Jubilee House: Featured In Award Magazine

Article written by Robin Burnet.

Housing and other seniors’ facility developments are caught between two forces: the need to provide quality for end users, and the realities of limited budgets. Too often, the latter results in the final product falling considerably short of the original intent. But sometimes the sheer will of developers is enough to break the pattern, and the LEED Gold Jubilee House in downtown Vancouver, B.C., is a prime example.

Shepherded with an uncompromising focus on quality by Brenhill Developments Ltd., Jubilee House is a 13-storey, 162-unit affordable housing project that replaces an existing 87-unit building located across the street (which will subsequently be replaced by a condo tower by Brenhill). The facility provides modern living spaces to the 87 low-income individuals currently residing in the old structure; another 75 low-end-of-market units will make up the remaining residential component.

Max Kerr, executive VP of Brenhill, describes the project “as an idea that developed over time in close collaboration with The 127 Society for Housing, which operates several residential facilities for low- income seniors in Vancouver.” Of his firm’s commitment to quality, Kerr says, “A bespoke low-income seniors facility is uncommon, but we build landmark housing. And that’s why we retained GBL Architects for this project four years ago, because it’s a company that is not afraid to create big, bold designs.”

The extensive consultation with The 127 Society for Housing and user groups heavily influenced the design of the new structure. “For example, our inclination would have been to create a 4,000-square-foot, open-concept ground floor, but instead we did the opposite and created a series of locked off areas: a library, kitchen, offices, multi-purpose areas and a low-cost food store – this would enable each area to be cleaned sequentially with minimal disturbance to residents, rather than an open concept that would require everyone to be moved out of the space,” says Kerr.

Brenhill insisted on everything from a high-quality stainless steel kitchen to key fobs for handicapped residents to make door entry easy, “with the hope that the accumulation of these elements would raise the bar in seniors’ accommodation design,” says Kerr.

Special attention was paid to lighting– in order to accommodate residents with failing eyesight, extra footcandles of illumination were required, so Nemetz (S/A) & Associates Ltd. installed LEDs throughout the facility. While this added to the initial cost outlay, the longer lifespan of the diodes would result in cost savings over time.

Stuart Lyon, principal at GBL Architects, describes other elements that arose from The 127 Society for Housing and user group consultation. “Solid core doors as well as extra dense drywall for the corridors were chosen for durability,” he says. “Discussions even revolved around taps and how best to arrange storage units.” Many of these elements were co-ordinated by Cristina Oberti Interior Design Inc.

While creating a bracing environment for seniors was key, it was also appreciated that the new Jubilee House is a corner lot and a prime piece of Vancouver real estate. “And this is where GBL’s talent for doing something different really came into play,” says Kerr.

Indeed, from street level Jubilee House rises up from a base of beige brickwork as a tower of complex geometric forms, with randomly arranged protruding boxes, grey and charcoal panelling – Alucobond, for durability and ease of maintenance – covering substantial portions of the facade, with green spandrel for a splash of colour.

Read the full article here (page 61).