Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: Maison symphonique de Montral

October 1, 2012
By SNC-Lavalin

The Maison symphonique de Montréal is a project of technological and contextual complexity that provides a permanent residence for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Located at the Place des Arts complex in the heart of the city’s...

The Maison symphonique de Montréal is a project of technological and contextual complexity that provides a permanent residence for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Located at the Place des Arts complex in the heart of the city’s “Quartier des spectacles” (theatre district), the new concert hall increases Montreal’s worldwide exposure as a cultural centre.

The 25,000-m2 facility meets the needs of the orchestra as well as the needs of other types of performances and shows. The building is also in the process of obtaining LEED certification for environmental sustainability.

As a performance venue, the concert hall meets two ambitious objectives. First, there is a complete lack of any audible sounds and vibrations from outside the building or from its equipment. Second, it has an exceptional acoustical quality that allows the sounds created on stage to be accurately projected to each audience member. The hall is comparable to the best halls in the world in terms of acoustics.

Accelerated schedule and complex site

SNC-Lavalin was awarded the project – the first cultural P3 project in Quebec – as a public-private partnership through its subsidiary, Groupe immobilier Ovation. SNC-Lavalin carried out all the engineering and construction, and secured project financing. Diamond and Schmitt/AEdifica provided architecture and design.

When the contract was awarded in April 2009 there were fewer than 30 months from the start of construction to the inaugural concert to be held on September 7, 2011. Excavation work began less than one week after the contract award, at a time when the engineering in the proposal was very basic. The design team then had to quickly produce the demolition and foundation plans, while completing the overall engineering.

The work organization and complex design of the building under the accelerated construction schedule required the client to specify and validate the project’s compliance to its needs at each stage. The magnitude of the challenge consisted in almost simultaneously carrying out the design and construction while observing the acoustical performance objective, and avoiding any delays, which would result in major additional costs.

Another issue was created by the proximity of the other concert halls in Place des Arts, Canada’s largest cultural complex. Work had to be scheduled based on when other events were being held, and pedestrian and vehicular traffic had to be maintained during rush hour while ensuring the safety of the users and workers.

Box within a box

To attain an ambient noise level of N-1, namely the complete lack of any audible sounds from the outside and from building equipment, the project team used high-tech solutions. The concert hall is a separate entity lying on acoustical cushions inside the building. It was designed to be somewhat like a box inside a box to insulate it from all outside noise or vibrations. This approach represented a challenge for the structural engineering team. The hall’s structural elements had to provide rigidity while being entirely separate from the structure of the building on which the hall was being built – not to mention the fact that the room and building had multiple curves. In addition, the new building was being built over a multi-level underground parking garage.

Acoustic labyrinth for mechanical systems

For the building’s mechanical design a good energy performance and a high level of comfort were required. The approach consisted of creating a microclimate for the audience to minimize the heating and cooling requirements for the entire area. This was achieved by distributing air under the seats at a very low air flow speed, which avoided generating any noise and uncomfortable air movements.

The hall’s air-handling units are set up in mechanical spaces integrated directly into the ceiling structure. To prevent noise generated by the units from reverberating throughout the hall, the ventilation air is flown at low speed through an acoustic labyrinth capable of absorbing all the sounds generated by the system. Connecting the supply air ducts in the mechanical spaces to the distribution areas under the hall floor required careful coordination with the structural elements, especially given that construction was started before the design and coordination stages had been completed.cce

Name of project: Maison

symphonique de Montréal

Award-winning firm (prime consultant, engineering, construction, financing):

SNC-Lavalin (Pierre Hénault, ing.,

Yves St-Georges, ing., Jean-François

Pelletier, ing., André Courcy, tech,

Alexandre Cloutier, ing., Francis Audette, ing., Raymond Bleau, ing., François

Picher, ing., Sylvain Thériault, ing.,

Daniel Comeau, ing.)

Owner/client: Ministère de la Culture,

des Communications et de la

Condition féminine (MCCCF)

Other key players: Consortium

Diamond and Schmitt/AEdifica

(architecture and design).


Even though many of the technologies applied in this project were not new, the way in which they were brought together and integrated has resulted in an exciting, elegant and state-of-the-art concert hall.


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