Originally constructed in 1925-26, the Spencer building is an iconic structure located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, BC. Initially, it was the site of the Spencer’s Department Store; however, the building has been repurposed and has evolved throughout the years. Today, it is the site of Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus as well as government, business, retail and restaurants comprising of the greater complex known as the Harbour Centre.

The Challenge

Primarily comprised of masonry cladding and cast stone in an art deco style, the building required major repairs to its enclosure. In particular, the windows, which were primarily original with single pane glass in heavily corroded metal frames, required careful consideration within the context of heritage.

The Project

In 2014, RDH was retained to complete a condition assessment of the windows and walls using bosun’s chair visual reviews. Following the assessment, RDH could identify the areas that required restoration and conservation.

Because of the delicate nature of the building, RDH assisted the Owners with a trial repair phase in 2015, where components were removed and replaced/restored and a new silicate-based coating was applied on the cast stone. This trial repair provided RDH with valuable information to base the larger conservation plan upon and develop a conceptual repair strategy complete with budgets and schedules.

RDH was then retained to complete the rehabilitation of the west elevation and heritage conservation of the balance  of the building. Due to the Spencer Building’s heritage designation, RDH prepared a Conservation Plan in consultation with the City of Vancouver Heritage Commission and then we finalized the repair concept with a goal to retain as much of the existing building fabric as possible. The Conservation Plan consisted of a Statement of Significance, a conservation strategy with emphasis on the future long-term performance for building enclosure, and maintenance planning.

RDH led the rehabilitation and conservation  phase as construction managers, overseeing the direction of the design and construction process, optimizing the budget, managing risk, and working directly with trade contractors to ensure the success of the project.

The Result

In March 2018, The Spencer Building project was presented with a Recognition Award for Heritage Conservation from Heritage BC. This project is expected to be completed by July 2018.

Learn more about Conservation Plans + Rehabilitation Studies

Our Leaders

Marcus Dell, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.

Senior Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Marcus is a professional engineer who specializes in practical solutions to building enclosure problems. He combines his academic training with over 20 years of work experience to offer all-around knowledge of the application of building science principles to buildings around North America. His focus at RDH is on existing buildings and repair, renewal, and rehabilitation projects.  In particular, he has advanced expertise in roof design and assemblies. He serves as a Director with RCI Inc, Western Canada Chapter and has published many papers and conducted research on a variety of roofing topics.

Paul Kernan, Architect AIBC, LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Paul is a registered architect with a wide range of working experience in North America and Europe. For the last 15 years, Paul has specialized in building enclosure design and construction. Paul leads the building enclosure Repair, Renewal, + Rehabilitation (3R) service area at RDH.

Michael Aoki-Kramer, B.A., J.D., LEED AP

Managing Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Michael leads building enclosure projects for both new construction and rehabilitation. Michael’s experience as well as his knowledge of Washington State and Seattle Building, Mechanical, and Energy Codes are an asset to any project. He co-manages RDH’s Seattle office.

Sarah Gray, M.Sc., P.Eng., CAHP

Principal, Building Science Specialist

Sarah Gray brings her North American and international expertise to RDH’s Toronto office. Her work includes heritage rehabilitation, existing building condition assessment, and new construction enclosure consulting. Sarah previously served as a Board Member with the Canadian Association of Heritage Preservation (CAHP) and is currently a volunteer for the Association of Preservation Technology. With over 18 years’ experience in the building science industry, Sarah has worked on many historic buildings, including terra cotta rehabilitation at the 1 King West Hotel and Condo in Toronto, and the brick and sandstone repairs at Toronto’s Confederation Life Building, which won a Craftsmanship Award from CAHP. Recent work includes collaborating with RDH Building Science Labs on the testing and assessment of masonry buildings to receive interior insulation retrofits.

Chris Schumacher, M.A.Sc.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Chris Schumacher is recognized as an expert in the field of building monitoring, as well as enclosure and building systems testing. He has led the design, installation and analysis of monitoring systems for a variety of research programs and demonstration projects, both in the lab and in field locations around the globe. Chris’ formal education in architecture and engineering is balanced by almost two decades of experience in design, computer simulation, physical testing, and forensic investigation. Chris was the lead consultant on the development of the Historic Masonry Building Retrofit Guidelines for the US Military Academy and has consulted on several historic buildings including the Halifax Armoury Building in Halifax, NS as well as the Google Building in New York NY (in collaboration with BSC).

Dave Young, P.E.

Principal, Senior Building Science Specialist

Dave specializes in building enclosure consulting for both new and existing construction. His experience and expertise in historic building enclosures spans close to 30 years and includes work on the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa and the University of British Columbia Main Library.

One of Dave’s focus areas is to make historic buildings better by incorporating new enclosure technologies without changing the original aesthetics.  This includes implementing moisture control, thermal improvements, and air tightness strategies, while reinstating original materials. This approach was used on the 100 year old Oregon College of Oriental Medicine building in Portland, where corroded steel lintels above the windows were removed. The steel lintels were cleaned and protected, then reinstalled to create a new rainscreen cavity behind the brick veneer over the windows. The 3-wythe mass masonry wall above the lintels remained intact.