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Stepping Towards Environmental Sustainability
Bata, with the help of Dubbeldam Architecture + Design & Quadrangle Architects, takes a bold step in revitalizing their Batawa factory in Canada for social and environmental sustainability.
Envisioned as a model community for social and environmental sustainability, the town of Batawa in Quinte West, Canada was a vision by the late Sonja Bata in her pursuit for her passion in architecture and the built environment. The former factory town, located 175 km east of Toronto on the Trent River was the site of a revitalization effort by Bata in 1939, at the onset of WWII. The Bata family, then prominent shoemakers, transplanted their shoe empire, including 120 workers and their families, from Czechoslovakia to Canada, establishing a company town that would become a prototype for subsequent Bata operations around the world.
While the factory was decommissioned in 2000, Bata repurchased the entire 1,500-acre site, with the objective of reinventing the town once more as a model of sustainable development. Designed by Quadrangle Architects, in collaboration with Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, the modernist-style factory was built as a sustainable community and satellite town adapted to 21st-century living, where residents could live close to nature but maintain a connection to work through high-speed broadband. The focus was mostly placed on the ambitious adaptive re-use and conversion of the former manufacturing facility into a mixed-use residential, commercial and community building.
The revamped factory encompasses 47 rental residential units of varying sizes on the upper three storeys, with commercial and retail amenities below that boasted of a light environmental footprint and a strong social mandate. The amenities include a children’s daycare with an outdoor playground, an exhibition/community space, multi-purpose rooms for meetings and lectures, educational incubators, a ground floor retail store and café, and an accessible rooftop terrace with panoramic views.
The authentic industrial, yet modernist architecture is a sight to behold, with the original building’s concrete waffle slab structure, which was an innovation that Bata brought along with them from Europe offering generous open spans, which allowed for its conversion into residential units with 12’ high ceilings and abundant natural light. The thermal windows and balconies are built to face the town centre and the river, while the wood cladding on soffits and balcony walls soften the exterior’s industrial character with natural warmth and a distinctly Canadian flavour that creates harmony between the units and surroundings.
In aligning with Bata’s vision of the building as a model for advancing sustainable architecture, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design & Quadrangle Architects made sure that the newly renovated factory retains the original concrete structure, saving close to 80% of the embodied carbon from the original building. This helped to revitalize its Modernist heritage through new materials and striking design elements.
The façade features new glazing and brick cladding that echo the factory’s original appearance, with the addition of cantilevered balconies throughout. The regular rhythm on the façade is interrupted by the projecting central volume, with recessed balconies that add playful voids to the otherwise planar façade. The entrance canopy is lit up with dramatic LED lighting that extends outward, welcoming residents & visitors to enter.
The new terrazzo flooring on the main level ensures that the public spaces and the stair treads speak to the vintage of the building and ensures durability for a high-traffic area. The lobby features a double-height space with a faceted sculptural steel staircase that wraps around an exposed concrete column, highlighting it in place as a homage to the original factory structure. The geometric shape of the stair instills a sense of strength and permanence in a building that has been given a second life. An oversized light fixture floats over the lobby sitting area, which comprises furniture from primarily local fabricators and suppliers.
The interior material palette is rich in color and warmth. Extending from the entrance canopy to the lobby ceiling to the upper floor elevator lobbies, wood panels connect the various spaces together. On the upper residential levels, the unique lighting layout in the elevator lobbies and corridor ceilings provide a focal point to divert the occupant’s eye from the long double-loaded corridor.
Among the key priorities that were outlined for the project was the integration of sustainable energy systems. As a result, its HVAC systems are powered entirely by geothermal energy, and new materials or systems were selected to be as sustainable as possible.This was achieved through the use of 63 holes drilled to a depth of 600 feet under the parking area.
According to Dubbeldam Architecture + Design’s principal Heather Dubbeldam, “This project is a model for environmental and social sustainability and increased housing density in a rural setting with the lightest impact on the environment. The renovated factory now stands to once again become a beacon within the town, focused on a sustainable future.”
Sustainable approaches work in conjunction with passive strategies including an airtight building envelope and operable windows. Any new materials were selected to be as sustainable as possible, with long lifespans, durability, and eco-friendly characteristics, right down to the carpet tiles made from recycled fishing nets and low VOC finishes.
About Dubbeldam Architecture + Design
Dubbeldam Architecture + Design is a multi-disciplinary design studio committed to creating thoughtful projects that embody sustainable approaches. The studio’s portfolio includes a diverse range of projects in many sectors including commercial, institutional, hospitality, mixed-use residential, as well as landscape design, product design, and architectural installations.
Along with over 60 design awards and wide recognition in national and international publications, Dubbeldam is the recipient of the Professional Prix de Rome in Architecture, one of the oldest and most prestigious prizes for outstanding achievement in Canadian architecture. With a commitment to design excellence and a focus on sustainability and wellness in architecture Dubbeldam is recognized for creating innovative, unique, and environmentally responsible design solutions for living, work and play.