The Osler Bluff Ski Club is a project that reuses, restores, and expands an existing 1970’s ski lodge into a modern, energy-efficient building that celebrates traditional timber construction and the joy of winter sport. The design renovates the existing lodge and adds a new bay to the pleated-roof structure. The addition extends the main-level dining room, housing childcare and auxiliary spaces below. It foregrounds a dramatic pair of Y-shaped wood-and-steel columns—a contemporary version of the heavy timber columns of the original structure. The decision to reuse and extend the existing Clubhouse was strategically about repurposing the existing building rather than discarding and building new. The entire structure was conserved, with most of the timber columns left in place, and others relocated to a new lounge that looks out to the ski hill on one side, and over the dining room to the other. The design resolution focused on tying together the old and new structures with an intent to capture the spirit of the existing timber spaces while creating a modern and sustainable expression that speaks to the Club’s future. As the Osler Bluff community has grown over the decades, the capacity of the Clubhouse was exceeded. Increasing the lunchtime seating to allow families and friends to congregate, and upgrading the Founders Lounge, a reserved quiet room for the club’s senior members, allows generations of members and their families to be together during precious family time. A new Douglas fir acoustic ceiling hovers above the entire interior. Besides formally unifying the various spaces, it mitigates the decibel levels that previously were unbearable. The team worked with an acoustical engineer to develop an optimal section for the custom ceiling panels, composed of thick insulation covered with fireproof fabric and untreated Douglas fir fins. These elements nestle between the existing beams, acknowledging the building’s past while concealing sprinklers, lighting, and wiring. Carrying through an ethos of craft and timber construction, new Y-Columns reinterpret the heavy timber structure and are CNC-milled to mimic the soft profiles discovered through the history of carved skis. Many of the existing solid Douglas Fir timber frames had been originally exposed to the exterior on one side causing checks of up to an inch wide. Each timber was assessed and repaired, and the accumulated weathering was left intact, exposing the memory of the old building line. The high-performance mechanical system is designed to provide the Club, previously heated with electric baseboard heaters, with rebates associated with energy savings and long-term reduction in operating expenses. A new south-facing façade helps to achieve this performance by replacing the original single-glazed windows with a new Raico H-1 Therm+ timber-backed curtain wall system. Half of the building envelope was upgraded during the renovation. Even with most of the north and west sides of the clubhouse remaining at the 1974 building code performance requirements, the building envelope and systems combine to achieve an Energy Use Intensity of 130 kWh/m2/year. (Benchmark (NRCAN 2014, non-healthcare institutional buildings after 2010) 278 kWh/m2/year) This reduction speaks to the prudent management of the building and an understanding that Osler has of legacy building - creating a lodge that achieves a high-quality interior environment by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and by reusing an existing structure. Preserving resources is good business. A major piece that could be overlooked is the acoustic quality of the space. The original lodge was measured at 90dBA which is akin to a busy, loud restaurant. During social events, you would be shouting to be heard by the people at your table. The spaces were not comfortable to be in. The architects drove the requirement for a robust acoustic ceiling. Now, there can be music playing and hundreds of people chatting, and you can still have a conversation using a regular speaking voice. The space is warm acoustically, which complements the warmth of the interior finishes. Proud stewards of a remarkable piece of the Niagara Escarpment, Osler is environmentally conscious in their practices. Water conservation at the building level is only a small part of the story of water security as it pertains to potable water, drainage off the building, the spring melt off the mountain, and snow making. As changes in the environment created less reliable winter weather patterns, the Osler Bluff Ski Club was driven to develop a secure snowmaking system that eliminated their reliance on their existing water-taking permits from natural sources. The Clubhouse roof drainage now participates in a comprehensive system that channels all the site drainage off-building and off-mountain into a series of catch basins and pipes, through a flow-controlled ditch system, and into a snowmaking reservoir located on the property at a lower elevation. It is then pumped once uphill during the snowmaking season. All snowmaking water is currently recycled, and no longer taken from the onsite creek. A small reservoir originally constructed for water security – and since outgrown - has been reclaimed for fire-fighting water for the building. In the building, low-flow water fixtures were specified throughout the project. Given the building’s limited daily and seasonal use, the average potable water consumption is 12.76 l/m2 per user per year, or 186 l/user per day.
WILLIAMSON WILLIAMSON is an award winning and internationally recognized architecture practice established in Toronto by Betsy and Shane Williamson in 2007. Our portfolio includes work ranging from master plans to furniture, all of which reflect a careful attention to detail regardless of scale or budget. Accordingly, we take great pride in our working relationships with clients, consultants, contractors, trades, and suppliers respective of our design approach that privileges contextual specificity and sustainable building strategies.
Our work has been published widely including Architecture, Architectural Record, Azure, Canadian Architect, Domus, Dwell, I.D., and Metropolis and has been exhibited at the National Building Museum, Washington, DC; the Municipal Center for the Arts, New York, NY; Mercer Union, Toronto; Design Exchange, Toronto, ON; I-Space Gallery, Chicago, IL; the Urban Center, New York, NY; and the Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON.
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