On October 2, Toronto developer Hullmark hosted a hard hat tour at its construction site for 80 Atlantic Avenue. The Quadrangle-designed building stands out for being the first timber-frame office building constructed in Toronto in a generation, and heralds a wave of more sustainably built buildings to come.

Looking northwest to Hullmark's 80 Atlantic, image by Edward Skira

Following the success of rehabilitating 60 Atlantic for modern office and restaurant use (Big Rock Brewery has opened a popular brewpub at 60 Atlantic), Hullmark was up for another unique project which would complement the first building and its sunken patio. Jeff Hull, (President of Hullmark and one of our tour guides along with Richard Witt, Partner at Quadrangle, both seen below), told us that with recent changes to the Ontario Building Code to permit larger timber frame buildings, and the ability to build as-of-right on this site without requiring rezoning, offering timber frame here was an interesting challenge. With a relatively small and fixed supply of sandblasted brick and post-and-beam buildings in this city, adding a new office building to the market with the warmth and character of wood would attract tenants to the unique product.

Richard Witt of Quadrangle, Jeff Hull of Hullmark, Edward Skira of UrbanToronto, images by Edward Skira, Naomi Kriss

Concrete and steel—of which most buildings are constructed, and which has been used to form the foundation and first level of this building plus its elevator core—create carbon emissions in the manufacturing process. Whatever you can build with a material that both dramatically lessens carbon emissions and even sequesters carbon, you can build in a far more sustainable manner. Wood is that material: it is grown by the power of the sun, and sequesters at a rate of one tonne per cubic meter of wood. Canada has some of the most sustainably managed forests in the world, and has the manufacturing capability to fabricate high quality engineered wood products.

The City of Toronto is leading the charge for more sustainable building practices by improving its Green Development Standards. 80 Atlantic's design complies with the standard while targeting energy performance beyond the 90% percentile of its asset class, according to the 2015 BOMA Best National Report.

Rainy day tour group at 80 Atlantic, image by Edward Skira

Rising beside the 2-storey high 60 Atlantic, a renovation, retrofit, and expansion project which Hullmark and Quadrangle collaborated on a few years ago, 80 Atlantic is reasonably conventional where it meets the ground in terms of construction materials; there it's concrete and steel. It's at the second level where the building switches to mass timber columns and beams and ceiling/floor panels.

The wooden elements arrive at the site already to size, and can be assembled fairly quickly to create the frame for the upper storeys. Floor panels can be lowered by cable one-at-a-time onto the post-and-beam skeleton, and slid into place. In the photo below, you can see gaps between the sections of the upper floor, while those gaps have been closed and the panels secured with steel strips in the lower floor. The strips keep the wood from moving around, and a thin layer of concrete that is to follow will dampen any vibrations, meaning no creaking noises from the floor above.

Nail-laminated timber floor panels installed, image by Edward Skira

In the photo below, one of the mass timber columns appears to be floating above the floor panel. About 1 ½ feet above, a black strip shows where the actual floor will be once more construction is completed. Power and communications cables as well as heated or cooled air will be supplied to the office through the underfloor area.

Timber posts 'float' above the lower floor prior to concrete being poured, image by Edward Skira

You can see in the rendering below how it will come together. A high-performance curtain wall with operable windows for fresh air overlooks the courtyard between 60 and 80, and allows natural light to stream in. Behind it, the thin coat of concrete above the nail-laminated timber floor panels creates vibration-free isolation for under-floor ducting. A raised floor meets the widest section of the mass timber posts. The wood of the posts and mass timber beams is open to space, and support the nail-laminated timber ceiling/floor panels above, giving the space all of the warmth of the wood.

Detail of the timber work at 80 Atlantic, image courtesy of Hullmark

Cabling for utilities will run through channels hidden in the mass timber posts. The posts and beams are a glulam mass timber product, while the ceiling/floor panels are nail-laminated.

Utilities will be located in the channel in the posts, mage by Edward Skira

20% of 80 Atlantic was leased prior to construction beginning, and is now 100% leased and will be fully tenanted upon its completion in 2019. Hullmark took a chance, but owing to the quality, uniqueness, and appeal of the project, the developer was able to charge market leading rents for the Liberty Village area. The building's lead tenant will be Universal Music Canada, home of Drake and Shawn Mendes. They are moving from Victoria Park and Sheppard. Other major tenants include co-working giant Spaces and "reinventors" Jackman. 

Looking northwest to 80 Atlantic, designed by Quadrangle for Hullmark

You can find out more about 80 Atlantic in our database file for the project, linked below. You can get in on the conversation in the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

Related Companies:  BDP Quadrangle, Cushman & Wakefield, Eastern Construction, Kramer Design Associates Limited, LiveRoof Ontario Inc, Ontario Panelization, RJC Engineers, Trillium Architectural Products