Green Lantern

Princess Street Campus, Red River College, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Corbett Cibinel Architects

Located within Winnipeg’s Exchange District, the new Red River College campus demonstrates a variety of approaches to sustainable design that includes the re-use of materials, energy efficiency, and building on a brownfield site. The project is also noteworthy for its interpretation of the site’s history through its architecture: both new construction and the preservation or re-use of existing architectural elements. The campus, occupying a full city block, demonstrates the value of re-interpreting existing buildings and site. It also creates a catalyst effect by promoting the reconsideration of an historic neighbourhood while providing a contemporary learning facility for 2,000 students and 200 staff members.

The organization of the campus’ architecture seeks to reshape and preserve existing conditions relating to the site’s heritage by restoring the faades and interior spaces of five heritage buildings along Princess Street in addition to the six-storey Williams Avenue warehouse originally built in 1905. The five heritage buildings were owned by the City of Winnipeg and neglected since the 1970s. A bank built in the 1960s was also located on the site along with a parking lot and back lanes that still contained old railway spurs. Elements of new construction include an atrium behind the restored building faades, which is connected to a circulation spine. The new circulation spine running along the building occupies the former back lane area.

The campus is the largest project to date that meets the C-2000 Federal Sustainable Development performance standards and operates at an energy efficiency level that is 47 per cent better than the model National Energy Code. This equates to a savings of roughly $200,000 a year for the college. Some of the basic strategies employed in the building include integrated room occupancy sensors for the mechanical and electrical systems, a four-pipe mechanical system for zone control, high-efficiency condensate gas boilers, spectrally-selective glazing (thus filtering out the heat producing portions of the solar spectrum, but still allowing the greatest possible visible light transmittance), and a 12.8 kilowatt photovoltaic array incorporated into the south faade’s curtain wall. The $235,000 photovoltaic array is laminated between panes of glass and produces enough electricity to power five houses over a year. Large expanses of industrial glazing allow for passive solar gain, ventilation, and natural daylighting, and take in views of the surrounding Exchange District context. To conserve water and reduce the effects of a heat island on the site, a green roof planted with prairie grass was installed. The project also includes a linear garden that filters recycled gray water from washroom sinks and showers from the on-site fitness centre. The garden will also support aquatic vegetation that is in a near-hydroponic medium. The filtered water will be used for irrigation purposes servicing the internal plantings inside the college.

Another strategy in the building’s sustainable design is a reduction in the use of finishes such that materials are left in their natural colour or texture wherever possible. Drywall, paint surfaces, ceramic tile and suspended ceilings have been reduced or eliminated wherever possible. This gives the building an almost didactic aesthetic–an understanding of the origin of many of the architectural components. In other instances, maintaining an aesthetic in which new materials are minimized provides a springboard to juxtapose the new interventions with the original building components.

The addition of a new simple steel frame building that is stitched into the remaining warehouse buildings evokes a scale and character of similar buildings within the Exchange District’s context while providing a clear juxtaposition between new and old. The south-west corner of the campus features a 4.5m x 5m two-storey Learning Commons where the new steel intervention is most pronounced and public. The campus also features a three-storey atrium, with lounges, library and a reading room that is set back from the street and away from the historic structures. Through this entrance, the visitor will also find access to a bookstore, food, registration and counselling services.

The warehouse on Williams Avenue was completely rehabilitated and provides approximately a quarter of the campus’ total area. The five historic buildings were used to provide the material necessary for re-use elsewhere on the campus. The inventory of materials includes reclaimed brick, heavy timbers, glass, millwork and some tile. The old 1960s bank that was destroyed also provided some re-usable material, primarily its Tyndall stone cladding. The architects called this a process of ‘deconstruction’ rather than demolition. Re-using material wherever possible served as a means of reducing the embodied energy in the project’s redevelopment.

As an interesting feature of the project, the architects explored the idea of building planes to provide an interplay between interior and exterior spaces, in addition to the new and existing construction. For example, the new curtain wall that was set back from the historic faades forms an edge to the atrium. This volume will then penetrate the volume of the heritage faade and mutate into a series of solid walls, handrails, stairs and screens that are rendered in both transparent and translucent glass. Screened images of demolished buildings, along with the portions of party walls being reconstructed in their original locations, provide other means of acknowledging the site’s history in addition to some solar shading. Throughout the building are found interpretive messages that acknowledge the 1997 designation of the Exchange District as a National Historic Site. Archival photographs are mounted on the interior and exterior curtain walls, along with the recognition of the original architects, tenants and changes to the site and context since 1880. Over all, these features of historic interpretation were integrated into the technical aspects of the building’s sustainability quotient in order to give the campus an efficient order of being within the historic district. IC

Client: Red River College and the Province of Manitoba

Architect team: Doug Corbett, George Cibinel, Ryan Bragg, Don Blakey, Mark Thomas Ager, Glen Gross, Martin Kuilman, Hein Hulsbosch, Mike Karakas, Dan Salong, Gae Burns, Ali Lillo

Interiors: Corbett Cibinel Architects

Structural: Crosier Kilgour & Partners Ltd.

Mechanical: Corbett Cibinel Architects

Electrical: PC Engineering

Acoustic consultants: Daniel Lyzun + Associates Ltd.

Energy consultant: Gord Shymko, GF Shymko & Associates Inc.

Environmental consultants: David Rousseau, Archemy Consulting Ltd.; Ken Klassen, Natural Resources Canada

Area: 220,000 sq. ft.

Budget: $35 million

Completion: Sept. 2002 (phase 1); September 2003 (phase 2); January 2004 (phase 3)

Photography: Gerry Kopelow

The Red River College Campus won a 2003 Canadian Urban Institute Brownie Award in the Best Overall Project category for a brownfield redevelopment. For more information on the Brownie Awards and brownfield remediation processes, see Lydia Dumyn’s article entitled “Brownie Points” in our current online issue at