In with the old

Renovating what you've got can be a good alternative to starting from scratch

Sometimes building new is the best option. Let's face it, The Bow in Calgary wouldn't have the same panache if EnCana Corp. had decided to makeover an old building. But due to a ran

ge of factors, owners often turn to renovation to create the space they need.

The maintenance and sometimes restoration of historical architecture is one reason for renovating.

The Garneau Theatre building in Edmonton was built in 1940 and houses a movie theatre and retail space. It has been designated a historical resource by the City of Edmonton because it exemplifies the Art Deco style of architecture.

Owner John Day hadn't initially planned to restore the building. "I thought the real estate definitely warranted a higher density," he says. "Commercially and residentially, the site could have taken more."

The historical designation, a result of the larger community's interest in the building, convinced Day to restore rather than rebuild.

"Without historical designation, we probably would have built more on the site," he says.

Municipal funding will provide about $500,000 of the $3.2-million project-50 per cent of the restoration portion of the renovation.

The majority of the restoration is to the exterior of the building and involves improving the roof and cladding, repairing the marquee, and cleaning and repointing the brickwork. Four new retail tenants will have control over the interior space but are expected to retain some of the architectural elements, such as the terrazzo flooring.

Restoration provides the opportunity to preserve the past while taking advantage of today's products, materials, and techniques.

"You're looking for a balance of new, updated technology while retaining the visual heritage aspects of the buildings," says Brian Lacey, project director at Clark Builders, which is working on the Garneau. "Ideally, you provide new technology with energy efficiencies for building performance, but you retain the look and the feel."

Clark found an exterior stone in eastern Canada that visually matches the original construction and is replacing the entrances with new technology that matches the fit and finish used in 1940.

The discovery of seriously compromised structural roof components caused a delay, but that, Lacey says, is to be expected on renovation projects.

"You really don't know your scope of work until you start opening things up," he points out. "Then you find all sorts of secrets in there." Some discoveries can be worked into the schedule. Others, like the roof, compromise critical path and can extend the project.


In Calgary, the city has come up with an interesting way of maintaining history without sacrificing the comforts and efficiencies offered by 21st century technology.

The Calgary Public Building, built in 1929, is a commercial building of office and performing arts space located in the heart of the city. A $25-million renovation is bringing the building up to modern-day standards, particularly in energy and operational efficiency.

"We're building almost a building within a building," says John Preston, project manager, Chandos Construction. Walls are being built and windows installed, but they're being put inside of the original limestone exterior. The new windows are wider than the old ones so that anyone looking out sees the interior of the outer window, complete with the original trim.

Chandos is renovating six floors, two floors at a time. All are being modernized except for floor six, which will be restored to a 1929 appearance. About half of the work will be complete when the first two floors, floors seven and eight, are completed because those floors can't be occupied until the HVAC, electrical, and control systems are installed for the whole building.

The project is aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status and includes other energy-saving features such as lighting with occupancy sensors and a solar water heater on the roof. Provisions have been made for the inclusion of a greywater system if the budget allows.

Money is already being saved. The city originally planned to use $50 million on the building. Thanks to the recession, costs have stopped escalating and now approximately 75 per cent of the total project is being done for $25 million.

The changing budget resulted in a redesign, adding to the scope of work and delaying the start of construction. However, to receive $4 million in grant money, floors seven and eight must be done by the end of March 2010, putting Chandos on a tight schedule.

"There's only about 15,000 sq. ft. per floor, which means you can't flood the floor with bodies or it becomes totally inefficient," Preston says. Chandos and some trades are running two shifts of 10 hours. And most trades are working an extended day.

Renovating rather than building from scratch was virtually the only option for the Calgary Farmers' Market. With hourly traffic turnover of up to 1,000 vehicles, access, egress, and parking were paramount concerns for the non-profit organization, which spent about two years searching for a piece of land where it could build.

"It just became unbelievably prohibitive," says Ken Aylesworth, spokesman for the Calgary Farmers' Market. "That kind of space is almost impossible to come by."


Instead, the market's new home will be in a leased space that will undergo a $5-million renovation before the vendors move in. The building will be stripped down to bare walls and a portion of the roof will be removed and raised for the installation of a glass atrium. That will open up the space as well as letting in more daylight.

The renovation will meet the practical needs of the more than 100 vendors that sell their goods at the market, including individual mechanical needs that range from basic hookups to the inclusion of gourmet kitchens in the stalls. It will also bring the appearance of the facility in line with the market's brand.

"Our brand is very physical in what you see, as far as when you walk through the door or when you come up to the market," Aylesworth says. Touches like western-style cupolas and post-and-beam entrances enhance the brand.

"It's going to look very farmish, very marketish, very much like a barn," he promises.

The market is expected to be ready by December.

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