Under construction at the junction of highways 640 and 40, Symbio Habitat Terrebonne can be seen from afar. Totaling 29 floors, it catches the eye, but it is the care given to each stage of its design and construction that deserves attention, since it is aiming for both LEED and Zero Carbon Building certifications (BCZ). A first in the country, made possible thanks to the hard work of an experienced team, who moved heaven and earth to achieve their ambitious objectives.
You had to be a visionary to take on such a challenge four and a half years ago. Denis Tremblay, president of Développement FTG, and his partner, financial analyst Étienne Chabot, have been advising developers since 2014 seeking to optimize the construction of rental housing and have solid financial arrangements. In 2019, they wanted to prove that it was possible to build carbon-neutral multi-residential rental buildings in Quebec. “It’s difficult because of the very significant variations in temperature,” says Mr. Tremblay. We decided to try. »
They assembled their team three years ago. “It was the first time in my life that I had a complete amalgamation of a professional team with a predetermined strategy,” reveals Mr. Tremblay, who graduated from Polytechnique Montréal in 1970 and has worked around the world . “We had to see if it’s a daydream or if it’s possible. »
Maxime Frappier, associate architect and president of ACDF Architecture, had just worked on the winning project of the Reinventing Cities competition, from the C-40 global network of large cities, Haleco, when Denis Tremblay approached him in September 2020.
“He was looking to make a legacy that would be viable within a cost structure,” he explains. We jumped in with both feet. He did not do it in the city center, in a market where normally one would think that the price of rent would absorb an additional cost. Mr. Tremblay had beautiful land in Terrebonne, with good visibility, next to a building of another type that he had just built. We knew the major issues in the sector very well. We were enthusiastic about the developer’s mission, to do more than just a real estate project. »
Josée Lupien, president of Vertima, expert in environmental certifications, and Philippe Hudon, president of Akonovia, expert in energy efficiency, also joined.
Private investment company Claridge and Ivanhoé Cambridge, the real estate arm of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, financed half of the project, a total investment of 76 million.
To be profitable, Symbio Habitat Terrebonne had to reach 29 floors, devoting the top floor to mechanics. “As the tower is visible from afar, we wanted it to make its mark in the area, while being relatively simple to build,” indicates Maxime Frappier. We knew that we were going to have issues related to the technical aspects of the envelope to meet certain energy efficiency criteria. We therefore used a strategy of contrasts between the perpendicular facades. The east-west faces are more textured with cantilevered balconies, while the other two facades are rather flat and have a darker architectural style. »
The task was colossal, particularly because the Zero Carbon Building and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications from the Canadian Green Building Council are not homogeneous. The team had to make compromises.
To achieve the objectives, each decision had to be validated by each of the experts, who had their particular perspective. The selection of materials is just one of the steps that gave the team gray hairs, as Philippe Hudon explains: “The architect chooses a material in line with the codes, see how it will be installed , what its durability and visual effect will be. I look at the thermal resistance and the energy impact of the material, then Josée will look at it from the point of view of its impact on the life cycle and its carbon impact. »
The headache has been constant. And of course we had to keep the budget under control. Rather than giving up, they found solutions to resolve each problem. “Everyone worked as a team, which is a big part of the success,” believes Ms. Lupien.
The progress made is generating interest. Denis Tremblay and Étienne Chabot met with promoters wishing to know their approach. “From the start, you have to want to have an architectural signature and an environmental signature,” insists Étienne Chabot. And everyone must work in the same direction. »
As the inauguration of Symbio Habitat Terrebonne approaches next May, Denis Tremblay is particularly proud of one thing: that he and his team stood up. Their perseverance is already bearing fruit.