Ottawa

Carleton student wins prestigious U.S. architecture award

Justin Yan is the only Canadian recipient of a prestigious American architecture award — which he won for his environmentally-friendly transformation of a former Ottawa stair factory.

Justin Yan is the only Canadian to win the award this year

Carleton University architecture student Justin Yan is the only Canadian to win this year's environmental award from the American Institute of Architects Committee. ( Chris Roussakis)

A Carleton University student has received a prestigious American architecture award for his environmentally-friendly transformation of an Ottawa building from the early 1900s.

Justin Yan was the only Canadian among the ten winners chosen by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment.

They're very interested in working with us, the new generation, to get us thinking about all this stuff.- Justin  Yan , architecture graduate student at Carleton University 

The award recognizes projects that took steps toward carbon neutrality and featured solutions to environmental issues.

"I couldn't believe it," Yan told CBC Radio's All in a Day last week.

"I had to read [the email from the institute] like three, four times."

From stairs to glass

Yan's project involved redesigning a 110-year-old space on Somerset Street West, near Ottawa's City Centre building. It was initially used as a factory to produce stairs, since it was so close to the city's lumber yards.

When it closed down, the space was used as storage "for a long time," Yan told All in a Day. It was damaged by fire in the 1940s, he said, and now houses an antique store.

As part of his submission, the first-year master's student transformed the space into a workshop for manufacturing architectural glass.

A rendering of Justin Yan's proposed interior workshop space. (Justin Yan)

Yan also proposed adding a new basement level to the building where the high-powered glass melting furnaces would be stored.

The heat from those furnaces would help heat up the entire building, he said.  

"A big part of the movement toward sustainable design is looking into creative ways of recovering heat and reusing water within a building [through the use of] new innovative systems," he said. 

Summer internship

Yan and the other winners were promised $2,000 US and a trip to New York to showcase their designs.

They'll also get a paid summer internship, Yan said, at one of the 30 North American architecture firms who sponsored the competition.

 All of those firms focus on sustainable design, he added.

"They're very interested in working with us, the new generation, to get us thinking about all this stuff," Yan said.