Originally constructed in 1925–26, the Spencer Building is an iconic art deco structure located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, BC. Its first use was as Spencer’s Department Store, but the building has been repurposed and has evolved through the years. Today, it is the site of Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus as well as a collection of government, business, retail, and restaurant businesses that make up the greater complex known as the Harbour Centre.
Comprised primarily of masonry cladding and cast stone, the historic structure required major repairs to its enclosure. In particular, the original single-pane glass windows with heavily corroded metal frames required careful consideration within the context of heritage.
In 2014, our team was retained to complete a condition assessment of the windows and walls using bosun’s chair visual reviews. Based on this assessment, we were able to identify the areas that required restoration and conservation. Because of the delicate nature of the building, we assisted the owners with a trial repair phase in 2015. During this process, components were removed and replaced or restored, and a new silicate-based coating was applied on the cast stone. This trial repair provided us with valuable information to base the larger Conservation Plan upon and to develop a conceptual repair strategy, complete with budgets and schedules.
Our team 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, we prepared a Conservation Plan in consultation with the City of Vancouver Heritage Commission. 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 of the building enclosure, and maintenance planning.
We 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.
In March 2018, the Spencer Building project was presented with a Recognition Award for Heritage Conservation from Heritage BC.
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February 25, 2020
Harbour Centre Complex Ltd.
Construction Project Manager
RDH Building Science