Location : Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QuebecClient : McGill University,Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesArea : 3600 m2Cost of construction : $1.5 millionMechanical engineer : N.G. LapierreStructural engineer : Jan VranaGeneral contractor : Construction Bramitek (phase 1) and Gaston Champoux (1973 inc.) (phase 2)Completed in : 09/1998Prizes and mentions : OAQ Award for Excellence 2000
McGill University’s MacDonald campus is located in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, at the western tip of the Island of Montreal. It combines a research farm, an arboretum and many academic and residential buildings for staff and students for the McGill Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Robertson Terrace was a student housing complex built in 1965-67; it was composed of 60 one or two bedroom apartments. The sturdy structure was built with floors on concrete slabs, concrete block bearing walls, concrete and concrete block exterior walls and wooden roof timbers.
Although the client initially intended to completely demolish the existing buildings due to its deterioration, l’ŒUF proposed transforming the existing one bedroom apartments into 40 residential units varying from two to six bedrooms. Instead of demolishing and replacing, l’OEUF proposed to recycle and transform the student housing complex in order to provide accommodation for an ecoliving group, a housing innovative and sustainable laboratory inspired by similar projects at Berkeley and Stanford. This strategy allowed to build affordable student housing, to recover the value and thermal and acoustic resistance of this incombustible concrete masonry building, to reduce demolition waste and avoid pollution and consumption of resources linked to new material production. Finally, the project was supposed to be financed by the new resident’s potential rent.
The sketches drawn to support the original feasibility study allowed the establishment of the principles for reshaping based on an environmentally sensitive vision, including the preservation and renovation of existing buildings, bedroom regrouping in larger units and the construction of a new roof timber and greenhouse allowing passive solar energy usage. The new units regroup six bedrooms on two floors with shared kitchens and living rooms and are equipped with greenhouses built with the recycled and refurbished windows and doors. The new greenhouses act as more than architectural representative units of the transformation of the whole or the formal expression of the new units; they act as a solar main duct and participate as a fresh air preheating and filtration system. The general plan allowed the layout of the common spaces of the units facing the principal courtyard with bedrooms oriented towards the rear of the building. The building consists of many reused materials and non-toxic and ecological finishes. For example, the existing fenestration was partially replaced, partially recycled, partially preserved and refurbished and even partially modified. All interior and exterior doors were preserved, recycled or modified. Masonry waste as well as diverse metal elements were sorted out and recycled. The savings occurred by the renovation strategy allowed immediate realisation of the entire project including ten new six bedrooms units and twenty slightly renovated two bedroom units as well as the incorporation of an infrastructure ready for other environmental facilities that could be added in the future. Amongst these facilities are heat recovery systems, domestic water solar preheating systems, household wastewater recuperation and, eventually, a plant based ecological wastewater treatment system. The project was realised between October 1997 and September 1998 and renovation costs were of about 35$/sq. ft.