Underground sports and recreation facilities mean a greener setting and other environmental benefits as well
The green field atop the McTavish Reservoir - the size of 8 underground rinks.
The plan to place most of the new sports and recreation centre underground results from innovative outside-of-the-box thinking, or shall we say below-the-box thinking. It allows designers to remove a major building element entirely from view, and to position the remaining above ground facilities to maximize the enjoyment of residents using the centre and visiting the park. The increased breathing room and openness will add an acre of greenspace to the park and rec. centre area.
One of the outcomes, according to Councillor Patrick Martin who is leading the sports and recreation development file, will be the greening of the park itself, as well as of the new building that will become part of the area.
“An aerial thermal image of the parks would show the hottest areas to be the roofs, the asphalt tennis courts, the paved roads and the concrete sidewalks,” he says. “We will be replacing a 25,000-square-foot roof that is now the arena with an eight-thousand-square-foot pavilion. We will remove the roadway and concrete sidewalk between the existing pools and tennis courts, and we may even replace the approximately 12 thousand square feet of hard asphalt tennis courts with clay, a softer and porous material.
Drainage in the area will be vastly improved. In comparison to the quick runoff of rainwater from the current facilities’ hard surface materials during a heavy rain, the new soft grass and clay will act much like a retention basin, slowing the release of rainwater to the drainage systems in the neighbourhood.
“So there will be an important net gain in green space and there will be a significant greening and cooling effect of the space in the environmental, sustainability sense. Furthermore, the underground ice surfaces will be kept at a constant temperature year-round, .... naturally. ”
The term green roof is much bandied about, and Councillor Martin took pains to explain the variations of what the term signifies. “There are buildings that essentially are above ground and have vegetation growing on them. But there are also constructions like the huge McTavish Reservoir below Pine Avenue where it meets Dr. Penfield. This vast reservoir, about the size of eight hockey rinks, has been covered over at ground level by grass and other vegetation. It draws McGill students and local residents to play football, jog, walk their dogs, throw frisbees, or just to take the sun. That is the kind of green surface we are talking about in the case of the rec. centre. Some of the above-ground pavilion may have a green roof in the other sense, but that has not been determined yet.”
Councillor Martin adds that “there is a potential to plant appropriate shrubs, small trees and other plantings overlying the underground facilities as well, with larger trees positioned more appropriately on the periphery. We are looking at indigenous trees that incorporate well into the existing environment.”