All posts by Samantha Ashenhurst

Two grain silo conversions win tall building awards

Converted silo Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa, received this year’s award for Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). Photo © Iwan Baan
Converted silo Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa, received this year’s award for Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).
Photo © Iwan Baan

Nine high-rise projects from around the world received awards from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) at the 2018 Tall + Urban Innovation Conference in Chicago. The winners were selected from more than 40 global nominees across nine categories.

Oasia Downtown Hotel received the award for Best Tall Building Worldwide.
Photo © Patrick Bingham-Hall

Among this year’s winners were two adaptive re-use projects, both of which re-purposed former silos. The first—The Silo in Copenhagen, Denmark, which received the award for Best Tall Building Europe—preserved as much of its original structure as possible and was re-designed by Danish architecture firm COBE as a residential high-rise in a formerly industrial area.

“For architects, one of the hardest jobs of working on an adaptive reuse project like this is that you can fall in love with the original structure—which in this case was the old silo; this monolithic, slim, and esthetically pleasing building,” said Caroline Nagel, project director with COBE. “In this instance, it was a question of how you can transform the original structure into a livable building that still contains the old soul of the silo.”

The other adapted silo, Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, South Africa, took the top honour in the category of Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, with architects of record Jacobs Parker Architects, Rick Brown Associates, and Van Der Merwe Miszewski Architects, the re-purposed building features a luxury hotel on its upper floors and an international museum dedicated to contemporary African art on the bottom.

“There were very loud calls for the original structure’s demolition, and there is no surprise as to why: it is valuable real estate, and it is much less risky to build something new,” said developer Mark Noble. “My response to that was, why would you do that? It was the mix of old and new that drew us to the project, and there are multiple layers of history there. We did not want to wipe the slate clean, and what would you replace it with that has this much power?”

This year’s top honour for the Americas went to American Copper Buildings in New York City. Designed by SHoP Architects, the dual residential buildings are connected with a skybridge, 91 m (300 ft) in the air. The bridge features a pool, which allows residents to swim between the two sites.

SHoP Architects’ American Copper Buildings received the Best Tall Buildings America award from CTBUH.
Photo © Max Touhey

The World Trade Center Master Plan (Studio Daniel Libeskind), also in New York City, won the Urban Habitat award, which recognizes significant contributions to the urban realm in connection with tall buildings. Additionally, New York Times Tower (Renzo Piano Building Workshop) received the 10 Year Award, which honours a project completed in 2007.

Other winners include:

To read more, click here.

Mobile tech can improve project tracking, control costs: Dodge study

Mobile technology allows contractors to access timely, accurate information from construction sites. Photo by
Mobile technology allows contractors to access accurate information from construction sites.
Photo ©

Connectivity and mobile technologies can help contractors gather accurate and timely data from the field, reliably control costs, and more efficiently manage their equipment fleets, according to a new study from Dodge Data & Analytics, in partnership with B2W Software. These improvements are expected to better connect field, office, and maintenance operations to better manage heavy construction projects.

“The Dodge Data & Analytics study confirms that heavy contractors are struggling to capture data and use it to optimize project performance and resources, and that there are significant opportunities for them to improve in these areas through the right technologies and mobile capabilities,” said Paul McKeon, CEO of B2W Software.

The study determined that contractors believe a range of current and emerging technologies, from mobile devices/applications for project management to big data analysis, will provide more accurate data from the field, thus improving project management. The study also reported data captured in the field (i.e. information on project/employee performance and safety) must be accurate and timely in order to be useful for effective decision making; however, latency and errors remain a challenge in heavy construction.

“This lag in the exchange of critical data between field and office, and the concerns about its accuracy, seriously interfere with heavy contractors’ efforts to improve performance,” said Steve Jones, senior director of industry insights research with Dodge Data & Analytics.

The study also found tracking and maintaining fleets in the heavy construction market can be a significant drain on both budget and human resources, with many contractors continuing to rely on spreadsheets and paper for these processes. Contractors employing specialized software, telematics, and mobile applications reported they manage their equipment more effectively, can better optimize resource utilization, and increase equipment uptime.

Dodge Data & Analytics will host a series of webinars exploring these findings. To learn more, click here.

