October 2016

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88 | OCTOBER 2016 ISSofBC Welcome Centre PHOTOGRAPHY BY DALE KLIPPENSTEIN/COURTESY HENRIQUEZ PARTNERS ARCHITECTS ISSofBC Welcome Centre by JERRY EBERTS T he original concept for Vancouver's Welcome Centre was a one-stop housing and support location for those newly arrived in this country. After much planning, this most useful of notions has become just that; a 58,000-square-foot facility that can address pretty much every need of a refugee or immigrant to Metro Vancouver. Working with a team that included Henriquez Partners Architects and Terra Housing Consultants, Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) developed this first of its kind facility that brings together a unique combination of transitional housing and targeted services under one roof. Certified LEED Gold, the Welcome Centre includes 18 housing units (up to 138 beds), a primary health care clinic, child-minding spaces (including an outdoor playground), eight classrooms for English language learners, multilingual settlement support staff (including housing, employment and volunteer services) and the corporate service offices of ISSofBC. Welcome Centre liaison Chris Friesen has been the primary spokesperson for this project. Speaking last June, the society's director of settlement services said: "It really takes the whole issue of social cohesion, immigrant integration, to a new height. To find one centre where people so new to the country don't have to navigate all over the place and deal with all the complexities that come with starting out in a new country is great." Veronica Gillies, architect and director of innovation for Henriquez Partners Architects of Vancouver, describes what makes the Welcome Centre unique: "It is a one-stop facility to welcome refugees and immigrants to B.C. and integrate them into the community. Along with bringing together a myriad of organizations, public institutions and programs that are geared toward meeting the needs of immigrants and refugees, the facility housing and services streamline access to care and makes it less daunting for immigrants to pursue their needs," says Gillies. "The form of the project responds to the site, neighbourhood and pedestrian context. The use of extensive exterior wood grain panelling and glulam beams set in abundant greenery creates a warm welcome for both tenants and immigrants. The interiors are warm, inviting and filled with light, as well as being easy to maintain. Initial design for the project began in 2010, with construction commencing in the summer of 2014," says Gillies. "Construction of the building took almost two years to complete, with ISSofBC taking possession in early June 2016." The project consists of a single building with a southern four-storey wing and a northern six-storey wing with interconnecting exterior walkways on levels two and five. It is close to the nearby Broadway and Commercial SkyTrain station. Terra Housing Consultants' Simon Davie says the project was essentially complete in June, apart from some finishing touches, but adds that it would take a year for the building to go through all the seasons to make sure everything is working. "It's been an exciting project," explains Davie. "Very timely to create this hub for immigrants and refugees. It's a complicated building; each floor is unique as the building is multi-use. That made the project more challenging. The ISSofBC has its corporate office there, which allows them to really focus on who they are serving," he says. "The building is for people." Omar Al Milli, mechanical consultant at Integral Group, adds that particular aspects of the project simply could not be conventional. "For a LEED Gold project, we had to make the mechanical systems more innovative. We had to save energy, for example. And there were changes along the way to the initial design. Originally there were going to be radiant floors, a good heating system, but we had to move in that case to a more conventional system. I'd say we have about 70 percent of the original design." His colleague, Paul Chu, was Integral's electrical consultant for the Welcome Centre. Chu says Integral was involved in the planning process from the conceptual stage. "It was long in coming due," says Chu. "We started years ago and it was not until 2014 that we started construction. One challenge we had was to make full use of the site. One of my priorities was to bring in power for the project in the least expensive way. We worked closely with BC Hydro on that." Walter Schroeder of Mierau Contractors Ltd. also describes the Welcome Centre as a unique project. As project manager for the general contractor, Schroeder was in charge of the day-to-day aspects of the project, including construction oversite and the subcontractors. "There were challenges as with any other project," he says. Shahryar Davoudi, project engineer at Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd., adds that while there was some back and forth at first, things turned out well. "We had a good team, the architect and mechanical engineer especially. We had all worked on other projects together in the past," says Davoudi. "It was challenging to design as it was complex and unusual. We had to take more time because it was a unique building. Unlike, say, a condominium building, there is no typical floor. It was also more pleasing to work on a project such as this." When it came to the landscape design, Alain Lamontagne of Durante Kreuk Ltd. says his goal "was to create a landscape that supported the idea of being welcoming to the residents. The majority of the plant material was selected on the basis that it was native to B.C. and we felt this was an opportunity to showcase our native flora." Lamontagne adds that other key features include providing a variety of open landscape courtyards, planter boxes for garden recreation and a large play space. "We strived to create a landscape which gave a sense of refuge, an oasis for the refugees. Most of the landscape was intended to feel open and this was achieved with many of the roofs being extensive green roofs. "Finally, a key feature in our design was the entry plaza, where the word 'Welcome' was written in 12 different languages and set in the concrete paving. It is as if the Welcome Centre directly speaks to the new arrivals and we felt this was important, to allow residents to be reminded every time they walk in or out that they are welcomed to this country," says Lamontagne. Gillies concludes that she is pleased with the project and says: "The ISSofBC building has seen great support from the immediate neighbours. It was also heartwarming to see many former immigrants and refugees employed in the construction of the building." A LOCATION 2610 Victoria Drive, Vancouver, B.C. OWNER/DEVELOPER Immigrant Services Society of BC PROJECT MANAGER Terra Housing Consultants Ltd. ARCHITECT Henriquez Partners Architects GENERAL CONTRACTOR Mierau Contractors Ltd. STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd. MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL/ LEED CONSULTANT Integral Group LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Durante Kreuk Ltd. SECURITY/IT/DATA/ AUDIO VISUAL CONSULTANT Acumen Engineering TOTAL SIZE 58,000 square feet TOTAL COST $27 million

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