When he founded his company in 2010, Mathieu Lamarche set himself the goal of building a skyscraper in Laval within 10 years. He came close to bankruptcy twice, but he persevered, successfully making the leap from building multi-residential wood buildings to building concrete complexes in Terrebonne. Thirteen years later, he’s getting closer thanks in large part to his optimistic nature.

Having become a quadriplegic following a motorcycle accident in 2002, the entrepreneur has since relied on his strengths. “I focused on what I could still do,” he reveals. It helped me. I also had a good circle of friends who supported me and never took pity on me. I said to myself: “either I spend my life moping, or I roll up my sleeves”. Of course, my university training as a financial analyst helped me a lot. My work is mostly cerebral. But I never felt like I was out of place. »

He candidly recounts the obstacles he overcame on his very first construction site, in Saint-Jérôme. The nails on the ground repeatedly punctured the tires of his wheelchair. Since the single-family house had steps, he could not access them without assistance. One project at a time, he refined his strategy, putting universal accessibility and the varied needs of tenants at the heart of his thinking.

“The installation of automatic door openers in the entrance also helps people who are not disabled, such as a mother with three children carrying lots of packages,” he says. Universal accessibility makes life easier. In the TerraNova II, in Terrebonne, automatic door openers also provide access to the pool and sauna. It’s cool. »

His company, Groupe GDI, erected the TerraNova and TerraNova II rental complexes, 6 and 10 stories respectively, thanks to the financial support of valued partners. The buildings having been sold in turn, Mathieu Lamarche and his team took a step back to establish their next objectives.

Thus was born the desire to aim for American Fitwel certification in their Névéa project, submitted for approval to the City of Laval. The future 15-story complex, designed by TLA Architects, would rise north of Marché Public 440.

The Fitwel Rating System encourages the adoption of strategies that impact occupant health and well-being across 12 categories. The location of the complex (near public transport), access to the building (on foot, by bike, providing storage), outdoor spaces (with a playground for children, an outdoor garden from which traffic automobile cannot be seen, the presence of vegetable gardens), a main entrance accessible on foot and overlooking a garden, the layout of pleasant stairs to take, the presence of an exercise room and the delivery of baskets of vegetables are some examples of objectives that will be pursued in order to achieve the first level of Fitwel certification. The latter, in addition to encouraging physical activity, forces us to consider in particular the choice of materials, the quality and circulation of the air (with opening windows), the acoustic comfort, the luminosity and the view in housing.

Mathieu Lamarche is also able to go it alone thanks to the APH Select program, from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This mortgage loan insurance program for properties with five or more units offers lower premiums and longer amortization periods (up to 50 years) to developers. These are committed to providing a certain percentage of affordable housing, accessible housing of universal design and an energy performance of 20%, 25% or 40% above the Code for new buildings. The higher the number of points accumulated, the better the incentives.

The challenge for the manager is to strike a happy medium where the expected benefits will generate zero or minimal cost increases. Some decisions are self-evident, such as paying particular attention to doorsteps and drop-offs. Other choices impose themselves.

“We installed a number of raised garden beds on the roof of the TerraNova II with mobility impaired people in mind,” he explains. But everyone asked for it so that they no longer had to get on all fours. »

At Névéa, all gardening containers will be raised. “Successful accessibility, believes Mathieu Lamarche, is when you don’t see it. »