Guest column: Lazy construction has disastrous results

Photos courtesy Entuitive

By Brian Shedden, BSSO

What are the main problems relating to the state of wood-framed construction in Canada?

All over the country, I am seeing restorations—which, traditionally, have been reserved for either replacing components that have reached the end of their service or for a simple ‘face-lift’—for buildings less than 10 years of age.

In my hands-on role as principal at an engineering firm, I spend most of my time investigating building envelope failures in relatively new buildings. More and more often, property owners have to restore buildings which were built using new materials and technologies, based on designs that complied with current building codes. This is because improperly constructed building envelope assemblies often lead to massive structural failures.

A mess of a site
In 2013, my firm was called to a complex with more than 40 high-end, townhouse-style condominiums in Alberta, with units which had originally been sold for approximately $1.5 million each. The buildings had been constructed from 2007 to 2009, so this was a fairly new build. However, residents were already reporting issues of top-floor leaking to building management.

My team discovered decayed wall sheathing.

Before beginning my site review, I stood across the street from the site and noted the appearance of the buildings. There was evidence of ice dams—I could see the ice hanging out over the soffits and eaves—but something else concerned me: the homes were not level. They appeared to be slightly bowing.

Once I reviewed the condominium’s attic space, additional issues became apparent:

  1. While the roofs had vented, aluminum soffits, these installations were not able to perform their “air-supply” role due to being either plugged with insulation or covered with plywood from above.
  2. The firewalls between the townhouse units had never been sealed. They had water stains running down the sides of the open joints.
  3. A layer of dust atop the insulated ducts running through the attic space was decorated with spots, caused by dripping water that had condensed and fallen from the protruding roof nails above.
  4. The installed polyethylene vapour barrier not been sealed to the pot-lights penetrating the top-floor ceiling.

I determined the ice damming was a direct result of too much warm, moist air escaping into the attic space and that the blocked soffit vents had prevented the natural convection air-flow. This warm air melted the snow on the rooftop and the water froze again as it moved toward the cold outer edge of the roof. Without adequate convective ventilation where warm air rises to the top and escapes to the exterior while drawing in cool, dry air from the lower soffit areas, I could seal the vapour barrier, but I knew the ventilation problem would pose a challenge.

As the roofs only had 102 mm (4 in.) soffits and only a 3/12 pitch, there was no easy way to introduce soffit ventilation from either the interior of the attic space or from below the overhangs. We needed to remove a 1.2 m (4 ft) strip of roof deck sheathing from the entire perimeter of the rooftops to open blocked vents and install insulation baffles to keep the insulation from plugging up the ventilation. This ended up costing approximately $400,000 in roofing, ventilation, sealing, and firewall repairs—nearly $10,000 per unit.

While working on this challenge, the condo board of directors asked my team to complete a full condition assessment of the rest of the site. The first step was to perform an extensive visual assessment to determine what symptoms are present that might point to underlying issues. In my experience, the perfect time to do this kind of work is in the rain. These conditions provide inspectors with a free water-test, which can help locate all of the potential weak points in the building envelope.

During construction, the entire site was enclosed and protected with scaffolding.

When performing the visual assessment, my team observed many alarming issues, including:

  • staining at the balcony columns;
  • drip patterns at windows with no flashing;
  • little evidence of sealants;
  • overflowing eavestroughs;
  • step cracks throughout the field of the brick veneer masonry;
  • cladding in direct contact with the ground; and
  • panels of masonry leaning away from the building.

Having identified some areas of concern, we then began a round of exploratory dismantlement. We cut into the brick veneer and found reverse lapped building paper and membranes. We cut into the supposed stucco and found 25 mm (1 in.) thick expanded polystyrene foam insulation with only a finish coat of cementitious material installed. We opened corners at windows and found reversed lapped membranes and broken miter joints on the window frames themselves. We opened sections of the stained columns and found severe structural decay. Finally, we opened the drywall in the garage ceilings and found grossly under-sized main structural beams.

With the undersized main beams threatening occupancy, we had to emergency shore each unit.

The extensive problems with the building envelope required a complete re-cladding of the site. After design and competitive tendering, the repairs were estimated at about $7 million—roughly $165,000 per unit, plus $10,000 in roof repairs. In addition to the costs, property values were quickly dropping to about 50 per cent of what homeowners had paid to purchase the units five years earlier.

