Real Time Control Building #3

LOCATION Edmonton, Alberta

This project is an opportunity to invest in the design of the plant enclosure and the site of Real Time Control Building #3 (RTC#3), and by doing so, celebrates the importance of municipal infrastructure and recognizes the role infrastructure buildings have in shaping the built fabric of the city.

The engineering of the facility recognizes the dynamic loading of urban storm and wastewater, and as such represents state-of-the-art handling and treatment of urban water for the City of Edmonton. Correspondingly, the architecture makes apparent the engineering occurring below the ground. To this end, the form of the main shaft is notionally extruded to make the circular enclosure for the plant equipment and the secondary shafts, and out-and-in flow tunnels are telegraphed to the surface, imbuing the site with an interpretive strategy and signalling that RTC#3 is part of a larger and complex system.

The site is on the corner of 84th Street NW and Jasper Avenue, on the northern bank of the North Saskatchewan River and just east of the downtown core. The building will be highly visible from the north, south and east, seen from a series of vantage points ranging from distant to near. As such, RTC#3 exploits the potential to become a landmark building, playing a crucial role in punctuating open public space along the river’s edge.

The proposed building will accommodate equipment that controls the flow control gates in the shaft below. It is one part of a larger strategy to reduce untreated runoff and sewage flowing into the North Saskatchewan River. The 100+- square-metre building is positioned above the 6-metre-diameter main shaft. In addition to the main shaft, the building contains related ancillary spaces. Adjacent to the main shaft is a control room specifically dedicated to floodgate control which is equipped with gas-monitoring and ventilation equipment. This room and adjacent service room are also equipped with a removable roof for the maintenance of the floodgates. The building will also accommodate gate actuators; a generator room equipped with noise control, ventilation, control panels and a motor control centre; a small washroom; and base building mechanical rooms.

The site is largely hard surface to accommodate service vehicles and to provide lay-down areas for the two removable roofs. Site water is directed to a gutter that surrounds the building from which it is collected and discharged into the main shaft.

DC: This project restores the value of the physical image of infrastructure within the city, a presence which aims to be conspicuous and part of the urban fabric–with a thoughtfully low-maintenance, efficiently detailed exterior envelope which is unapologetically monolithic. This project guards the notion that a utility building can be admired for its succinctness in use and expression, and therefore be an elegant (if tough) component in the urban landscape.

MCC: The contrast between the programmatic engineering components and the project’s sculptural and poetic solution is striking. The proposed structure, with its glass-block skin, is more a piece of art than a city infrastructure building. 

BH: This project is a tectonic response to the challenges of this type of frequently opaque urban infrastructure. Both the client and the architectural team should be recognized for a willingness to add to the urban theatre by applying design intelligence to a building type that too often completely lacks vision.

Client City of Edmonton
Architect Team Pat Hanson, Diana Gerrard, Raymond Chow, Byron White, John McKenna
Structural Chernenko Engineering
Mechanical/Civil Vital Engineering
Electrical Vital Engineering, Associated Engineering
Landscape gh3
Envelope Consultants Best Consulting Martin Gerskup Architect Inc.
Renderings gh3
Area 115 m2
Budget $1.4 M
Completion 2013