August 8, 2012
Shim-Sutcliffe Architects Inc.
Curtainwall, geothermal key features for Catholic nuns’ residence in Toronto
Distinct features throughout the new home of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto are already turning heads and it’s not even open yet.
“It’s quite a unique shape with just a lot of detail per square foot of floor space,” explained Mike Adams, project manager for Eastern Construction, the project’s construction manager.
A new 96,000-square-foot, four-storey building and the adjacent heritage-designated 19th century Taylor House boast numerous green features and unique architectural components. The Sisters’ residence will contain 23 assisted living units and 35 private hospital units, which will provide rehabilitation, convalescent and palliative care. The ground floor of the Taylor House will contain multi-purpose rooms for meetings and recreation.
“The new home of the Sisters of St. Joseph will be a sacred space dedicated to nurturing community and providing a base for continued ministry and outreach. It will demonstrate simplicity, beauty and wise use of materials and spaces,” reads part of the Sisters’ mission statement for their new home.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto are a Roman Catholic congregation of women who founded major hospitals in the city such as St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Care Centre and have worked in education since their arrival in the 19th century.
A showpiece of the new building is a set of 28- and 18-foot high wooden fins, essentially a “huge set of blinds” that encapsulate the circular chapel, said Jose Rocha, president of Toronto-based Allwood Carpentry Manufacturing, the subcontractor for the fins and all the millwork throughout the new building and Taylor House.
The fins are supported on specially designed hardware using bearings. The largest fin weighs about 600 lbs.
The fin sections were fabricated at Allwood Carpentry’s plant using hand-selected rift cut European white oak veneered panels reinforced with lightweight aluminum tubing and solid white oak wood trims. Provisions have been made to allow for panels to be “removable” to access for repairs.
Prior to mock-up, it took several months of detailed planning and engineering by the carpentry contractor to perfect the construction of the fins.
“It gives the building an amazingly unique look,” said Adams.
The Sisters chose not to pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, but still wanted it to be the greenest they could afford.
The building will feature: geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water, photovoltaic roof panels, sun shades on south facing walls, a rainwater cistern for stormwater management and green roofs.
The building envelope is a key factor in energy conservation. The curtainwall system is actually five separate systems. Made by Roschmann Steel and Glass Construction, the high-performance building envelope was fabricated once a mock-up had been rigorously tested in all types of weather at its plant in Germany.
The new building, located at the corner of Broadview Avenue where it turns sharply east into O’Connor Drive in an East York neighbourhood, has a rounded surface and corners throughout, said Adams.
“It was a difficult shape. The formwork had to be extremely accurate because we were ordering all our curtainwall components and window components based on guaranteed dimensions. That was all in manufacturing while we were still putting up the structure itself.”
Brigitte Shim of project designer Shim-Sutcliffe Architects Inc. told the Sisters that a good portion of their investment should be in the building envelope because it has to perform well in various weather conditions.
“For this kind of building type it is pretty amazing because it is not a sector where you’ll see this many green features,” she said in a release.
One of the most unique features of this project may not be its commitment to green or a large set of blinds, but the code of conduct the workers were asked to follow while on site.
Since the Sisters wanted to watch their new home being built, foul language, loud heavy metal music and pin-up girl photos sometimes associated with construction sites were not permitted on this project.
“I think a lot of the trades realize they’re building something special here. It does take a little bit of effort to maintain that level of behaviour because construction sites are construction sites and you do have people coming and going,” said Adams.
“The Sisters’ lives and ministries are based on the dignity of every person, and so maintaining this value in the creation of this residence is important to them,” said the Sisters of St. Joseph in a statement.
Construction on the project began in the summer of 2010 and completion is set for fall 2012.
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