With the pair taking turns presenting the project from inception to completion, Kuwabara started his discussion by explaining the way that the new building fits into Winnipeg’s discontinuous street grid. Auer, who trained as a process engineer and wound up working on buildings, opened up with some of the surprising things his team learned when they started analyzing the region's climate, such as the fact that Winnipeg has more sunny days per year than any northern city in the world, which suggested passive solar heating would be possible.
Manitoba Hydro utilizes radiant heating, geothermal wells, atriums for preheating air, double-wall facades, a solar chimney, natural humidification, and green roofs among other things. But often one of the faults of extremely energy efficient buildings is that slashing utility bills so predominates programming and design that issues, such as a facility’s effect on the urban environment, are neglected. Both presenters noted that an extremely large integrated design team looked at the building from many perspectives, from considering the way the facility could drastically reduce the amount of commuting done by company employees to whether it would shade a nearby plaza in winter. The true measure of its accomplishment is in looking at how it performs on many levels, not just energy performance.
I have to agree with one attendee who wrote me: “I was really impressed by Kuwabara's talk—in one hour he summed up perfectly what the design process and the practice of architecture should be about—every student of architecture should have heard his talk. In the first instance design is not about imagery, it's about the process that shapes the imagery.”
Photos © Gerry Kopelow (exterior); Edward Hueber/Archphoto (atrium)