John Bleasby 2017-09-20 05:38:31
Triple Townhome Infill Project Montreal, Quebec Architect: L. McComber ltée, Montreal (Olivier Lord, David Grenier, Laurent McComber) Construction: Nicora, Montreal (Nicolas Rasselet) The culturally rich Villeray neighbourhood in north central Montreal is a village-like blend of small commercial enterprises alongside the city’s distinctive two and three storey “plexes” built in the 1930’s, many with spiral front staircases, back alleys, clotheslines and sheds, interspersed with the occasional older fully detached home. Three years ago, architect Laurent McComber was commissioned to design a replacement for a 60-year old single family house located on a 75-foot wide lot that had been successfully subdivided into three 25 foot lots. The first phase consisted of two semidetached homes for resale, with the third designed and built later as the developer’s personal residence. While such “gentle intensification” of Canada’s urban centres is slowly gaining acceptance, it faces challenges in many jurisdictions, contributing to an on-going national housing affordability and availability debate. McComber‘s experience is that rezoning is especially difficult in wealthier Montreal neighbourhoods where resistance to change is more organized. Happily, in the case of this Villeray project, McComber says that approval was “unexpectedly easy,” suggesting that because the neighbourhood was only beginning to become “gentrified” in 2014, local authorities were more open. At the municipality’s request, the development was aligned with the front facades of other houses on the street, bringing it much closer to the street than the original home’s 27 metre setback. As a result, private gardens were created in the rear and partially belowgrade garage parking made possible at the front, somewhat of a rarity in this area of Montreal. The only other condition set out by the city of any note was for the facade to be 80 per cent masonry, in keeping with existing structures nearby. That excluded openings, says McComber, explaining why the garage door is natural wood. The client asked McComber for a building with simple ideas and a vibrant facade, resulting in a modern design featuring a pattern of oblique protruding bricks that create a scale-like texture. The brick base is warmed by the tongue-and-groove cedar arranged vertically in a saw tooth layout. While the poured concrete foundation and 2 x 6 stud framing is not unusual, what is interesting was the decision to create thermal breaks inside the building rather than on the outside. Three-quarter inch, foil-faced foam sheathing board was placed over top of the typical fibreglass batt insulation installed between the studs. The exterior layup of the building therefore consists simply of OSB, house wrap and the brick facade. Surprisingly, the three new homes are heated exclusively with electric baseboard heaters, with minisplit air-conditioners on the second floors for cooling, a nod to the high level of insulation overall. The resultant absence of ducting eliminates any need for wall or ceiling bulkheads, high on this client’s wish-list. However, McComber also notes that the additional cost to install ducting caused his cost-conscious developer client to look for alternatives. “Electric baseboard heaters are very inexpensive to buy and easy to install,” he says. There is of course a HRV-heat system to ensure air changes and circulation, as required by the Quebec building code. The flat roofs on all three homes have drains that run internally, not through external eaves and downspouts. This leaves the roof edge completely clean on all sides. The roof deck itself is covered with a two-ply, modified bitumen elastomeric membrane from Soprema that has become, in McComber's words, “almost a standard” for commercial and residential flat roofs in Quebec. He favours the two-ply layup of this product over single Layer membranes such as TPO. There are three levels of living space. On the lower level, partially below grade, the garage shares space with a playroom, bedroom, bathroom and utility room. The main level has two living rooms, each with potential for its own formal or casual atmosphere, a large open kitchen and dining area, and a powder room. Two more bedrooms, a master bath, and an office area that overlooks the lower level complete the third level. Cleverly, McComber was able to diffuse natural light streaming from the rooftop skylight by reflection off white angular surfaces incorporated into the roof trusses and down to the living spaces below. This successfully deals with a problem common with semi-detached town homes that often lack natural light in the central sections due to only front and rear windows. PREVIOUS PAGE: The new triple town home project was brought forward to 5.21 metres from the street, in line with other buildings in the neighbourhood. The municipality requested that 80 per cent of the facade, not including openings, be masonry in keeping with the area. ABOVE: Moving the building forward created private rear gardens bathed in southern light for each new home. Extensive use of cedar arranged in a sawtooth pattern, warms the exterior. OPPOSITE TOP RIGHT: The clean modern lines of the kitchen cabinetry and quartz countertops are warmed by the extensive use of ash, both on the floors and as accents at room entries. Aluminum clad, double glaze, lowE glass was used throughout. OPPOSITE BOTTOM LEFT: Striking trim accents on the stair railing match the open stair treads. Light pours down from the skylight above. OPPOSITE BOTTOM RIGHT: An open office space overlooks one of the two main level living spaces. The warmth added by tongue and groove ash on the balustrade, ceilings and floors is obvious. Note the mini-split air conditioner unit on the second level. TOP: Traditional 2x6 frame construction over a poured concrete basement foundation wall was covered in OSB, housewrap and then the brick facade. MIDDLE: The design called for three-quarter-inch foil faced foam board on the interior, which was laid over top of fibreglass batts installed between the studs in order to create thermal breaks. BOTTOM LEFT: The original 1950’s era home was set 75 feet back from the street, unusual in this part of Montreal’s Villeray neighbourhood. BOTTOM RIGHT: The brick facade was laid in a protruding scale pattern, which creates an interesting light-and-shadow effect.
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