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W.T. Leung Architects Inc. – Quintet Development in City Centre


Throughout Canada, the parking garages of high-rise structures are built below grade. However, for the Quintet Development in the City Centre of Richmond, British Columbia, the high water table necessitated construction of the three-storey parking garage above ground. But it still is not visible from the outside, because the five buildings in the development are clustered around it.

Scheduled to begin construction in April 2011, the first phase of the mixed use Quintet Development near the Vancouver International Airport will be two buildings and the parking garage. Three more buildings that are planned for later construction would bring the total square footage of all five buildings to 762,000 square feet.

The project – which was designed by W.T. Leung Architects Inc. of Vancouver – will include five residential towers of 14 to 16 storeys, 22,000 square feet for a graduate studies program at a satellite campus of Trinity Western University, a 33,000-square-foot community centre and a parkade structure for 580 cars integrated into the development.

The project’s location is advantageous for connections to Vancouver International Airport and public transportation. It is one stop on the Skytrain to the airport and 20 minutes to downtown Vancouver. Commuting downtown by auto from the Quintet Development could take up to 60 minutes. Being close to the airport flight path also restricted the height of the development’s five towers.

“The entire city of Richmond has a building height limit of 45 metres, which is 148 feet,” Principal Wing Ting Leung points out. “Instead of designing short and stocky block buildings, we designed some of the structures to include terracing buildings like a tower on its side.”

Design Rationale

W.T. Leung Architects Inc. tried to give each building in the Quintet Development a unique flavor and to link the buildings within a natural environment. “They are all different floor plan sizes and configurations, so no one tower is the same as the other,” Leung points out.

Canada Sunrise Development Corp., a subsidiary of Sunrise Berhad in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is developing the project, which features a lavishly landscaped, private two-acre park on the fourth-floor roof of the parking lot.

“The owner is quite fond of water features,” Leung reports. “Water features on a very large scale are something he incorporates in his developments back in Malaysia. He wants to replicate the same feel here. The other part about the design philosophy is that we design buildings and projects which respond to the context of the urban fabric and considers the appropriate sustainability issues for the development.”

The Quintet Development is not aiming for LEED certification but includes many energy-efficient features, such as the building orientation to sunlight, its green roofs over the community center and the university, and its living green walls. The development also features low-e glass, use of fly ash in the concrete mixture, low-flow plumbing fixtures and Energy Star appliances.

Floating on a Raft

Because Richmond is at the mouth of the Fraser River delta, and Vancouver – like most of North America’s West Coast – is in seismic zone 4, the development’s five buildings will use no pilings. “Imagine if you will the whole city block – this 5-acre site – like a big raft, a big tanker, and on top would be sitting five 16-storey towers,” Leung suggests. “In the event of a seismic occurrence, the whole foundation shifts laterally and horizontally. The concrete raft is 5 to 6 feet in some areas – it’s pretty thick.”

All five concrete buildings and the parking garage will cost approximately $165 million, Leung estimates. Their interior finishes will use many natural materials, such as locally sourced wood flooring, wood-faced cabinets, stone countertops and local basalt cladding on the buildings’ exteriors.

The towers are all residential condominiums except for their first floors. Retail is on the ground floor of one of the buildings. A large indoor amenity space features a swimming pool with a gym, a yoga studio flex space and a sauna. Each individual building has a private, hotel quality dining lounge appointed with professional-grade kitchen appliances where residents can host parties.

Because condominiums in the development will be from 500 to 1,300 square feet in size, residents who host parties with many guests will find the lounge perfectly suited for such entertaining. These lounges will face the landscaped private garden, which also can be used to host barbecues in warm weather.

Getting Preloaded

Design of the Quintet Development began in late 2007. Because of the site’s high water table, it was preloaded with sand. “The weight of the sand is equivalent to the weight of the future development,” Leung says. “It compresses the soil so when you construct the buildings on the site, it will not settle further. The preloading has been in place for seven months. The sand is about to come off, and we’ll be starting construction soon.”

Construction of the first phase – which is set to begin in April 2011 – is expected to last for 27 months. The second phase of constructing the remaining three towers is scheduled to begin in April 2012. The first phase of two towers sold out quickly. “Quintet will be a significant addition to Richmond City Centre,” Leung says. “The planning and design of the buildings reflects our philosophy of responding to the neighbouring context and the urban fabric.”