Construction Site Tour Exemplifies Experiential Learning and Industry Partnership

October 22, 2021

Students in the fourth-year housing studio enjoyed a rare opportunity to tour a residential building under construction this week.

The three-hour visit is an example of a partnership between the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism and local industry. It’s also an example of experiential learning that takes students out of the classroom and onto the site.

About 15 students, led by Associate Professor Benjamin Gianni and Adjunct Professor Honorata Pienkowska, visited The Normand project by Groupe Lépine in Kanata on October 21.

“This was a great learning opportunity for the students,” said Gianni. “Groupe Lépine was incredibly generous in organizing it for us, as it is a working site.”

The building on Maritime Way is part of a complex of multi-unit, residential rental buildings that Lépine has built in Kanata. “It’s a great example of mid-rise housing that corresponds to the missing middle and of broadening the demographic spectrum of Kanata,” said Gianni.

Company president Francis Lépine led the tour, accompanied by his daughters Pascale and Florence, who have joined the business.

Lépine, who has 30 years of experience in construction, introduced the project in a pavilion in one of the courtyards. The subsequent building tour included a climb to the top floor where workers were pouring the slab. Finally, the students visited an adjacent occupied building, Saint-Émilion, to see how it looks upon completion.

“He was extremely eager to explain to the students why he does things the way he does and how these things affect the cost and affordability of the building,” said Gianni. “This includes approaches to construction, sequencing, materials, and organizing the trades.

“Given the housing affordability crisis that Canada and most other countries are facing, it’s an excellent opportunity for the students to understand the financial impact of different constructional approaches,” he added. 

Two groups of fourth-year students are working with Lépine in studio this term to explore the development of a site in the East Urban Community of Orleans. It is a development of many acres in which a number of companies are involved. 


“It is important as developing architects, urban planners, and consultants to have a clear understanding of what it means not just to construct buildings but to build communities,” said student Jackson Flagal.


“Learning from the experiences of Francis, Pascale and the Lépine team is a great opportunity for us as students,” he said. “It is very beneficial to develop meaningful spaces for all occupants within our own designs and, as a result, create a positive impact on people’s lives.”


The fourth-year housing studio works with various development partners to study sites around the city. This term, the school is also working with Brigil and Ottawa Community Lands Development Corp (OCLDC).


Over the past 10 years, development partners have included Minto, Broccolini, Manor Park Realty, Regional Group, Colonnade Bridgeport, Hobin Architecture, Trinity Development Group, and Ottawa Community Housing.