Salt Building


85 West 1st Avenue

Vancouver, BC


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Completion date:
November 2009
Site/ Building area:
1,520 m2
Certifications & Awards
  • City of Vancouver 2011 City of Vancouver Heritage Honour Award Canadian Wood Council Wood Works Green Building Award
  • 2010 Heritage BC Award of Honour Vancouver Regional Construction Association Award of Excellence Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Planning Excellence
  • LEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations CaGBC LEED Gold Certified
Project Team
  • Client: City of Vancouver; Vancouver Salt Company
  • Project Management: Citysphere Project Management
  • Architects: Acton Ostry Architects
  • Sustainability Consultants: Recollective
  • Structural Engineers: Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineers: Cobalt Engineering; Western Mechanical Services
  • Consultant Engineer: Morrison Hershfield Ltd.
  • Safety Engineer: Gage-Babcock & Associates Ltd.
  • Heritage Consultants: Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Ltd.
  • General Contracting: The Haebler Group



  • Heritage preservation: re-use of materials
  • Natural ventilation and lighting
  • Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU)
  • Locally and regionally-sourced building materials
  • Community health and resilience through adaptive design

The Salt Building is an iconic historical landmark in the new Southeast False Creek (SEFC) neighbourhood, which is home to the Olympic Athletes’ Village. It is located on First Avenue and Manitoba Street, at the former shoreline of False Creek. Built in the 1930s when the shoreline bristled with ship builders, steel fabricators and sawmills, the Salt Building embodies the legacy of the rich industrial past of this neighbourhood. Originally, the building was used as a refinery of salt, which was shipped from San Francisco. The north end of the building retains a small dock-like structure where the salt was loaded and unloaded. As railway transportation gradually replaced shipping, the building reoriented to the south and was later converted to a paper recycling plant. It is now owned by the City of Vancouver, and in 2011 a new bakery, coffee shop and brewpub will make the historic Salt Building an important gathering place for the local community.

The rehabilitation of the Salt Building, initiated in 2007, presented a rare opportunity to integrate the concepts of adaptive reuse and heritage conservation, in the context of sustainable practices, as identified by the LEED Core and Shell (CS) system.  As a result, the Salt Building is one of very few heritage projects to achieve Gold certification under LEED – CS in Canada. The rehabilitation included shell restoration and raising the building on piling extensions to align with the new street level. This also served to highlight the original exposed timber piles on which the building rests, providing a sense of layered history of the site. Its large, open interior, supported by elaborate roof trusses, creates a unique amenity for the community. The Salt Building meets LEED Gold requirements by utilizing natural ventilation and lighting, a Neighbourhood Energy Utility (NEU), and the reuse of materials.


Located at the heart of the Olympic Village Vancouver, the Salt Building provides excellent access to public transportation as well as to pedestrian and bike corridors. The innovative aspects of the project range from the macro scale of a holistic, sustainable neighbourhood design to the details involved in the unique thermal performance upgrade of the building envelope. In particular, innovation is evident in the use of the NEU that reclaims heat from sewage wastewater to service to the building’s highly efficient radiant floor heating system. As well, more than 75 percent of existing structural and shell elements of the original building envelope were reused and retrofitted to provide a unique cavity wall system in accordance with rainscreen principles, with substantial thermal performance upgrades, while respecting the heritage identity of the structure.

The original design of the Salt Building allowed for ample daylight to enter the building.  During the restoration process, creating large glazed openings in the north and south gable walls enhanced this concept. As a result, the building patrons will enjoy direct sightlines both to the plaza and the mountains to the north, and to the vibrant street scenes to the south.

Innovation in the construction process resulted in the diversion of more than 98 percent of construction waste from landfills.  As well, the rehabilitation of the building incorporated more than 15 percent recycled materials, with more than 10 percent of all the new materials used in the process being sourced regionally.

By being linked into the NEU that serves the entire Southeast False Creek redevelopment area, the Salt Building is projected to save approximately 1,400 Gigajoules of energy and reduce over 150 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, signifying an increase of over 59 percent in energy efficiency.


The energy efficiency of the Salt Building is associated with significant cost savings of approximately $19,000 per year, which constitute a cost reduction of 43 percent compared to a standardized building code-based model. 

In an effort to support the local economy, local and regional materials were sourced for the restoration wherever possible, including lumber, gypsum board, reinforcing steel, structural steel, and concrete.  In addition, the use of the Slung sliding door system, a locally designed and manufactured glazing system, was incorporated to provide substantial natural light penetration and remarkable cooling and air flow when open.


The SEFC sustainability mandate not only encompasses environmental performance but also addresses social sustainability. Community vibrancy, health and resilience are enhanced when people share communal experiences and resources and communicate with each other. Hence, the designers of the Olympic Village Vancouver maximized physical space that fosters interaction between people; located adjacent to the public plaza, the Salt Building constitutes a focal point of the emerging sustainable neighbourhood by providing community gathering and activity space, as well as such retail food services as restaurant/ brewpub, coffee shop, and bakery. In addition, the building will include interpretive installations to educate the community and the public about the unique heritage and sustainability features of the Salt Building.

The Salt Building is an excellent example of enhancing resilience and flexibility of a historic building through sensitive, sustainable restoration. It showcases sustainable practices through adaptability, including adaptive reuse from its industrial inception to its current use as a gathering place for Olympic athletes to its intended future use as a restaurant and neighbourhood assembly space. As an integral component of the SEFC neighbourhoood, the Salt Building provides a sense of context, embodying local history and legacy that helps to ground the emerging neighbourhood as it readies itself for a sustainable future.

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