The Home Front: Design of new Squamish facility pairs beauty, sustainability

Hemsworth Architecture designed this 28,000-square-foot industrial facility for Leon Lebeniste Fine Furnishings and Architectural Woodworking

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We spend so many hours of our lives in these everyday buildings, and if they’re beautiful to look at and be in and responsive to our needs, their appeal is so much greater, he says.

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Many organizations are beginning to recognize this, says Hemsworth. And some of his clients mention how good building design helps with staff retention.

Focus on sustainability

Hemsworth Architecture is known for its focus on sustainable design. In 2016, it was awarded the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for designing the BC Passive House Factory, based in Pemberton.

The goal was to be as environmentally responsible as possible with this building design, says Hemsworth.

Inside the new Leon Lebeniste facility in Squamish.
Inside the new Leon Lebeniste facility in Squamish.Photo by Ema Peter /PNG

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“We used mass timber for the whole structure of the building and for the interior walls and clad the building where we could in red cedar,” he says.

Much less carbon is used when building with CLT than poured concrete, says Hemsworth, and buildings are much lighter, so they perform better in seismic zones, which matters in areas like Squamish.

Global eyes on B.C.

In B.C., we have such a long history building with timber, and now we’ve added CLT and Glulam products to this, says Hemsworth.

Building this way will become normal everywhere, eventually, he says, but right now, B.C. is leading the way, and other countries are noticing.

Connection to the local community

Exterior glazing used to connect those inside with those in the community of Squamish.
Exterior glazing used to connect those inside with those in the community of Squamish.Photo by Ema Peter. /PNG

That this building felt connected to the local community was really important, says Hemsworth. The team chose to use more glazing than usual on this building, so people walking or driving past this facility can get a peek at those working inside.

“Most industrial buildings are a black box where you don’t really know what’s going on inside.”

Shared facility

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Hemsworth Architecture also chose to put a shared space on the top floor of this three-storey building, with a living-green roof and deck that looks towards the Stawamus Chief peaks and surrounding mountains.

“It’s a way of locating the building and occupancy within the splendour and wonder of the Squamish Valley,” says Hemsworth.

Millwork by Leon Lebeniste.
Millwork by Leon Lebeniste.Photo by Ema Peter /PNG

The Leon Lebeniste team produces very high-craft and technologically driven millwork, Hemsworth explains. Company founder Jon Hewitt wanted to inspire other people, makers like himself, so he wanted a multi-floor building where he could rent out the top floor to other environmentally thoughtful makers and production people in Squamish.

Like minds

Hewitt says he was so impressed by Hemsworth’s Passive House factory design in Pemberton that he reached out to the architecture firm for this project, and they’ve become friends over the course of the project. Shared values have really helped, he says.

This space they’ve designed is an exceptional workspace where they can continue growing their team and business, and design and build “remarkable projects with great people,” says Hewitt.

Stay inspired

“I hope the building offers others a constant reminder whenever they drive by to stay inspired, keep pursuing what’s possible in their own passions, do more of what makes them great and pursue mastery,” says Hewitt.

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