2016 - Regional Quebec Winner: GROUPE DYNAMITE ATRIUM - Montreal, QC

JURY COMMENTS: Injecting life into a dead space between two large floor plate industrial buildings, this project achieves the greatest possible benefit to the company’s employees with the minimum possible intervention. Despite the lack of an overt energy strategy, the atrium  addresses issues of community, light and air, wellness, material efficiency and building life cycle - all of which are key aspects of sustainability.

The design workshops, marketing department and distribution centre were housed in vast warehouse-like spaces with no access to natural light. To create a better working environment for its 400 employees, Groupe Dynamite took the initiative to create an interior ‘oasis’ - a glazed atrium space bathed in natural light - by roofing over an abandoned space left between two of its buildings.

One of the principal concerns for the project was that the construction of the new Atrium should not disturb the daily operations of the workshops and the distribution centre. Another was to design the structure to avoid unwanted or uneven snow accumulation, and the consequent need to reinforce the adjacent roofs. Other drivers of the design were the desire to create a dynamic and attractive collaborative space with programmatic flexibility, provide much needed access to natural light, maximize the use of wood for its environmental attributes, and minimize the use of interior finishes.

Unifying the two existing buildings, the atrium is characterized by a simplicity of formal and material expression. A transparent skin of high-performance, low-emissivity double glazing covers a wooden skeleton and reveals the life inside the building, otherwise hidden from the outside. The glass roof floods the Atrium with natural light, creating a bright, open and transparent space. The bricks of the existing walls were left exposed. Similarly, the steel connections of the glulam frame are also left exposed as a reminder of old industrial structures. The result is an interior space with much the same material character as a typical Montreal alley.

Clerestorey windows in the existing side walls, which had previously been covered over, were opened to reintroduce natural light to the adjacent work spaces. In addition, some light fixtures were placed on the side walls to light the atrium during the evening when the new space is sometimes used for fashion shows, parties and special events.

The high-performance glazing prevents overheating in the summer and reduces heat loss in the winter. The high volume encourages the stack effect and natural ventilation can be supplemented by mechanical means via two ducts that run longitudinally at high level. During the winter, the heat escaping from the adjacent buildings is sufficient to keep the atrium at a comfortable temperature.
As the site is located in an industrial park, employees did not have easy access to more congenial places to meet, nor suitable options for lunch, without having to take their cars. They have quickly appropriated the Atrium, and use it as an informal place for creative sessions, meetings, exchanges of ideas and relaxation - as well as eating lunch in the 540m2 cafeteria.

The atrium has encouraged employees to initiate and participate in group activities before, during and after work. In this and many other ways, this elegant and economical intervention has maximized the benefits to Groupe Dynamite and its employees using the absolute minimum of materials.

Interior paint used for this project is low-VOC Benjamin Moore paint.

Project Credits
Architect
Aedifica
Owner/Developer
Ciro M. Falluh
General Contractor
Reliance Construction Group
Mechanical Engineer
Aedifica Consultants
Electrical Engineer
Aedifica Consultants
Structural Engineer
SBSA Experts-Conseils
Photos
Francois Descôteaux

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