Canadian Consulting Engineer

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Buildings: Stantec Recycles History

To walk through Stantec's Toronto office at 401 Wellington Street just west of Spadina Avenue is to walk through history. The wooden post-and-beam structure was once a McGregor sock factory. Now, the ...






To walk through Stantec’s Toronto office at 401 Wellington Street just west of Spadina Avenue is to walk through history. The wooden post-and-beam structure was once a McGregor sock factory. Now, the dramatic volumes of the 1905 industrial warehouse are transformed into open studio spaces that are contemporary and yet rich with texture, warmth and atmosphere. The original brick walls and wood structure are exposed. Shielding the meeting rooms are slatted wooden screens that were salvaged from Toronto’s original main shipping wharf built four centuries ago.

Last year Stantec consolidated its staff of 200 engineers, architects and interior designers in the Toronto area into the renovated downtown building. (Stantec’s headquarters are in Edmonton.)

The former warehouse has 53,000 sq. ft. (4,925 m2) on two storeys, connected by a grand open reception area, meeting rooms, a library and cafe spaces. The engineers and architects occupy large open studios on each side of the building, sharing a common interior stair that provides opportunities for casual meetings.

As a company that is committed to sustainable building design, Stantec followed green practices in its own renovations. Of the materials, for example, 95% were manufactured locally, and 65% were manufactured and extracted locally. The historical structure itself has been saved for posterity. And by locating its office downtown, the company encourages staff to take public transit or bicycle, thus reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of using cars. The company has two car share vehicles permanently parked at the building for staff to use to get to site visits and appointments. Stantec also offers staff a 25% reduction on monthly transit passes.

High open ceilings and underfloor cooling

Air-conditioning (heating and cooling) for the entire space is distributed through an underfloor air plenum. The access floor system also contains all the electrical power and IT lines. It provides flexibility for moving workspaces etc. within the space, and it means the ceilings are open and 11-feet high.

Stantec’s mechanical engineer on the project, Christopher Pich, P. Eng. explains how important the integrated design process was, in which architects, interior designers and engineers work collectively. “A prime example of the benefits of the integrated approach is the cost benefit analysis the team worked on for the access floor system. We were able to demonstrate to the ‘client’ — in this case our corporate head office — that the access floor system was affordable by deleting the ductwork and overhead cable trays and taking the funds from those budgets and transferring them over to pay for the access floor system.”

The base building air-conditioning systems consist of seven constant volume rooftop units, controlled by seven thermostats in the open office areas.

An additional heating system around the perimeter of the building helps to neutralize heat losses in the winter. This perimeter system is a hydronic loop, with fin-tube elements recessed within the access floor. It is served by three high-efficiency condensing boilers manifolded together.

There is no building automation system; the cooling units and boiler are programmed by occupied or unoccupied mode, with an outdoor air reset incorporated into the boiler control system. Some windows are operable and controlled by the staff: “If someone feels like opening a window they can,” says Pich. As well, automated solar shades are installed along the building’s west side.

Each workstation has LED task lighting, which provides the equivalent of 60 watts of light but consumes only 11 watts of power, and throughout the space lighting is controlled by occupancy and daylight sensors. There are low flow urinals, solar powered faucets and other devices that reduce the building’s overall water use by 38%.

Will Stantec be measuring how well the building is performing? Pich explains, that while they are not metering the landlord’s HVAC systems’ power consumption, “We are metering our water, gas, lighting and electrical power consumption and will look to install a software package in 2009 that will allow staff to track the consumption of the utilities from their workstations. — BP

Stantec’s design team: Christopher Pich (mechanical); Fred Carinci (electrical), Jens Boehme, P. Eng. (structural), Dathe Wong (architect), Kelly Stobbe (interior design).


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