Municipal maintenance buildings are typically designed with one thing in mind—function. And while it’s true the newly completed Newmarket Operations Centre in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, is a functional success, the building’s unique requirements dictated it be more than just a workshop or storage building. It needed to look good too. And by incorporating bifold liftstrap doors from Fairfax, MN-based Schweiss Doors, it does. The 65,000 sq. ft. building features 20 of them. The glass-paneled doors fill the building with natural light, contributing to a healthier, happier workplace environment while lowering the building’s energy costs.
Newmarket has a population of approximately 80,000 now, but that is expected to grow to almost 100,000 by 2026. Located north of the city of Toronto, it is part of the Greater Toronto Area and Golden Horseshoe of Southern Ontario. The new facility will help city officials better serve both current and future citizens.
Prior to construction, the city’s Public Works Services had been operating out of three buildings at two separate locations. By merging the two facilities into one, and housing staff under one roof, duplication was eliminated and staff resources maximized. All town vehicles and equipment are now housed and maintained at the new Operations Centre, eliminating the need for transportation between facilities. Central York Fires Services fire trucks are also maintained there. Central York fire Services is responsible for providing fire services not only to Newmarket, but also nearby Aurora.
To say the Operations Centre is crucial to the community would be an understatement. In addition to being responsible for parks and property, pedestrian trails, athletic fields, recreation equipment maintenance, heritage areas protection, snow removal on city streets and sidewalks, traffic management, water distribution, solid waste management, snow storage and more, the facility is also designated as the city’s emergency operations center.
Located in a non-residential industrial area, the building was designed for a minimum of 25 years of service. Harry Vanwensem, who has worked for the city for more than two decades, is Manager of Facility Services. He recalled the planning process for the new building was ongoing for three years prior to construction. One topic specifically discussed during the planning phase was doors, leading eventually to the selection of the Schweiss Bifold liftstrap/autolatch glass doors.
“I learned about Schweiss Doors from RDH Architectural,” Vanwensem said. “We were looking for a type of door that was big enough, that gave us a lot of natural light and ability to bring large equipment in and out. When I first saw them I went ‘Wow! These are big doors. They certainly do the job from a standpoint of giving us enough room to get large trucks in and out.’”
The doors do help to make the $20.2 million Operations Centre functional, but they are also one of the reasons the building is regarded as a beautiful landmark structure.
Because of its surplus space, the building is currently being used as a site for employee training and archival storage. The grounds surrounding the building provide space for a work yard, a greenhouse and storage sheds for salt and sand.
“As taxpayers go, they don’t always like to see big things come up, but we were able to amalgamate the three departments into one operation. It gives us a better team environment to have all the departments under one umbrella,” said Vanwensem.
The doors are among the building’s many environmentally friendly features. Others include the green “living” roof, geothermal heating and cooling, solar hot water heating, a reflective membrane roof, recharge stations for electric vehicles, storm water collection of rainwater to irrigate the green roof, and the allowance for a future wind turbine. The introduction of native grasses, plants and trees improve biodiversity at the site perimeter.
The building is one of the first of its kind in Canada to meet the Canada Green Building Council’s energy efficiency standards. The environmentally friendly design demonstrates an energy use reduction of 44 percent compared with a similar facility under the model National Energy Code for Buildings. The design incorporates a 40 percent reduction in domestic water usage through the installation of efficient fixtures and other water saving measures. This represents a savings of 1.5 million liters of water annually.
Ninety-two percent of occupied spaces have daylight and exterior views, greatly reducing energy costs and lessening the environmental impact of the facility. It will save 411 tons of Co2 from entering the environment. This is the equivalent of removing 79 cars from Newmarket’s roads each year.
The atrium is surrounded by offices, green exterior space, meeting and training rooms and a cafeteria, while serving as the arrival and social space for all visitors and staff. The grand stair doubles as an informal amphitheater for morning muster.
The project embodies a pragmatic rethinking of the municipal operations center and sets a new national standard for the design of this under-appreciated building type. A 4.2-meter-high gabion basket retaining wall defines the public parking area and acts as a landscaped extension of the building’s green roof, creating the illusion, when viewed from the north, of two distinct structures.
Rounthwaite, Dick & Hadley Architects & Engineers (RDH) developed the design for the new Operations Centre. Geoff Miller, who was lead architect, worked closely with Project Manager Tony Lopez, Bob Goyeche and Scott Wilson on drawing up the building design and completing feasibility studies. He said the city of Newmarket was committed to constructing an environmentally friendly building, something that RDH was in tune with because their firm encourages going green as well. RDH has worked with a lot of municipal clients and has done a number of operations centres and public buildings of various kinds that are in sync with the green movement.
