RAIC Awards–Innovation in Architecture

ARCHITECT Coarchitecture
LOCATION Quebec City, Quebec

The new administrative building for GlaxoSmithKline is located in the Quebec Metro High Tech Park, opposite the company’s vaccine production facility. Coarchitecture’s multidisciplinary team included building science professionals and a mechanical engineer from the competition stage of the design development. This process resulted in an innovative building demonstrating synergies between architecture, structure, electrical-mechanical systems and Smart Working Environment solutions. 

The building is oriented to optimize solar gain, offering full daylighting without skylights or external shading devices. Open-plan workspaces are located to the north, where temperature and glare are easy to control. Meeting, training and service spaces that require acoustic and visual shielding are blocked in the centre. Finally, circulation areas and gathering spaces, which may tolerate some fluctuation in temperature, are grouped to the south. This strategy significantly reduces loads on the building’s HVAC systems.

Perforated metal sails help to control solar gain from the east and west façades while giving the building its signature appearance. Further, the shape of the roof creates a lift effect that encourages exterior air movement, aiding in the natural ventilation of the building.

A wood structure was chosen for its environmental and aesthetic qualities. Visible through the glass façade, the triangulated frame serves as bracing as well as supporting horizontal, vertical and seismic loads. The cylindrical members are tapered for an elegant effect, a first for the manufacturer. The use of wood for almost all structural components results in a building that is practically carbon-neutral when sequestration is taken into account. 

An entirely geothermal heating and cooling system was chosen for its energy performance, comfort, and ability to harmoniously integrate with the wood structure. The system’s chilled beams and radiant floors optimize the comfort of the interior spaces and facilitate the recuperation of heat energy. These strategies allow for reduced duct sizes and for a visually unobstructed wood structure.

For the open workspaces to the north of the building, Coarchitecture developed a custom system combining acoustic panels, air conditioning, indirect lighting, and ventilation functions. Pairs of butterfly-like acoustic panels are joined by chilled beams, with mechanical systems and cabling grouped above. The diffusers for the chilled beams were modified by the addition of a baffle to ensure even distribution of cooled air. The butterflies work in tandem with the radiant floor to maintain a constant temperature in the workspaces.

The south façade is fully glazed to maximize solar gain. In the winter, this heat energy is transferred to the rest of the building through its radiant floors. The façade is equipped with a double-glazed skin that improves thermal insulation and permits the integration of a shading system. The horizontal shades, which double as walkways for maintenance, are designed to limit direct solar gain in the summer months. At the top of the space, dampers open to release heat in the summer. 

The orientation and positioning of operable windows were designed to optimize natural ventilation. A building control system linked to local weather data automatically opens windows when necessary; when open, air conditioning and mechanical ventilation to these areas are halted. On average, this system functions 20 times each year.

A careful landscape approach restored ecological function to the surrounding site, formerly a gravel parking lot. A natural basin was preserved, and an additional retention basin and linear drainage basins were constructed to control stormwater runoff. Raised berms were created with earth from the basement excavation. The few existing trees were protected, conserved and integrated.  

Jury Comments

The jury noted a theme that connects all three projects recognized for Innovation in Architecture this year. Each demonstrates a high level of architectural resolution that integrates thoughtful aesthetic design with technical innovations. The projects display innovation at all levels of the design, from poetic concepts through to technical construction details, and are built expressions of thoughtful and well-articulated strategies of innovative design processes. 

Here, GlaxoSmithKline demonstrates a high level of design integration of current technical strategies and excellence in architectural design. This project displays a bold and clear design strategy by an integrated design team utilizing the best of current building design approaches and technologies. The technical design solutions are both comprehensive and multifaceted. The project team has created an office workplace that would be a highly desirable environment in which to work, and the building is highly readable in its spatial and building-systems expression. The mechanical air distribution and flow systems are very well researched and innovative. The project is designed as a whole system from the site design to the detailing of the component elements.