Significant re-construction
We began re-construction work in the spring of 2016. The entire site was enclosed and protected with scaffolding. Upwards of 100 tradespersons were onsite every day. My team and I provided daily site review services and contract administration.

As the demolition phase commenced, it became apparent the issue of decay was far more widespread than initially considered. Columns of three-ply 51 x 152 mm (2 x 6 in.) studs that were only a few years old had decayed to the point where you could literally poke your finger through them. Additionally, widespread areas of sheathing had decayed to the point of total deterioration.

When it came to removal of the brick veneer, large panels were found to be only anchored by a few brick ties, while other areas had way too many. As for the faux stucco, the through-wall flashing was simply a dummy; there was no through-wall installation.

Re-construction took eight months to complete.

The racking in the structure, which had resulted in the breaking of the window frame joints, was the most challenging aspect of the project. We had to carry out interior shoring and replacement of the major beams all while the units were fully occupied.

For the re-construction and re-cladding, a new moisture and air barrier was applied to the entire shell. New windows were flashed in, following repeated mock-up attempts to get the process right. A drained exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) was installed, as well as new brick veneer masonry structural columns, sheathing, balconies, garage doors, and eavestroughs.

We finished construction in November 2016. All-in-all, the job took eight months.

The original jobsite appeared to have the markers of responsible craftsmanship. The required paperwork was stamped by engineers. A foreman oversaw construction. City inspections were performed and architectural certificates were issued. Everything appeared to have been done properly and to code—on paper. In reality, it was apparent corners were cut and risks were taken to minimize construction costs.

Brian Shedden, BSSO, is a principal in the existing buildings group at Entuitive Corporation in Calgary. He has more than three decades of experience in the building construction and restoration industry. Shedden is a past-president of the Ontario Building Envelope Council (OBEC), past-director of Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI), presenter at The Buildings Show, and recognized as a leading expert in the field of building science. He can be contacted via e-mail at


Waxing romantic: Toronto design alludes to power of love

Designed by Alva Roy Architects, the Towers of Love are intended to symbolize the unity of romantic love.
Photo courtesy Alva Roy Architects

When designing the Towers of Love, Toronto-based architect Alva Roy aimed to evoke an emotional response from onlookers. The 22- and 24-storey towers stand alone, yet together. Each structure is contoured in such a way as to draw the eye to its mate. The result, Roy says, is a testament to the depths of romantic love and union.

“Love is when two entities join to become one,” says Roy. “I went to meticulous care to make sure that this design would be emblematic of this inextricable bond that is the very essence of love.”

With an end-date of April 2022, plans for the multi-use facility include hotel, restaurant, and office space in one building, while the other will house commercial and residential units. The proposed development will be built in the Toronto area.

“Architecture is not just a wall, a floor and a ceiling to house ourselves,” says Roy. “It is a place where we connect to the deepest emotions of the human heart. Where we invoke peace and calm—and where we summon the richest parts of our being and existence.”

Toronto studio named RAIC’s firm of the year

Toronto’s Bloor/Gladstone District Library is among RDHA’s designs. The studio received the 2018 Architectural Firm Award from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).
Photos © Tom Arban

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) has announced Toronto-based studio RDHA as the recipient of its 2018 Architectural Firm Award. One of the country’s oldest practices, RDHA has recently undergone a successful renewal, introducing new and creative players who strive to produce high-calibre, innovative architectural design.

“There is a remarkable consistency throughout the last 10 to 15 years of work by a younger generation of designers that have kept [RDHA’s] lineage and re-established themselves as a leading designing firm in Toronto,” said RAIC’s five-member jury about the studio. “For the successors to rebuild the firm and reputation and deliver a fresh portfolio of completed projects is exceptionally difficult.”

RDHA designed the Williams Parkway Operations Centre in Brampton, Ont.

Recent RDHA projects include:

  • Waterdown Library and Civic Centre—Hamilton, Ont. (2015);
  • Lakeview, Port Credit, and Lorne Park Libraries—Mississauga, Ont. (2011);
  • Hamilton Central Library and Farmers’ Market—Hamilton (2010);
  • Bloor/Gladstone District Library—Toronto (2009);
  • Williams Parkway Operations Centre—Brampton, Ont. (2017); and
  • Surrey Operations Centre—Surrey, B.C. (2016).

