Montréal, Quebec, Canada

Canadian architecture practice Lemay has transformed a neglected 1950s-era warehouse into an innovative head office for its growing transdisciplinary team using it as an experimental laboratory for innovations in sustainability and workplace design.

This offered a unique opportunity for the architecture design team to test in-house the work environment strategies they developed and put forward for corporate clients.

Named The Phénix, the project has recently been awarded a 2023 Green Good Design Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

The Phénix boasts a rare 3-star Fitwel rating, as well as Zero Carbon Performance certification, LEED-Platinum certification, and Living Building Challenge-Petal Certification.

In 2020, the project has been awarded the “Game Changer” title by the World Green Building Council, recognizing its contributions to the greening of the building industry.

The project has combined active and passive strategies to greatly reduce the energy required to climatize its indoor spaces.

One innovative strategy was to transform the south façade into a solar wall that passively preheats the air up to 20°C before it goes to a heat recovery unit.

The fresh air is solar heated into a wall cavity, minimizing building consumption throughout the heating season.

For the retrofit, the project team mainly focused on the windows’ thermal performance and insulation improvements to the existing roof as they were the largest surfaces and critical elements regarding heat transfer.

A mixed-mode ventilation system climatizes the building in spring and autumn just by opening the workspaces’ operable windows while giving access to a fresh air supply. 

Automatic temperature detection and regulation by zones linked to the ventilation systems inform the employees on which days the windows will be opened to climatize the building passively.

The building has roof-mounted solar panels that produce clean energy onsite, which is in turn stored in batteries to supply electricity to the lighting system and heat pumps.

Originally built in the 1950s, the metamorphosis of this abandoned warehouse showcases an adaptive reuse of Montreal’s industrial heritage.

In its renewed form, the building reflects a confluence of best practices in architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, urban design, interior design, and the sustainable development strategies of its NET POSITIVE™ framework.

The office’s open-plan workplace design promotes collaboration through a myriad of spaces found along a bustling ‘main street’ that connects all three of the structure’s floors: Lined by continuously integrated furniture to maximize space for informal meetings, relaxation, and brainstorming sessions on one side, proverbial “storefronts”  line the opposite side with conference rooms, cafés, a library, and archives while acting as a buffer between the thoroughfare’s activity and a concentrated workshop where employees can ideate and explore their work.

The office in its entirety benefits from views of abundant vegetation surrounding the Phénix, and its facilities have been designed to ensure thermal comfort as well as air quality and healthy living habits.

Inside, an abundance of natural light and natural ventilation fuels both employees’ circadian rhythms and comfort alongside green walls and vegetated areas found on every floor.

Its layout encourages movement, and the building is host to spaces dedicated to fitness and healthy eating, while the mind finds focus and inspiration through original works of art and industrial chic accents.

Greenery permeates the indoor space year-round with features such as a living green wall and climbing plant modules to improve indoor air quality, balance humidity, and promote a vital natural connection while fostering well-being.

All office areas have access to daylight and views, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Its creation and building alone allowed for 93% of diverted construction waste compared to a normal project’s 50%, and it continues to save 83% on its energy costs per year while reducing its water consumption by 35% from comparable buildings.

Its energy efficiency measures range from natural ventilation, LED lighting with motion sensors, and solar wall integration into its existing masonry to over 300 PV panels on its roof to generate renewable electricity stored in batteries of over 100 KW.

As part of this transformational project, an abandoned building is now fully occupied, soils have been decontaminated and vegetated areas provide respite from the surrounding heat islands, with a white roof covered in 379 photovoltaic panels and deliberately limited parking further reducing detrimental effects on its urban surroundings.

With thermal and electric storage to support its off-grid capability, the Phénix is a model for resource efficiency, energy self-sufficiency, and social and natural connectivity, the Phénix’s creation demonstrates the possibilities and promise for future use and densification of North America’s aging infrastructure.

Project: The Phénix
Architects: Lemay
Client: Lemay
Photographers: Adrien Williams

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