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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.

PROJECT CREDITS

  • 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

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Decarbonizing cement

By Jeff Ranson, Senior Associate, CaGBC

As we move towards 2050 targets for green building, embodied carbon is increasingly important to staying under the emissions budget and limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. What is embodied carbon? It’s the product of the materials and construction methods we choose. This value is often stretched over the life of the building to reflect durability, the idea that a building built to last is likely better than one that will need constant repairs. However, the reality  is that those emissions are all fully released up front. Like net-present value in the financial world, a ton of carbon emissions today is worth more than a ton of carbon emissions tomorrow.

Of all the opportunities to reduce embodied carbon, the most significant is in concrete. Concrete is the most widely used building material, cutting across both buildings and infrastructure. And despite strong and promising market growth of alternative low-carbon materials including wood and biomaterials, concrete will continue to be a critical material for construction.

Potential as a climate solution

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from concrete is a national priority. Natural Resources Canada and the Cement Association of Canada have committed to develop a decarbonization roadmap for the industry. For the designing construction industry, there are a few significant ways to reduce emissions today, and some very promising opportunities emerging.

In the immediate term, there are two opportunities to reduce emissions from concrete. The first is simply to minimize the amount of concrete projects use. This involves looking at how much concrete is required for the project and optimizing its use. This requires designers be conscious of how design choices such as massing impact material requirements. In many cases, designers are evaluating alternative low-carbon materials like mass timber to replace concrete, but nothing is as effective as just using less material.

One area in relation to embodied carbon that has been overlooked is the impact of land use planning. Infrastructure like roads, sewers, and transit require concrete.  There is no realistic substitution. Low-density suburban development oriented around the automobile results in huge amounts of embodied carbon, seldom considered in any municipal carbon strategies. CaGBC has been in discussions with researchers at the University of Toronto to better understand the relative carbon impacts of different development patterns, but at present there isn’t a well-established practice for evaluation. With more research we hope to understand the impact of embodied carbon from infrastructure and the importance what we build and where we build it.

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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.

PROJECT CREDITS

  • 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

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