Founded in 1919, RDHA has produced a wide range of work across Canada, including corporate headquarters, embassies, industrial facilities, academic buildings, and libraries. In 2005, the firm’s partners decided to change the nature of the firm by re-defining RDHA’s office structure and creative design process, which attracted the attention of young talent.

Since the shift, RDHA and its current partners—Tyler Sharp, Geoff Miller, Bob Goyeche, Rob Boyko, and Momin Hoq—have received significant recognition and praise. In addition to this year’s Architectural Firm Award, the studio has won more than 40 major design accolades in the past 10 years, including three Governor General’s Medals for Architecture. Additionally, Sharp received the RAIC 2014 Young Architect Medal.

The award will be presented at the RAIC/Architects’ Association of New Brunswick (AANB) Festival of Architecture, taking place in Saint John from May 30 to June 2. For details, click here.

To read more about RDHA’s win, click here.

Building a Montréal community

Plans for Tour des Canadiens 3 (TDC3) in Montréal’s Quad Windsor neighbourhood include a skybridge, connecting residents to the metro and RÉSO systems.
Images courtesy Cadillac Fairview/PR Newswire

Construction has launched on Tour des Canadiens 3 (TDC3), the third phase of a project in downtown Montréal’s new Quad Windsor neighbourhood. Designed by IBI Group with Béïque Legault Thuot Architectes, the 53-storey residential building is slated to house 565 units, including a dozen townhouses.

Named for Montréal’s National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, the Canadiens, TDC3 will feature a ground-level café connected to an adjacent park, as well as adaptable party rooms, a fitness centre with an indoor pool, a modern game room, and SkyLounge on the building’s 55th floor. An above-ground skybridge will provide residents with direct access to the Montréal métro, as well as to RÉSO, the city’s underground path network. The bridge will also provide direct access to Réseau express métropolitain (REM), Montréal’s new $6.3 billion light rail transit (LRT) system, which is due to open in summer 2021.

With a $2 billion investment from real estate development firm Cadillac Fairview, the Quad Windsor neighbourhood is expected to draw nearly 6000 new residents and 6500 new workers within the next 10 years. When completed, the mixed-use community will include a 2-acre (0.8-ha) park, office buildings, residential towers, dining, shopping, and cultural exhibitions.

The first phase of the development’s construction, the 50-storey Tour Des Canadiens, was completed in May of 2016, while the second, the 53-storey Tour des Canadiens 2 (TDC2), is expected to finish in 2019. TDC3 will finish construction in 2021.

To read more, click here.

Re-purposed Hamilton warehouse becomes biomedical research facility

Once a warehouse, the Fraunhofer Project Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM) was re-purposed as a research facility by Diamond Schmitt Architects.
Photos courtesy Diamond Schmitt Architects

A facility focused on advancing cell therapy research has opened in a space once occupied by a warehouse at Hamilton’s McMaster Innovation Park (MIP). Re-purposed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, the $33-million project is a partnership between McMaster University and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI.

The Fraunhofer Project Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (BEAM) is considered an innovation centre at the crossroads of life sciences, medicine, and engineering. Diamond Schmitt’s re-design of the open-concept 1858-m2 (20,000-sf) space created accommodations for office, research, and manufacturing facilities. Additional space of the same size on the building’s second floor will eventually house laboratories and administration offices.

The 1858-m2 (20,000-sf) re-design created office, research, and manufacturing space.

Researchers at the facility will develop cell manufacturing systems related to cell therapy and immunology and advance technologies for eye care, point-of-care medical devices, and cancer treatments.

“The new facilities will ensure BEAM scientists have the infrastructure required to move their research on biomaterials, diagnostics, and cell therapies into market-ready technologies,” says Frank Emmrick, director of the Fraunhofer Institute.

Diamond Schmitt re-purposed the facility with an open design concept to create a flexible, re-configurable space where resources can be shared among working research groups.

“A flexible modular approach defines the layout and planning of the Containment Level 2 Laboratory Zones,” says John Featherstone, principal with the firm. “Open concept island benches with top down servicing achieve the maximum amount of serviceable floor space for equipment and benching while maintaining safe distances between facing work areas for circulation.”

