October 2019

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72 | OCTOBER 2019 Lord Nelson Elementary School PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY MCFARLAND MARCEAU ARCHITECTS Lord Nelson Elementary School by ROBIN BRUNET T he Vancouver School Board's new Lord Nelson Elementary School is an outstanding exception to the increasing rule of too many school designs in Canada being cookie cutter by necessity of budget. Designed by McFarland Marceau Architects and built by Pro-Can Construction Group, the three-storey elementary school resembles the great H-shaped Edwardian schools of past gen- erations in terms of footprint. But instead of being capped by steep-pitched roofs, the distinctly modern structure is topped by eight-foot tall glass screens contain- ing an elaborate rooftop play area. The facility, which will open its doors this fall, has also gained a rep- utation for pushing the limit of what can be done with masonry block wall. "It was almost as if the material acted more like a concrete frame," says Ilana Danzig, associate principal at Equilibrium Consulting Inc. "The use of masonry as prescribed by the archi- tects was a big challenge, and we found creative ways to make it work." Due to the high seismic risk of the existing building, Nelson Elementary was approved to be seismically replaced in 2015 and design com- menced soon after. Early on it was decided to construct the new building next to the existing Nelson Elementary school (built in 1910) and then move students out of the old school to under- take demolition of that structure. Craig Duffield, associate and design director for McFarland Marceau Architects, says, "The decision to fit the new building right beside the old one meant that we had to develop a rectangular site. We thought the H-shape was dignified, nicely propor- tioned, and we designed the wings narrow enough to allow plenty of nat- ural light into the building's core." The new seismically safe Nelson Elementary practices 21st-century learning via elements such as pods of four classrooms each with a commons, and breakout spaces in the corridors. "However, we also acknowledged that traditional teaching is still valued, hence the learning areas can be closed off in order to create traditional class- rooms," says Duffield. While masonry is the main building material for the interior, its appearance was softened by a suspended wood slat ceiling and mass timber elements. Efficiency also defines the design: a main entrance was created in each of the two courtyards to reduce congestion during student pick-up and drop-off. Cantilevers over a multi- purpose room and over the library enhanced the exterior's visual appeal and provided coverage for students. Exterior stairways from the second floor to the playground gave students exercise and also prevented hallway congestion. The design took every opportu- nity to keep costs under control. "For example, because mature trees line the perimeter of the building, we were able to use fritted glass instead of more expensive sunscreens," says Duffield. He adds, "We also wanted to incor- porate fun into our design, hence the use of exterior slides from the second floor to the playground." The City of Vancouver provided $6.4 million to build a 69-space child- care centre in the new facility, located on the third level and augmented by an elaborate rooftop play area. "The grass, trees, sand, and other elements of this area threatened to contrib- ute a significant amount of weight on the roof," says Danzig. "So in order to retain our seismic integrity, light- weight materials were selected." The masonry cantilevers were another challenge. "We used a lot of reinforcement, with higher-strength masonry blocks plus horizontal bars at the top and bottom of the cantilevers, along with structural steel," says Danzig, adding that the layout change from masonry, precast concrete, and steel on the first two levels to steel on the third level "required a lot of transfers." Pro-Can Construction Group was hit with unusually harsh winter weather at the beginning of 2016 that resulted in a two-month work delay (which was subsequently made up later that year). Another difficulty fac- ing construction manager Leo Perez was that the new school needed to be built 10 feet to the property line on all sides, which were lined with 70-foot old growth trees. "We used mobile cranes of different sizes to hoist hol- lowcore slabs, masonry blocks, and other components up over the trees and onto the site," he says. Despite the challenges associated with its complexity, Perez says, "It's absolutely beautiful, a real standout." Students are staff were able to move in just in time to start the new school year in September 2019. Duffield concludes, "We and the Vancouver School Board were moti- vated to create something special, and we're proud of the outcome." A LOCATION 1355 Garden Drive, Vancouver, B.C. OWNER/DEVELOPER Vancouver School Board ARCHITECT/LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT McFarland Marceau Architects GENERAL CONTRACTOR Pro-Can Construction Group STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT Equilibrium Consulting Inc. MECHANICAL CONSULTANT Rocky Point Engineering Ltd. ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT Jarvis Engineering Consultants TOTAL SIZE 53,486 square feet TOTAL COST $24.34 million Full-service general contractor Pro-Can Construction Group specializes in public and institutional work. It provides construction management services including pre-construction, post-construction, de-construction, and budgeting. We are proud to be Construction Manager for the Lord Nelson Elementary School project. Congratulations to the whole team on a successful job. #117 - 3993 Henning Drive, Burnaby British Columbia, Canada V5C 6P7 P: 604-875-6388 | E: Pro-Can Construction Group.indd 1 9/27/19 9:21 AM 123 McIntyre Street West North Bay Ontario 705.995.2391 Proud to be the architects on the Sioux North High School CritchleyHill_AWARD_1019.indd 1 9/25/19 12:03

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