Keeping it green, since 1992: Smith Vigeant Architectes

Dec 26 • Architects, MONTRÉAL, Sustainability • 2242 Views • Comments Off on Keeping it green, since 1992: Smith Vigeant Architectes

If you think the use of the word sustainability seems overused, you might be right. It’s a word which can be used in any industry. It’s great that everyone is so environmentally conscious; we’ve been building awareness for almost three decades now. However, you have to wonder how much of it is ‘greenwash’. As early as 1992, Smith Vigeant Architectes has been producing environmentally conscious work in the province of Quebec. As early adopters of environmentally conscious architecture, we asked them to explain the overall objective of their firm through 4 of their most innovative projects.


Centre de découverte du parc national Mont-Tremblant

The development of the discovery center in the area of la Diable du Parc National du Mont-Tremblant, serves as a gathering place, where visitors can exchange knowledge. It consists of an exterior amphitheatre, service area, community & discovery centre. The form of the building is sculpted by the climatic attributes of the site.

“Each function is denoted by a distinct volume. Although their relationship to grade is different, these volumes, by their function and their materiality, share a marked interrelation. You can distinguish a rustic wood panel fold and unfold forming the amphitheatre, the terrace and finally the service area. It is enveloped by the master volume; a volume within a volume.”

The orientation and positioning of the openings maximizes the solar gains in the winter and the natural ventilation in the summer reduces the needs for mechanical ventilation.

A large curtain wall on the south west façade creates natural light for the public spaces.

“Wood is the prominent material. The natural and renewable characteristics of this material is in accordance with the philosophy of this project. Also, during the development of the project the choice of materials was done considering the needs for minimum maintenance and maximum durability. Conceived in the respect of the context and the environment, the discovery centre translates into a harmonious composition of volumes and spaces, that on top of satisfying a functional program brings creative and audacious solutions to marry with nature and architecture.”



Percentage of energy savings, as a result of using hydrothermal energy extracted from Lac-Monroe to either heat or cool the concrete ground floor slab.



Reduction in the percentage of potable water consumption of the discover centre compared to a conventional building.


The Greening of the Biosphere

For its 15th anniversary in 2010, the Biosphere undertook a renovation project to get visitors acquainted with the different ecosystems within their urban context. The greening project of the Biosphere consisted of two green roofs (extensive and intensive), a suspended garden and a green wall.  The luscious vegetation that surrounds the levels of this iconic Buckminster Fuller structure offers attractive surfaces to visitors while demonstrating the multiple energy advantages they create. While these installations flower in the geodesic dome, many other sustainable initiatives have been studied and will be developed and put in place, such as solar panels, a solar wall and a vertical garden.

A Living Example

The green roof gives visitors an up close example of its numerous advantages:

-reduced heat island effect

-how to reduce energy consumption of buildings

-increased durability of roof membranes

-increased sound insulation

-ability to manage drainage and air purification


“The new green developments were determine by the function of the properties and the loads that the structure could sustain. The intensive and extensive green roofs were strategically positioned on two separate footings to carry the two separate loading conditions. The selection, the number and the disposition of the greenery were also challenges in building the exterior green roof and the interior green wall with variable space to adapt to technical and climatic conditions of each system assembled under one roof.”


Allez-Up Centre

Inclined, vertical or overhanging,  the rock climbing wall is the central element of the Allez-Up project. Composed of multiples panels of a textured covering, it creates numerous cracks, crevasses, bumps and irregular surfaces.

“The exterior walls and the metallic elements pay homage to the industrial character of the neighbourhood, and the expansive windows create an interaction with St.Patrick Street. At nightfall, the lighting creates a dramatic tension with the façade and creates a central luminous element, visible from a distance, and is a focal point for the community. The reflectors of the window create a dynamic look.”

“The building is oriented towards the south-east on the street side, to benefit from early solar gains, all while avoiding overheating because of the tainted windows. The building envelope has a high energy performance that ensures a reduction in heating. The significant heights create marvellous natural ventilation. The roof has a white membrane to make the interior cooler during the summer and is to be vegetated in a later phase.”

“The mechanical systems are optimized in order to ensure the energy efficiency, but also offer a comfort level and increases the quality of the interior environments. An air filtration system and a CO2 detector are in place to ensure the regeneration of fresh air. The radiant geothermal heating ensures comfortable contact with the walls.”

“Finally, the recuperation of wood during the renovation of the silos allowed it to be reemployed and fabricated for furniture.”

Pointe-Valaine Community Centre

Open onto the Richelieu River, the community and cultural centre of Pointe-Valaine in Otterburn Park, was designed to create a place favourable to athletic activities.

“The parti was integrated in site and the community, and was inspired by the heritage of the site that is still used by the infamous Otterburn Boating Club. The sloped form of the roof and the veranda evokes the image of traditional Richelieu Valley summer cottages and the integration of the light animates the interior spaces that open onto the spectacular view of the river.”

“This project presents a contemporary architectural parti, combined with base notions of bioclimatic and ecological principles. A choice of materials that is respective and re-used.”

LEED® Gold


Percentage of energy conservation the building achieves

 “ (It was) an integrated design process with as integrated bioclimatic design that reduced mechanical systems. Also, the choice of façade determined the function and the durability of environments. On the exterior, the choice to raise the grade permitted a reduction in wall surface area while keeping the building accessible. For example, slats rather than windows allow for natural ventilation while ensuring the security of the building.”


Note: The links to the site of Smith Vigeant Architectes, showing the drawings and diagrams for the projects above, are in French only.

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