2015 Award Winning Project: Kwayatsut

Jury comment

A challenging project, serving a high needs user group, this building
needed to be highly durable as well as welcoming, supportive and environmentally responsible. To have met all these requirements on a tight budget is a considerable achievement. The building is generous and inclusive with elegant, comfortable and welcoming spaces that support and enhance self esteem. Transparency at grade enhances the connection to the community.”

Kwayatsut - a partnership between BC Housing, the City of Vancouver, the Broadway Youth Resource Centre [BYRC] and the Vancouver Native Housing Society [VNHS] - provides supportive rental housing as part of British Columbia’s provincial Homelessness Initiative. This initiative focuses on providing safe, secure, permanent housing across the province, but particularly in response to the homelessness crisis in Vancouver. Kwayatsut is located at the intersection of Broadway and Fraser streets at the eastern ‘gateway’ of the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, and on a major east-west transit route.

The project consists of three major components:
• Ninety-nine self-contained units of housing plus amenity / support space, intended for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Thirty of these units are for youth.
• A commercial component, owned, managed and leased by the City of Vancouver.
• The Broadway Youth Resource Centre, providing a range of social, health, housing, education, employment and life skills services to homeless and at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 24.

With its focus on education, the BYRC was an active participant in the project. Besides attending presentations about the project’s sustainable measures, several of the youth were engaged by the demolition contractor to assist in the deconstruction of the existing building on the site. This not only taught the youth about conservation and recycling; it gave them occupational training and skill development.

Beyond providing badly needed supportive housing for the homeless, the design mandate was to achieve LEED Gold and a maximum 10% end use energy from fossil fuels.

With a limited social housing budget, it was clear early on in the design process that the design and the sustainability measures had to be as simple and practical as possible to provide the non-profit operator with a low-maintenance building. The design team established the optimal sustainability strategies through a series of integrated workshops, extensive energy modelling, and costing exercises. The building has a compact and simple form with elongated east and west elevations. Cooling-dominated spaces [specifically the BYRC] are located on the north side away from unwanted solar heat gain. The high-performance building envelope is a thermally-broken rainscreen system with continuous high insulation values and a 33% window-to-wall ratio.

All habitable rooms in the building have access to natural light and air. LEED criteria of one operable window per 18.5 m2 is easily met. Corridors and elevator lobbies have operable windows for light and ventilation. In addition to natural ventilation, all suites are mechanically vented.

In-floor hot water radiant heating tubes are attached to structural concrete floor slabs and provided with low-temperature heating from the geothermal heat pump system. The on-site vertical geothermal loop energy source has 40, 120m geo-exchange boreholes located beneath the parking garage. A central ventilation system with continuously running bathroom exhaust and outdoor air supplied serves all the suites. This system utilizes an enthalpy heat recovery wheel and mechanical cooling/heating from the geothermal heat pump system.

Amenity areas are mechanically conditioned by utilizing ceiling mounted water-to-air geothermal heat pump units, and domestic hot water is pre-heated by water-to-water geothermal heat pump units. Gas-fired boilers are used for backup only and under normal conditions consumption of fossil fuels has been eliminated.

Life cycle issues, such as durability and low operating costs of the building systems were important to the client and BC Housing as the long-term lease on the land is for 60 years.  As with many supportive housing programs, the PHI program may evolve over time, necessitating changes to the building. As such, the interiors of the building were constructed with lightweight steel framing and the units were deliberately built larger than the minimum to facilitate possible changes in use.

Kwayatsut is an urban building that fills the entire site, limiting the potential for improving the quality of the residents’ lives through access to communal outdoor space. In response to this challenge, rooftop planting has been introduced along with provision for urban agriculture. VNHS is in the process of adding bee colonies to planted areas. In addition, a traffic lane on Fraser Street was closed and existing trees retained to provide a wide landscape buffer.

Project Credits
Vancouver Native Housing Society
Architect NSDA Architects
General Contractor Darwin Construction Ltd.
Landscape Architect Perry + Associates
ElectricaL / Mechanical Engineer MMM Group
Structural Engineer  Fast + Epp Structural Engineers
Commissioning Age
nt  CES Engineering
Building Envelope exp. Services Inc.
Photos Derek Lepper Photography

Project Performance
Energy intensity [building and process energy] =
Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB = 56%
Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 19,942 L/occupant/year
Potable water consumption reduction relative to reference building = 44.5%
Regional materials [800km radius by road or 2,400km radius by ship or rail] by value = 20%
Reclaimed and recycled materials by value = 37.5%
Demolition and construction waste diverted from landfill = 93%

Roofing pedestals with roof insulation using Atlas AC Foam III, and drainage board by Carlisle Construction Materials, mineral wool for cavity insulation, profiled metal cladding and clay masonry; ceiling-mounted water-to-air geothermal heat pump units, and domestic hot water pre-heated by water-to-water geothermal heat pump units, with gas-fired boilers for backup; Marmoleum flooring and Etrenal Step by Forbo.

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