Canadian Architect

Feature

60 Richmond Street East Housing Co-Operative

Award of Excellence

December 1, 2007
by Canadian Architect

ARCHITECT TEEPLE ARCHITECTS INC.

LOCATION TORONTO, ONTARIO

This project explores ideas for the future of urbanism in the North American city, and it seeks to understand and express the notion that urban form can simultaneously be environmental form. We believe that our culture has a fundamentally different view of our planet than in the past century. We do not imagine the world as a vast resource to be tapped at our will, but as limited, finite, and in the midst of a process of inevitable destruction. 60 Richmond seeks to imagine the city as an extension of the natural environment, rather than as a machine invented to modify and temper it. To this end, while its principal role is to define and animate the public space of the city, the architecture acts as a medium to cultivate greenery, cool and cleanse the air, and absorb storm water. The co-operative will house people from the hospitality field, and has a public restaurant and training kitchen on the ground floor, serving to animate Richmond Street. Gardens have been carved out of the building at various levels which will not only provide the restaurant with herbs and vegetables, but will create the principal social spaces of the building. At the same time, these gardens permit additional daylighting to reach further into the dwellings, providing natural light to multiple exposures of various units. Waste from the restaurant will be recycled or composted for the garden while roof rain water will be recycled to irrigate the garden, assisting the creation of a condition of urban permaculture. The building is viewed as a living, growing form that responds equally to the urban form of the city and the environmental condition of the site.

The primary objectives of the design are to define, animate, and bring new conceptual underpinnings to the public space of the city. An integrated design process involved the architectural team, an energy modelling consultant, an engineering team, the client, and the building’s intended occupants. The very nature of its elevations derived from these energy concerns–its conception as a solid volume with a limited but appropriate glazed area. The building is designed with 60% solid and 40% glazed area, required to achieve the energy savings necessary for a LEED Gold rating. Unlike other residential building types, the entire structure is wrapped in a highly insulated rain-screen cladding that eliminates all thermal bridging. One particularly technical innovation of the project is the recycling of the foundation walls of the previously existing building as shoring for the new construction.

The fibreglass glazing frames act as extended thermal breaks which, in combination with Low-E, argon-filled glazing units with warm edge spacers, provide optimal performance of the glazing system. All roofs on the project are green surfaces, helping to further insulate the building, limiting the heat island effect in the downtown core, while also absorbing storm water. A cistern is provided such that any overflow can be utilized to water the garden. Natural ventilation is provided to all principal spaces of the building, and daylight reaches a large percentage of the rooms in the building. A sophisticated mechanical system is capable of transferring energy from the warm side to the cold side of the building, and in-suite heat recovery is provided throughout the project, resulting in an exceptionally energy-efficient residential building.

The client program–a housing co-op for hospitality workers–was a key inspiration for the design. This program generated the idea of the architecture as urban permaculture, as well as the need for social spaces focused on food and its production. A key client requirement was a durable building achieved with minimal funds, which informed every decision regarding materiality and building systems.

Daoust: This is a very challenging project restating the importance of architecture within social housing projects. A playful deconstructed volume elegantly addresses the change of scale on this corner site. This urban project recognizes the importance of street connections and animation. It represents a step beyond the trendy sustainability strategies that introduce the permaculture concept in response to the programmatic needs of the project.

Kearns: This project has concentrated a great deal of creativity and energy into the architectural expression of the building, producing an iconic, interlocking set of contrasting tonal volumes that step out and back from the street line making indented pockets of elevated gardens and courtyards on upper levels. The client’s commitment to LEED Gold and instructions to the architect that a ratio of 40/60 window to wall be provided has resulted in the emergence of a building type where to deliver architectural delight, the exterior walls are manipulated in plane to create a subscale composition of geometric forms. An elegant urban farming thesis has been added in support of this sustainable proposition wherein water and compost is being harvested and fed to gardens for the propagation of vegetables–which may then be consumed back down at the restaurant level. This is a full-cycle ecosystem, although on a very small scale. This project challenges the client to revise current thinking about affordable housing being quietly introduced into the city fabric, and will make a statement about being a living part of an ecological process in a building that stands out visually as an icon. To achieve this outcome successfully, it will most likely have a higher construction cost than most privately developed condominiums, and will require an unusually high proportion of exterior envelope relative to the usable floor area. The deconstructed cube with interior courts and shafts produces few typical floors and creates a lot of exterior horizontal and vertical surfaces with greater potential for heat loss. Although the design statement refers to natural daylight being provided to a large percentage of rooms in the building, the architect’s own drawings demonstrate a certain gloom at the lower, deeper levels of the internal courtyards and north faade where daylight only dimly penetrates. With this building, the client is challenged to embrace the architectural vision and to make the budget available to accomplish it. This project has asserted itself in the debate over ecology and sustainability, the social dynamics of affordable housing versus iconic architecture, and the economics of housing construction. All good questions–more work required on the answers.

Ostry: This co-operative housing project deserves praise for its desire to embody the principles of urban permaculture and strives to find an architectural expression of those principles. This is a movement to build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements–ones that reduce society’s reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution. I am not convinced that this housing project goes far enough beyond the status quo of sustainable design strategies to further these goals. I worry that the built form and systems do not respond with sensitivity to the locality’s ecology, let alone in relation to global biospheric processes. Has the movement of sun and wind been addressed? Will the project contribute positively to biodiversity? Will the structures and systems be low consumers of non-renewable resources, built with materials that have low ecological consequences, and are they designed to facilitate disassembly, continuous reuse and recycling so that at the end of their useful lives they can be reintegrated seamlessly back into the natural environment?

CLIENT TORONTO COMMUNITY HOUSING CORPORATION

ARCHITECT TEAM STEPHEN TEEPLE, CHRIS RADIGAN, RICHARD LAI, WILLIAM ELSWORTHY, EDWARD LEE, KATE CHEY, JACQUELINE WILES, ROBERT CHEUNG, MICHAEL SARGENT

STRUCTURAL CPE STRUCTURAL CONSULTANTS LIMITED

MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL JAIN & ASSOCIATES LIMITED

LANDSCAPE NAK DESIGN GROUP

INTERIORS TEEPLE ARCHITECTS INC.

CONTRACTOR BIRD CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

LEED CONSULTANT ENERMODAL ENGINEERING

GROUND FLOOR AREA 8,780 M2

BUDGET $18 M

COMPLETION 2008




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

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