The race is on to erect Canada’s first large-scale zero-carbon residential buildings! Architecture and design firm Lemay is part of the team that will likely cross the finish line at the top of the pack in Ontario. The project, designed primarily for students in Kingston, is ambitious, seeking to set a new standard for the construction of sustainable residential complexes, while also being concerned with the health and well-being of future occupants.

“It is both a response to the climate emergency and the desire to create a residential environment that promotes the health of users, explains Loïc Angot, partner, director of discipline-sustainable strategies at Lemay. The building, which is very energy efficient, is aiming for the Canadian Zero Carbon Building-Design certification. Many strategies, which complement each other, have also been put in place to promote human health. This is reflected in the design of the spaces, the different common spaces offered and the choice of the site, to create buildings that respond to the multiple crises that we must face. »

Real estate developer Podium Developments commissioned Toronto-based ENFORM Architects to design the six-story complex, as well as Montreal-based architecture and design firm Lemay, who also worked closely together on the interior design. The 485 Albert Street complex (previously known as 600 Princess) will feature 176 housing units and retail on the ground floor. With construction expected to begin shortly, it would become the first carbon-neutral residential building in Ontario.

“In the design chain, there is a whole transition that takes place, specifies Loïc Angot. We do not design exactly the same way as before. The project in Kingston has generous fenestration, but it is not excessive. We are always in balance. The insulation is reinforced. A lot of work has been done on the performance of the envelope. All this is new know-how that we pushed with the Phénix [Editor’s note: the LEED Platinum and Fitwel building with a neutral carbon footprint which houses the head office of the Lemay agency, in the southwest of Montreal] . We are in the continuity of the evolution of the practice. »

Several mechanical, electrical and structural strategies will ensure that the building will emit very little greenhouse gas. The materials used have also been scrutinized to reduce their environmental impact. Beyond the sought-after carbon neutrality, the well-being and health of future tenants are also at the heart of the concerns, by aiming for a two-star Fitwel certification.

“It’s a headache for us, but it translates into the right lighting, which makes people feel good, and of course biophilia, which goes way beyond plants, with a whole game materials and textures reminiscent of nature, explains Hani Diab, design director, interior design at Lemay. Among other things, there will be a gym, a dog park on the roof, a large easily accessible bicycle room on the ground floor, as well as an inviting staircase decorated with pictograms. »

In Quebec, the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building (ZCB) standard is generating a lot of interest, says Julie-Anne Chayer, President of Sustainable Building Quebec. “The federal government, the provincial government and the big municipalities are starting to develop greenhouse gas reduction plans,” she says. The standard affectionately called BCZ makes it possible to speak the same language and brings a certain rigor throughout Canada. The second version was launched just before the pandemic and after a certain slowdown, there is a craze. »

About 270 projects are certified or in the process of being certified in Canada, she listed. Of these, 130 projects are in Ontario and 45 in Quebec. These are mainly schools, offices. In Quebec, four or five multi-residential projects are registered, without knowing where they are at.

Interest in this type of project is increasing, notes Emmanuel Cosgrove, general manager of Écohabitation, which offers a support service to developers and architects wishing to obtain ZCB certification.

“Our engineers are currently supporting four zero-carbon projects, one of which is officially registered,” he reveals. Last year we had zero. It’s really in tune with the times. »