In keeping with MIP’s mandate to attain a minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification for all of its buildings, BEAM’s design incorporates many sustainable design initiatives outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), including:

  • non-toxic products;
  • green construction measures;
  • indoor air quality (IAQ);
  • recycled content;
  • efficient lighting;
  • reduced water usage; and
  • daylight and views.

To read more, click here.

Québec welcomes country’s second LEED Platinum home

L’Heure Bleue features an airtight building envelope, energy efficient lighting, and a rain garden.
Photo courtesy Canada Green Building Council

L’Heure Bleue in Charlevoix, Que., is the second home in Canada to achieve Platinum status under Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC’s) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Guided by Québec LEED organization Écohabitation, indoor and outdoor construction of the project focused on ecological awareness, sustainable materials, and environmental management.

Situated on more than 0.8 ha (2 acres) of property along the St. Lawrence River, the 218-m2 (2350-sf) modern farmhouse revival was the vision of baby boomers Pierre Chevrier and Suzanne Rhéaume, designed by Québec firm Tergos. Awarded certification under LEED v4 Building Design and Construction (BD+C) Homes, the ecologically responsible design features adaptive elements, which can be altered to suit the changing mobility and accessibility needs of the homeowners.

“LEED v4 convinced me that my home would be adapted not only to my personal needs for a healthy lifestyle as an active senior, but also as a worthwhile investment I would not regret leaving for our children and grandchildren,” said Rhéaume. “This was a self-build project that became a passion of ours as we networked, researched, and rolled-up our sleeves. Achieving the Platinum level is very rewarding, but what is even more gratifying is knowing that this home was a grassroots endeavour. It was built by someone’s mom and dad, grandma and grandpa.”

The home’s features include:

  • a highly-insulated, airtight building envelope;
  • an air exchanger and opening windows on the river-facing side of the house;
  • energy efficient appliances;
  • light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and natural lighting;
  • rainwater harvesting and well water usage; and
  • a rain garden, xeriscaping, food forest, and permaculture.

To read a detailed project case study, click here.

Progressive workplace coming to Toronto’s downtown core

The BMO Campus will feature a four-storey atrium and access to Toronto’s underground PATH network.
Image courtesy CNW Group/BMO Financial Group

BMO Financial Group announced plans to revitalize the commercial space at Cadillac Fairview (CF) Toronto Eaton Centre, transforming the city’s Yonge and Dundas Square into an urban work campus. The project, known as the BMO campus, will be built in the space previously occupied by Sears.

The 32,516-m2 (350,000-sf) development will feature a four-storey atrium, a variety of collaborative work areas, open floorplans, and access to Toronto’s underground PATH network, connecting to public transit, restaurants, and shops. BMO hopes the location will meet the changing demands of an increasingly mobile workforce and better serve the bank’s customers.

“This urban campus is central to the business transformation underway at BMO,” said Darryl White, company CEO. “We are unified in our focus on the customer and now we are accelerating.”

“Cadillac Fairview is excited about the opportunity to collaborate with BMO to envision and design this exciting re-imagining of work space,” added John Sullivan, CF’s CEO. “With CF Toronto Eaton Centre as its home, BMO’s urban campus will stand out as a vibrant environment to stimulate bold ideas, foster new ways of working, and ultimately attract the best talent.”

The project is slated to open in 2021.

To read more, click here.

Looking for innovative design in Mississauga, Ont.

Square One Shopping Centre North Expansion/Simons previously received a Healthy by Design Award at the Mississauga Urban Design Awards.
Photo courtesy City of Mississauga

Architects, engineers, designers, and contractors are invited to nominate projects for the 2018 Mississauga Urban Design Awards. Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the theme for this year’s awards program is “Design That Moves Us.”

Nominations are open to projects completed in the City of Mississauga prior to March 30, 2018. In addition to Awards of Excellence and Merit, submissions will also be considered for an Award of “Healthy by Design,” honouring projects which adhere to elements of the region’s Healthy Development Index (HDI) (i.e. promoting walkable, healthy communities). The number of awards issued will be at the discretion of the jury.

Submitted designs will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • significance, city-wide scale;
  • significance, community scale;
  • living green;
  • innovation;
  • context;
  • execution; and
  • healthy by design.

The deadline for applications is March 30. To submit a project, click here.

To read about last year’s winners, click here.