Loblaw Companies Ltd. Headquarters

Careful design delivers high quality work space on large scale

The building is arranged in two parallel, four-storey wings, offset from one another and oriented with their long sides facing due south to take maximum advantage of solar exposure.
by Dermot Sweeny

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This new 51,100 m2 head office building, located on a 9.9 hectare site, represents a major initiative in Loblaw’s ongoing commitment to the environment and its employees. The client’s objective was to provide a high quality work environment, one that would embody and reflect the company’s own philosophy of sourcing with integrity, making positive differences in the community and in the way we operate culturally, socially and environmentally at work and at home.
The Loblaw Headquarters consolidates key components of the company’s operations across the country. The sustainable design approach is founded on a series of strategic decisions relating to site selection, building placement, orientation and massing - which support the goals of flexibility, energy efficiency, human comfort and superior indoor environmental quality.
The building is arranged in two parallel, four-storey wings, offset from one another and oriented with their long sides facing due south to take maximum advantage of solar exposure. The wings are connected by bridges at all upper levels, creating contiguous floor plates of more than 10,000 m2.
The bridge, and the naturally lit atrium they frame, become the organizational fulcrum and social heart of the building. The main entrance and reception area connect directly to the atrium with its large trees and water feature, cafeteria and seating area. The bridges themselves house the majority of the building’s meeting rooms and social spaces.
Compact service cores are located at the four corners of the atrium, leaving the floor plates of the two office wings unobstructed and providing maximum flexibility in program organization. Although the design responds directly to very specific needs and goals, this approach has given Loblaw a valuable asset that could stand in the future as a very competitive multi-tenant building.
Concern for unnecessary transportation and fuel usage, and the desire to support the local economy, drove the decision to buy local construction materials. In the final analysis, 95% of materials were from sources within Ontario.
The project features a building technology platform [raised floor system] for the supply of cooling and fresh air. It contains all voice, data and power distribution cabling. Supply air is delivered via the pressurized under-floor plenum through manually adjustable diffusers, allowing for individual control of air quantity and temperature. Automated diffusers are used within enclosed spaces as well as providing additional cooling at the perimeter to address solar load fluctuation.
The supply air is 65º to 68°F on average, rather than the typical 54º to 56°F temperature used in an overhead system. This allows for greater access to free cooling and is much more comfortable. The perimeter heating [exterior zone] is provided by an infloor, hot water fin-tube convection system which creates a warm air curtain at the glass.
The occupants in the Loblaw headquaters enjoy access to additional fresh air with operable windows placed every 4.5m along the entire perimeter [45% of the floor area is within 7.5m of an operable window]. The exterior wall features full height vision glass. This, combined with an interior planning strategy that provides perimeter circulation, gives employees maximum access to natural light and views.
Daylight is harvested effectively using external sunshades and interior light shelves placed one metre below the slab. The light shelf and blinds are fully automated. Working with the building’s orientation [long sides facing due south], this system minimizes glare while providing natural light penetration deep into the building. As sufficient natural light is detected, the perimeter artificial lights are turned off.
The structure is poured-in-place, reinforced concrete which is exposed throughout. The atrium roof structure features lightweight king post steel trusses and a butterfly design to allow natural light penetration through clerestory windows while minimizing glare and solar heat gain.
Indoor environmental quality was extremely important to the client. The naturally stratifying, occupant-controlled supply air ensures effective fresh air delivery. The building also uses low-VOC emitting materials.
Flexibility in planning was seen as a way to increase the service life of the building by facilitating future reconfiguration or change of use. Crucial to reducing the cost of future change is the selection of systems that facilitate these changes. In the Loblaw headquaters building this includes the continuous pressurized plenum for air distribution, structured data network connectivity and modular convenience power. The consolidation of services [except sprinklers and lighting] below the floor leaves a 3.25m high interior space that is easily adapted to a multitude of uses.
Externally, the site design strategy includes a number of features and design approaches that enhance the environment and support natural ecosystems. Storm water is collected and retained in a naturalized retention pond that serves the needs of the Loblaw building and other buildings in the vicinity. This communal pond retains and filters stormwater, providing a large, naturalized habitat for local birds and wildlife.
Further, a significant proportion of the site is dedicated to soft landscaping and planting areas that provide for the natural percolation and filtration of storm water thereby diverting great amounts of storm water from the storm sewer system.
The provision of underground parking spaces below the building reduced surface parking and roads, allowing more opportunities for soft landscaping. Building and site are connected by views from the glazed perimeter, as well as by a series of exterior patio gardens that encourage both individual enjoyment of the surroundings and informal interactions between occupants. Loblaw Companies Limited has made a significant and successful investment in their most important asset - their people.

Dermot Sweeny is a partner with Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects Inc., Toronto.
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credits

  • Architect: Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects Inc., Toronto
  • Associate Architect and Construction Manager: Orlando Corporation, Mississauga
  • Electrical Engineer: Manuel Jordao & Associates, Richmond Hill, ON
  • Mechanical Engineer: The Mitchell Partnership, Toronto
  • Structural Engineer: Read Jones Christoffersen, Toronto
  • Landscape Architect: NAK Design Inc., Toronto Photos Insite Photography, Toronto

Materials

  • Structure: Poured concrete frame, columns with tapered capitals and minimal drop caps; steel king post trusses for atrium roof.
  • Exterior: Exterior walls: lowE 6mm vision glass and 6mm SN-68 clear tempered by PPG and Guardian Industries; back-painted spandrel glazing, aluminum panels and insulated back-up; exterior aluminum sun shades on south and west at each floor level; roof employs an inverted two-ply modified, torch system with R20 Roofmate insulation.
  • Interior: Exposed concrete structure; Camino Modular Systems raised access floor that provides an air plenum and space for plug and play voice, data and cable distribution, modular Lees carpet tile sized to match and aligned with the raised floor panels; stone tile in the lobby spaces laminated to the raised floor panels; light shelves and automated blinds move to a closed position when sun angle low; high efficiency, indirect Metalumen T5 flourescent fixtures for general illumination; operable partitions by Lawrence-Paine & Associates Ltd.; drywall partitions with ow VOC Pittsburgh Paints, tempered glass, float glass office fronts and wall to separate office space from central atrium.
  • HVAC: See sidebar page 23 for details.
  • Building floor area: 50,000 sq.m
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HVAC brief

by Phil Bastow
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Heating and Humidification

Heated water circulated to fin tube assemblies below all glazing heats the building envelope. Water is heated using two high-efficiency condensing boilers by McQuay International backed up by two conventional efficiency boilers, all located in the south mechanical penthouse.
A low pressure steam boiler system feeds steam to the steam injection humidifier grids at the two ventilation air handling units [one in each penthouse] where the air stream absorbs the steam to humidify the dry winter air.

Ventilation

Two ventilation air handling units condition [heat/humidify or cool/dehumidify] 100% outdoor air fed down four compartment unit service cores of the building for delivery to the occupants. Exhaust from washrooms and other sources is used as tempered make up for the parking garage and the kitchen.

Air conditioning

The chilled water plant consists of two high-efficiency chillers, chilled water and condenser water pumps. Cooling towers for chiller heat rejection are near the chiller plant in a louvred well. Chilled water is circulated to the ventilation air handling units to cool and dehumidify their 100% outdoor air stream, and to all compartment units [four per floor], the auditorium unit, and to fan coil type units. Chilled water running through the cooling coil of the compartment unit does final adjustment to supply air temperature. The compartment unit controls air volume to maintain appropriate floor pressure.

Phil Bastow, P.Eng. is vice-president and partner at The Mitchell Partnership, Toronto, the mechanical engineers for the project.
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