ACI Architecture Inc.: Professional Solutions for Public Projects

ACI Architecture Inc., headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, works throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Incorporated in 1991, it offers a full range of award-winning architectural planning and interior design services that place emphasis on harmony between participants and surrounding environment, building community through application of technical knowledge. The firm is run by four principals and 14 staff members with substantial experience in the architectural industry. These professionals are broken down as: two architects, three intern architects, two project captains, one senior technical manager, five technologists, three interior designers and two administrative support staff. Each project is led by one of the four principals. The firm’s services include feasibility analysis, facility evaluations, functional programming, building design and any miscellaneous services needed to accurately place a building within society's framework. Most of its projects fall into the institutional, education, healthcare and law enforcement sectors.
 
Designing for the Arts
 
ACI Architecture recently completed a notable project in the education sector. The firm was charged with the task of designing a new school, the Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Headed by one of ACI Architecture’s project managers, Tony Brammar, this $60 million project was a great success. “The school is designed for 1,100 students, primarily all high school students, and the building project incorporates a large gymnasium, a small gymnasium and two separate classroom wings that are designed to accommodate a future build out,” describes Brammar. “Part of the campus will be an art-based school with a strong emphasis on the performing arts, including a privately funded theater capable of seating 350 people. It will be fully equipped to professional standards with lighting and sound systems and all supporting facilities like a workshop, green room, change rooms, choral, music and dance rooms.” ACI Architecture began designing this building in 2008. It is expected to complete construction in the spring of 2011. The new high school was designed to meet mandates that require all new schools in Alberta to be built to a LEED Silver certification. Thus, the building aimed for LEED Silver; however, “it may reach Gold, but that depends on the final assessment of point credits,” notes Brammar. To accommodate requirements such as these, ACI Architecture has several LEED Accredited Professionals on staff. They are experienced at delivering LEED projects in a cost-effective manner ensuring clients’ projects are sustainable and on budget, as demonstrated at Holy Trinity Catholic High School. “We’ve made landscaping as drought resistant as possible. We’ve minimized parking to the absolute minimum needed to comply with the local planning bylaw. Building materials have been carefully selected throughout for durability and compliance with LEED requirements,” Brammar shares. “There isn’t a need for a cooling system in the school, but the heating system is very efficient in terms of how it operates and the amount of maintenance it needs.” When building an innovative school like this one, ACI Architecture expects to face certain obstacles. “It was a challenging site because of the nature of the subsoil. We had to build on piles up to 15 meters deep to get suitable bearing. The floor slabs in the building are self-supporting,” states Brammar. “The other challenge being in Fort McMurray as a remote location it is less accessible to building materials and labour resources.”
 
A Green Dispatch
 
Another recent, signature project for ACI Architecture was a new Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Regional Detachment in the nearby area of Timberlea. “At the time it was one of the biggest in Alberta. The project was completed a year ago,” Brammar indicates. “It is the headquarters for the RCMP in the Wood Buffalo Municipality, which is large and covers much of northern Alberta.” The need for this new facility was realized in 2003 as police services grew in demand. ACI Architecture worked with Stephens Kozak Architects Ltd. to design this new detachment. First the firms looked at space programming, scope identification and site selection. Usable land was limited, creating a challenge in selecting appropriate sites. Additionally, the city was growing so rapidly that RCMP was also increasing substantially. With such a large influx of people and an economy flooded from the unmatched energy sector there, inflation largely affected the project. Eventually to alleviate site and location issues the Municipality made a decision to separate the administrative areas from the cell block. Thus, a perfect location was selected where the most important RCMP services could be housed. The building had more than 6,000 square metres of space and room for more than 200 vehicles. In 2008 the building was opened and occupied. Energy efficiency was incorporated into this project utilizing natural daylight, displacement ventilation, high-efficiency boilers, a solar wall and a high- performance thermal envelope. This project targeted LEED Gold and it is expected to receive that certification. ACI Architecture’s design skill, ability to partner with other organizations and dedication to the green approach are evident in these two projects, as well as proven through the amount of repeat customers and referrals the firm garners. Assembled with an eye to the future, functionality and to client value, the firm’s design projects will continue to improve Western Canada both aesthetically and environmentally.