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111 Richmond Street West

Oxford Properties Group owns Toronto’s 111 Richmond Street West, designed by the late Peter Dickinson. Built in 1955 and now part of the Richmond-Adelaide Centre, it had aged into an energy-inefficient building.

Dickinson designed some of Toronto’s finest buildings, including the O’Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts) and the demolished Inn on the Park. Faced with a decision, Oxford chose to preserve this part of Toronto’s heritage.

Carl Blanchaer was pleased with that choice. The principal of WZMH Architects notes that his firm is the successor to Dickinson’s practice. “Some of the founding members worked for Peter until he passed away,” he says. “The opportunity to reinstate one of his buildings is near and dear to our hearts.”

Blanchaer points out the renewal of the ground-floor lobby, “in particular the checkerboard pattern of four kinds of marble,” plus the ceiling of the elevator lobby and the cantilevered canopy over the Richmond Street entrance.

The rebuild has affected other buildings at Richmond-Adelaide, which are also slated for renewal. “We rebuilt the ground floorof130 Adelaide, removing a bank branch to create a wonderful open area. We took out mezzanines to create a double-height lobby, creating presence there,” says Andrew McAllan, Oxford’s senior vice-president, real estate management. “To the east of 111 Richmond, we’ve created a courtyard that provides year-round amenity space.”

With about 90 per cent of the building leased, McAllan touts the renewal as a success. Tenants include accounting firm MNP LLP, loyalty reward program firm Aimia Inc. and a major technology firm.

Tenants on the third floor will enjoy an existing rooftop terrace, while those on the 14th floor can use the two that flank the building at that height.

The project team designed 111 Richmond to meet LEED CS (Core and Shell) standards, and are aiming for LEED Silver. “If you build a new commercial office building in Toronto, it has to be LEED certified to be competitive,” McAllan notes. “Tenants demand sustainability programs of their landlords because their employees demand it of them.”

“The original glazing was a single-pane industrial sash with operable windows,” says Blanchaer. Double-glazing replaced these windows, but the new windows feature panels in the same shape as the original operable windows.

“From the outside, it looks like the same building,” McAllan notes.

“In between the windows, the Indiana limestone spandrels hadn’t been cleaned for years,” says Blanchaer, so crews cleaned them.

The new glass diminishes the load faced by the building’s new HVAC systems. EnWave’s deep lake water cooling and district steam systems provide air conditioning and heating, respectively, while demand-control ventilation provides fresh air as needed according to readings from the five carbon dioxide sensors on each floor. “It’s like an occupancy sensor but it’s more dynamic,” says Donald Reaburn, project manager with Enermodal Engineering.

The building originally sported two-pipe changeover fan coils, so tenant comfort became an issue during shoulder seasons when, according to John Ferguson, managing principal of Hidi Rae Consulting Engineers, “you have changeable loads and you’re always guessing wrong.” The team replaced this system with four-pipe non-changeover fan coils to provide heating and cooling throughout the year.

The renovation team started the project knowing they would find unexpected things. “We have drawings from 1955,” says Stefan Djukic, project manager for PCL Constructors Canada Inc., “but they didn’t show everything.”

This made for a few surprises. For instance, the project team found electromagnetic shielding as part of an old restaurant subfloor. They also noted that 1950s construction tolerances were much more forgiving, Djukic recalls.

Electrical demands were much different in the ’50s. The entire system “consisted of fluorescent lights and a couple of receptacles,” recalls Philip Chung, vice president of Mulvey & Banani International Inc. “Power distribution was via a floor duct system within the concrete slab that led to electrical rooms. Today’s electrical systems are more complex and integrated with other IP addressable systems and services.”

The tight floor-to-ceiling height, nine feet three inches from the floor to the underside of the concrete-waffle-slab ceiling, had to accommodate more than just people and furniture. “We had 12 inches in which to carefully place, like a Swiss watch, the mechanical and electrical services, including a new sprinkler system that the original building didn’t have,” says Ferguson.

Standard requirements of an open-concept ceiling meant “looking at placement of each individual system component on the floor,” says Chung. “We didn’t want the ceiling plane to seem congested.”

Congestion concerns arose elsewhere. “You only have so much space for the mechanical room,” Reaburn explains. “The mechanical engineer had to fit all the mechanical equipment on each floor into a tiny little space.”

The aggressive schedule was ultimately met. “From our standpoint, it’s an achievement to hit dates when doing a renovation,” Djukic says.

“When you have a 50-year-old building that hasn’t been extensively renovated, don’t assume that the only outcome is demolition,” McAllan says. “That would have been a simple assumption, and we would have lost another piece of history, something that’s a bit special.”

LOCATION: 111 Richmond Street West Toronto. Ontario

OWNER/DEVELOPER: Oxford Properties Group


GENERAL CONTRACTOR: PCL Constructors Canada Inc.


ELECTRICAL/ SECURITY CONSULTANT: Mulvey & Banani International Inc.

MECHANICAL ENGINEER: Hidi Rae Consulting Engineers

LEED CONSULTANT: Enermodal Engineering


  • 111 Richmond Street: 215,000 square feet
  • Richmond-Adelaide Centre total: 1.6 million square feet


This article originally published by Award Magazine. For a PDF of the print article, see below.

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