Saturday, November 15, 2014

Montreal Brick On Massive Wood Construction (Triplex Construction Method), Montreal Canada

Below are some images showing an historic building in Montreal Canada having insulation added, and about to be re-clad with new brick.

Most of the historic buildings, including the triplexes of Montreal, are built with this 'piece sur piece' massive wood construction technique with wood members that can be two or three inches by ten or twelve inches (3" x 12").  The wood was stacked piece on piece and notched together to form the structure for the building which was followed by tar paper and one layer of brick masonry cladding. Ultimately it is a refined version of a log cabin, with bricks slapped on top to prevent the whole city from burning down if there was a fire, and it worked well. The bricks were "attached" to the wood structure by nails laid into the mortar as the masonry work proceeded, the earliest version of the modern day "brick tie'.

These buildings are not solid structural brick or stone, but there is, however, usually a shared masonry 'mur mitoyen' (party wall/fire wall) that is the separating wall between buildings and provides good fire separation. It is common today to see these shared walls as 'exposed brick' inside many of the buildings, but it is clear that they were never meant to be seen, because many of the bricks are mis-matched and random colours and shapes (clinker bricks) with tons of mortar squishing out everywhere, they are sort of a joy to look at! I believe they are typically 6 rows thick of brick masonry, I'll try to get some photos of one of these walls for another post.

In present day when buildings that have been neglected for decades are finally repaired, they often remove all of the exterior brick, place a thin layer of insulation on top of the structural wood, followed by a air barrier, then re-clad with new bricks. This is what you see in the photos below.  The thickness of the foundation wall usually determines how thick the insulation can be, as it was usually built directly along the property line and too much insulation will cause the new wall construction to cross the property line, so there are limits. In most cases almost all the character and detail of the historic brick and patterns are lost when replaced with new uniform modular bricks. By contrast, if there are no structural issues, the interior of walls - which are usually a layer of lathe applied to the inside surface of the wood structure, followed by a layer of  (sometimes elaborate) finishing plaster - can be maintained.

You can also see an-infilled window in the photos, which tells that the building was modified at some point.  My guess is that the original entrance was at the corner, but it was later changed when it was separated into different apartments with three doors added at the side. Its hard to say without seeing the interior. This is not a typical triplex (see two blog posts prior for triplex information), it just has the same construction technique.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stretcher Bond Patterns for Brick facing or Brick veneer

I'm working on a project right now at work with a solid brick wall along the back, and a light and dark metal wall next to it.  I was asked to "make the wall more interesting" so the neighbours from the back can have something to look at instead of a plain brick fire wall.  Traditional masonry would vary the stretcher and header bricks to make a pattern, but there are still options for modern stretcher bond patterns; Using a light and dark variation (or any two colours) there are many options to animate a wall. Below are a few that we preferred, some are just sketches so you'll have to imagine the rest of the wall complete.  Each pattern can be varied a great deal by changing the size of each "stripe" and the spacing between, also choosing only a portion of the wall to apply a pattern often has a better result than applying the pattern to the entire wall area.

Brick Patterns for Stretcher Bond


Argyle Criss Cross


Diagonal Stripe

Residential: 3 Stories, Typical Montreal Canada Walk-up

Montreal walk-ups developed out of a city requirement to have a certain setback from the sidewalk. When the city began booming during the late 1800s new housing began to be erected for workers. Other industrial cities (such as London) had problems with daylight entering the street because many streets were very narrow.  Therefore, it was decided that a certain setback from the street would be required to ensure that trees could be planted in front of the housing.  For developers, this meant a setback of unusable/unbuildable space that would infringe on their profits, so entry stairways were placed on the exterior of buildings to find some use for the 'setback' area where they could not build, and thus the stairways and three storey walk-up architecture of Montreal was born.

These are also called 'triplex' or 'plex' architecture because there are duplex, triplex, sixplex, etc. depending on the configuration.

Before the 1940s the walls are built with 'bois sur bois' construction method where large pieces of wood are set on edge between columns with 'channels' cut out to receive the wood pieces. Non-structural brick facing was used to protect the wood structure from fire by building code, consequently most of Montreal's residential architecture is brick construction, even today these laws still exist although the wood framing methods below the brick have changed.

Typical Triplex Layout

Street Block Layout:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Art Berlin Contemporary - Massive Brick Arch

Look at that massive arch!  Arches within an arch!

I'd like to know more about this building, but I can't find anything, I came across the image one day when looking at things related to "Art Berlin Contemporary" gallery.

Residential: 7 stories - 21 Scollard Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Type - Mid-Rise
Designation - Condominium
Status - Complete
Floors - 7
Height - 25.0m (82.0f)
Units - 99
Architect - Architects Alliance
Developer - Great Gulf Homes

Building Record History
2005 - Complete
2004-07-24 - Construction

Residential: 5 Stories - Walk Up, Chicago, IL, USA

Residential: 12 stories - Senate Square, Washington DC, USA

Esocoff Associates Architects:

201-225  I  street NE, Washington DC
12 stories
432 residential units
568,120 sq ft
508 spaces of below grade parking

From the Architect's Website:
"Anchoring the eastern end of the emerging H Street corridor, two high rise condominium towers comprise this new development bounded by 2nd, 3rd, H and I streets in NE Washington, DC. Located a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol and Union Station, this Capitol Hill residential complex occupies a full block site along with two historic buildings surrounded by government buildings and commercial centers. This project is part of a larger "Great Streets" project, forming its eastern terminus. Floor to ceiling glass and walkout terraces are integrated into the masonry buildings and landscape offer a combination of views and privacy within an urban community".

Westvleteren community Centre - Atelier Tom Vanhee

Architect: Atelier Tom Vanhee
Image Source:

Community Centre Westvleteren by Atelier Tom Vanhee contrasts old and new bricks
Community Centre Westvleteren by Atelier Tom Vanhee contrasts old and new bricks

Community Centre Westvleteren by Atelier Tom Vanhee contrasts old and new bricks

Community Centre Westvleteren by Atelier Tom Vanhee contrasts old and new bricksCommunity Centre Westvleteren by Atelier Tom Vanhee contrasts old and new bricks