Miller said a lot of searching online convinced them quickly that Schweiss Doors would fit the bill. They were looking for something “beyond the norm.”
“It was our idea to put decorative numbered glass doors on the building. The intent there covered two reasons. We found Schweiss Doors when we were looking for a product that would have a number of functional aspects and also be architecturally attractive. One of our concerns was that this was a very prominent building. The town wanted it to be a kind of landmark featuring the doors facing a major street entering town on a hill very visible for people driving by. Also from a functional viewpoint we wanted a door system that wouldn’t take up any ceiling space inside the building, particularly in the repair garages and with a crane they use. The bifold door system seemed ideal and the added advantage was the doors provide an exterior canopy when open, so it somewhat adds an outdoor workspace in the summer when the doors are opened up,” explained Miller.
Miller said that using glass and aluminum curtain wall on the doors was something that they wanted for maximum performance and an attractive appearance. RDH worked closely with Schweiss Doors personnel initially on various details and noted they were very helpful during this process.
“It’s been a really important building for our firm. We’ve done others, but this was our first all-new construction operations centre. It has caught a lot of attention. It is very rare for buildings like this to have real architectural quality and it has become a major component of our practice now. I think the building turned out very well and the Schweiss doors were a big part of that. They are visually impressive and tie into our architectural vision seamlessly. They have an industrial functional quality. It was a difficult but rewarding balance to strike our objective,” said Miller. “I think the client is happy with the bifold doors and they are working very well with no problems,” added Miller.
The building’s architecture is heightened through the careful detailing of corrugated metal siding and the glazed glass Schweiss Bifold Liftstrap doors. Ten doors on each side of the building are designed for easy access and drive-through capabilities. They also provide passive ventilation and reduction of the energy load.
Each of the doors are 19’ wide x 21.3’ tall, providing easy access to the storage, repair and wash areas by trucks, snowplows and other large equipment. The doors are clad entirely in double-glazed curtain wall and installed flush with the primary building envelope. This allows for transparent and fully daylit workspaces in the vehicle bays while maintaining thermal continuity.
In the summer months the doors can be left open throughout the day to create a seamless indoor/outdoor workspace. The suspended galvanized wire mesh ceiling prevents birds from nesting within the roof structure.
Vanwensem said he appreciated the bifold door design during the winter, noting that they seal well in all weather. They are also powder-coated as an extra rust preventative and to give them a better aesthetic appeal.
“We use the doors a lot each day. They are opened every morning for vehicles to get out. When the weather is nice, they mostly stay open. Each door is probably opened three or four times a day. The doors were delivered on time and they also have wonderful safety features. I’d certainly recommend Schweiss doors to others,” said Vanwensem.
The doors’ safety features include warning lights and horns, door base safety edges and an emergency backup system. Each door is equipped with the Schweiss Autolatch system and the doorframes have a powder-coat finish.
Installation of the doors was done by Superior Door & Gate Systems (SD&GS) of Mississauga, Ontario, which is located about 50 miles from Newmarket. General Manger Joe De Gasperis said they were awarded the bid for the 20 glass doors. Adding to the attractiveness of these doors are large etched numbers on the glass of each door. This gives the doors a great look, but is also designed for the drivers and others coming to the building to see immediately which bay or door to go to.
“Anytime you are called for a service call, the problem is you never know which door to go to. We always encourage people to put numbers on their doors,” said De Gasperis.
“The etched glass numbers add a good feature to the doors,” added Vanwensem. “They are helpful for users to the facilities. If we have deliveries they know they have to go to a specific door number and they are big enough to identify them.”
This was SD&GS first experience with Schweiss Doors. De Gasperis said the job went quite well with a couple crews assigned to do the installation.
“These doors worked nice. It was a learning experience, but no big deal to install them. Like anything else that you do the first time, you follow the drawings. Our experience with Schweiss Doors was great; they’ve always been helpful. There were no problems of any kind. We wouldn’t hesitate to do more of these doors. In fact, we’d welcome it,” said De Gasperis.
Municipal operations centers rarely attract attention from architects or the public, but this one has captured the eyes of many. Even before its completion, the facility received the 2009 Award of Excellence from Canadian Architect Magazine for innovation and cutting-edge environmental features. The building, which was designed by RHD Architects Inc., also received the 2012 Governor General's Medal in Architecture. In 2013, MoneySense magazine ranked Newmarket 10th out of 200 cities in Canada, and 4th out of the "Top 10 Small Cities" in Canada in its "Canada's Best Places to Live in 2013."
With contributions from the federation of Canadian municipalities and Investing in Ontario, this is one of the first municipal operation Centres in Canada to be built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards.
To see more on this project on the Schweiss Doors website, click here.
Photographs by Tom Arban Photography Inc.