier between the two principal spaces, making it possible to control the uses, and have two different activities or events taking place simultaneously.

The architectural composition consists of three distinct elements: a tessellated standing seam metal roof that hovers over an inclined black concrete base, and is separated from it by a continuous ribbon of fritted glazing. The roof rises and falls according to the functional requirements of the spaces below, its slopes and projections providing rain protection, solar shading, and control of daylight penetration as required. The building has become an integral part of the university’s new student hub, adjacent to the bus loop and a few steps from the new student union building.

As a building type, aquatic centres present some major challenges from the sustainability perspective, including water conservation, air quality, energy optimization, light control and acoustic performance.

Water Conservation

Of these, water conservation is the most significant, standard practice being that pools are emptied and the water discarded every time the pool requires maintenance. For the project team, not only did this seem an outdated practice from an environmental point of view, it also seemed incompatible with UBC’s reputation as a leading proponent of sustainable design.

In fact, water conservation has been an important consideration for the UBC Properties Trust for two decades, with new buildings now required to reduce water consumption by 30% relative to the reference standard. This is part of an overall requirement that all new projects are built to LEED Gold standard.

With the university currently conducting research on regenerative neighbourhoods, the project team began looking for ways in which the building could contribute positively to the infrastructure requirements of the community as a whole.

The answer was to create an underground cistern that could not only collect all the pool water during maintenance, but also supply the fire department should the need arise, or accommodate storm surge water for the north campus precinct, so relieving pressure on the existing storm sewer system.

The cistern, which has a capacity of 900,000 litres, is divided into three compartments according to the amount of filtration required prior to reuse. Another of its functions is to collect rainwater from the roof and the adjacent transit plaza, reusing it for toilet flushing, irrigation and poll top up.

  • Client  UBC Properties Trust
  • Architects   MJMA & Acton Ostry Architects
  • Photos  Shai Gil; Ema Peter



Valleyview town hall

New municipal building aims for Passive House Plus

By Oscar Flechas

The new Valleyview Town Hall is an 800 m² two-storey plus basement building located in Valleyview, 350Km north of Edmonton in the heart of Alberta’s oil country. Despite the large seasonal fluctuations in temperature and sunlight levels at this latitude, Valleyview Town Hall is aiming to be the first Passive House certified commercial building in Alberta and the first Passive House Plus in North America. This means that on-site renewables meet 100% of the building’s energy demand on an annual basis, a giant leap forward for a town with fewer than 2,000 residents.

The building reuses the footprint of a previous structure, minimizing site disturbance, preserving adjacent community park space and capitalizing on solar orientation. With the latter being a vital strategy in this extreme climate, the program is organized with high-traffic working areas towards the long, naturally-lit south side to ensure energy balancing. In the warmer months, heat gains are controlled with fixed shades that cut out the high angle sun.

In addition to its aggressive energy targets, the Passive House Standard requires excellent indoor air quality through carefully calibrated mechanical ventilation and air recirculation systems. To maintain steady temperatures over all three levels of the building, ventilation specifications included a mix of outdoor variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system for cooling and heating, and a high-efficiency energy recovery ventilator.

To further enhance indoor environmental quality, all interior finishes, paints, adhesives, flooring and composite wood products are specified to contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and be free of other toxins. Beyond the physiological health of its employees, however, the municipality is also concerned for their psychological wellbeing. Accordingly, all workspaces and other frequently used areas are adjacent to operable windows that connect visually to the park, while a balcony and designated outdoor sitting area ensure that the connection with nature is not only visual but also physical.

Another Passive House requirement is for durability of materials and assemblies. The materials chosen, including glass fibre reinforced concrete (GRC), and high pressure laminate siding and metal siding which are both resilient and long lasting. The highly energy efficient envelope includes Passive House certified windows within  a rainscreen system that promotes drying of any moisture that gets behind the cladding. Together with the airtight and vapour open construction this ensures there is no unwanted condensation within the wall assembly and extends the life of the envelope components.

In anticipation of changing needs over the life of the building, an area for future physical expansion is included within the existing Passive House envelope. Accommodating future expansion and reconfiguration meant that the size and spacing of the windows had to be carefully considered to accommodate potential changes to the functional layout.


  • Owner/Developer  Town of Valleyview
  • Architect  Flechas Architecture Inc.
  • Indicative Design  Kobayashi + Zedda Architects Ltd., ReNu Building Science and Williams Engineering
  • General Contractor  Scott Builders Inc.
  • Landscape Architect  Kinnikinnick Studio Inc.
  • Civil Engineer  HELiX Engineering Ltd.
  • Electrical/Mechanical Engineer  Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer  Laviolette Engineering Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent  Bair Balancing
  • Energy Modelling  Marken Design+Consult
  • Photos  Flechas Architecture Inc.


  • The highly energy efficient envelope uses Euroline 4700 Series THERMOPLUS™ PHC Tilt & Turn windows in a rainscreen system that allows drying of any moisture that gets behind the cladding. Tech-Crete CFI® pre-finished exterior insulating wall panels are used on the foundation.
  • The building reuses the footprint of a previous structure, minimizing site disturbance, preserving adjacent community park space and capitalizing on solar orientation. The foundation of Quad-Lock® Insulated Concrete Forms was supplied by Airfoam Insulation products which offers Insulation Boards, Insulated Metal Panels, Geofoam and Void-Fill for wall, roof and below-grade applications.
  • The hallway leading to workspaces which have operable windows that connect visually to the park. The project uses a Tempeff North America ERV system with Dual-Core technology to recover both heat and humidity in winter for continuous fresh air supply and a frost-free operation in extremely cold conditions.
  • All interior finishes, paints, adhesives, flooring and composite wood products are specified to contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds. To maintain steady temperatures over all three levels of the building, ventilation specifications included an outdoor variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling for cooling and heating, and a high-efficiency energy recovery ventilator.
  • Ōko skin extruded concrete slats by Rieder are made up of glassfibre reinforced concrete, 100% non-combustible, available in a range of colours, requires no maintenance and individual elements can be replaced easily.