August 2015

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 82 of 103

august 2015 | 83 Britannia Crossing photography courtesy opus building corp. Britannia Crossing by robin brunet U sually with most commercial build- ing projects, design is dictated by the vision of the owner in collabora- tion with the architect, and, depending on the delivery model, the builder. But amongst Britannia Crossing's unique attributes is the fact that its design was developed by the owner, OPUS Corporation, in collaboration with its architects NORR, trying to fulfill the planning requirements of The City of Calgary as well as the needs of the neigh- bouring communities. "All I knew was that I wanted a high-end facility built to LEED Gold standards," says Hannes Kovac, OPUS president and CEO. Britannia Crossing is a five-storey, mixed-use development located on a prominent high exposure corner of Elbow Drive SW and 50th Avenue SW in Calgary. From a visual standpoint Britannia is striking; its staggered design gives pedestrians a different con- ception of its shape depending on which direction they approach the building. Also, Britannia exhibits the best aspects of commercial urban design – a lively retail/public ground level with boutique amenities attracting plenty of pedestrian traffic (including the first Calgary location for the hugely popular Browns Socialhouse restau- rant chain); and staggered upper levels housing a diverse range of tenants and OPUS's new headquarters. Ease of biking or walking to work downtown is a huge draw for profession- als, as the location of Britannia Crossing is nestled within a predominantly resi- dential neighbourhood – and Kovac has upped the desirability by giving office staff the use of a company Toyota Prius hybrid when they leave the premises. LEED Gold components include the largest private development suburban photovoltaic system in the city, which will feed power to the grid and can supply all of the building's needs in an emergency. Plus, a third floor green roof provides air quality, noise insulation, thermal benefits and esthetic appeal. If that isn't enough, other lures include bright open office spaces with balcony options, ease of access to the Macleod and Glenmore trails, and something that compelled Kovac to develop Britannia in the first place, redevelopment activity in the surrounding community. Kovac, who lives in the neighbour- hood, explains that for years he had his sights set on the Britannia site, which used to be occupied by a gas station. "When it finally came up for sale in 2009 I bought it, because The City of Calgary had talked for years about redeveloping the entire area," he says. "It's remark- able that everyone wants more live- work communities but when actual redevelopment is proposed you get an overwhelming negative response. I love my neighbourhood and wanted to take the lead in redevelopment that would be acceptable to everyone." Originally, the site had two residen- tial lots and one commercial lot sepa- rated by a lane. OPUS had to amalgamate the lots, re-zone the land and reroute the lane to accommodate Britannia. "We really pushed the envelope to get the building approved," says Kovac. To say the red tape OPUS cut through for rede- velopment was voluminous would be an understatement. "We had 14 months of rezoning and 12 months of redevelop- ment permitting," says Kovac. OPUS diligently consulted with resi- dents, and based on their input as well as that of city planners it was decided early on that Britannia should have a substantially smaller shadow impact than that of a conventional two-storey family dwelling built on the lot. "So to the south Britannia is only two-storeys high and it steps up from there, with each level having a different floorplate," says Kovac, adding that because of OPUS's intense consultation he gained substantial community support. Consultation was also vital in develop- ing the ground-level merchandising plan. "The retail component was crucial to Britannia's success as an anchor for neigh- bourhood redevelopment," says Kovac. "So I asked my wife to talk to her friends in the area and determine what kinds of businesses they would patronize." Ron Poon, VP, business develop- ment Canada, commercial and lifestyle sectors at NORR Architects Engineers Planners, led the project to the develop- ment permitting stage. During this time, many design elements were decided on, including using EcoClad cherry wood colour panels and sandstone for the exterior to create a warm, inviting appearance, and tinted windows at the retail level for vibrancy. The lobby, hall- ways and washrooms were developed with modern clean lines and splashes of colour to make the spaces pop. Poon echoes Kovac's comments about design being dictated by permitting requirements. "Not only that, our site was long and very narrow, so that influ- enced the building floorplate. I saw the process very much as sculpting accord- ing to different needs. For example, a single family home is directly west of us, so we moved our windows and openings on that side of our building higher up to give the residents privacy; and for the same reason, a buffer was created on the west side." Ground level retail was ori- ented along Elbow Drive instead of the other residential thoroughfares. As general contractor, OPUS expe- rienced the infamous Calgary f loods (which rapidly filled the newly-exca- vated site) as well as one of the most severe winters on record. "We lost 38 days due to the elements," says Kovac. "The unusually severe and cold 2013/14 winter made it difficult to apply the con- crete forms and caused other problems; however, the first tenants moved into the facility in November of last year." Britannia Crossing sits in a well- established community with a lot of disposable income, which bodes well for The City of Calgary's redevelop- ment vision. "We at NORR have already designed a private seniors residen- tial complex, which recently finished construction on Elbow and 48th, and we're currently designing a five-storey, mixed-use facility directly across the street from Britannia," says Poon. To which Kovac remarks by way of conclu- sion, "We're extremely excited about the future – and very satisfied to have provided the neighbourhood with such a beautiful anchor building." a Location 5119 Elbow Dr. SW, Calgary, Alberta owner/DeveLoper/ GeneraL contractor OPUS Corporation architect NORR Architects Engineers Planners StructuraL conSuLtant MMP Structural Engineering Ltd. MechanicaL/ eLectricaL conSuLtant Hemisphere Engineering SurveyinG Kellam Berg Engineering totaL Size 66,700 square feet totaL coSt $29.8 million

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Award - August 2015