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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

CAMH keeping it green for next phase of redevelopment

Toronto, September 8, 2016 - ​With site preparation starting early next year for new complex care and acute care buildings at its Queen Street site, CAMH is advancing its arbour strategy to ensure the integration of healthy green spaces. In addition, some mature trees located on the land where the new hospital buildings are going up need to come down, and will be repurposed and integrated into the new buildings as part of an innovative art project.

Throughout the Redevelopment project, trees have been top of mind in the planning process, says Doug Campbell, Senior Project Manager, Redevelopment Office. “CAMH’s arbour strategy brings together several key themes,” he says. “These include tree replacement and renewal of the tree canopy, continuity of green space, mixing diverse species, and creating soil-space breathing room for future tree health.”

Doug CampbellA renewing canopy: Doug Campbell notes that many young trees have now been planted along Stokes Street close to this mature grove.

Doug notes that the best arbour strategy “is a healthy and constantly renewing urban forest. We’re mindful to create and maintain green connections and nature views throughout the site -- knowing that the site is becoming more dense as the campus is integrated with the city.”

Recent studies showed a significant positive impact of a nearby tree canopy on a person’s mental health.

During recent phases of CAMH’s redevelopment at the Queen Street West site, many trees were planted in an emerging canopy that will provide cooling and calming shade as it continues to mature at CAMH.

Creating breathing room for trees

A key principle of CAMH’s Redevelopment Initiative is to plant diverse species of trees, which can beautify the site as well as prevent or resist major diseases such as those caused by the Ash beetle.

A quick tour of the site takes us past younger Maple, Hickory, Tulip, Locust, Plane, Walnut, Chestnut and Catalpa trees. On Stokes Street, many different varieties of Oak trees are flourishing, planted during the previous phase of redevelopment. For more detail, take our photo essay tour.

Nature views will be incorporated into building design and courtyards.

Where some trees must come down in the space where the new CAMH buildings will rise by 2020, their legacy will be maintained as part of CAMH’s green spaces. The qualities and natural beauty of these hardwood trees will be preserved as art and functional components of the Phase 1C redevelopment.

Repurposing trees for art and function

“When we received the arborist’s report on some of the mature trees that will be affected, the call for art for Phase 1C was about to be issued,” says Susan Roman, Project Manager, Redevelopment Office. “I thought: ‘Wait a minute!’ There was a natural connection. If we didn’t repurpose the wood, these trees would likely be taken down, mulched and removed. So we started to look at forming some partnerships so that we could preserve this part of CAMH history in a new and creative way.”

Susan RomanSusan Roman of CAMH’s Redevelopment Office. The tree on the left is a Silver Maple whose wood can be repurposed into the new Phase 1C buildings. Trees in the background will remain as part of the green space to the south of the new acute care building.

The report identifies  a priority list of 14 mature trees with diameters exceeding 24 inches which will need to come down to make room for the two new Phase 1C acute care and complex care hospital buildings for our patients.

The intent is to repurpose at least five of these trees, and it will involve two main stages:

1) Salvage and milling: The trees will be taken down and safely stored; they can also be milled and cured as lumber. Susan has approached a local company specializing in salvaged timber. The company sources and supplies  high-quality salvaged wood in the form of timbers, milled lumber, live-edge slabs and flooring in Toronto and across North America.

2) Art creation: This will involve visioning and completion as part of the Phase 1C call for art. CAMH has opened this process to wood artisans who may design wood sculpture or components -- such as benches -- that blend both design and function. She has approached several wood artisans to see if they may be interested. Any wood artisans interested in this project can find more information here.

“We look at the Henry Moore sculpture outside the AGO and see how that has become a permanent and iconic part of the building – we’re hoping to achieve a similar result, perhaps on a smaller scale, with the trees-for-art initiative at CAMH,” says Susan. Wood to be repurposed at CAMH includes Silver Maple, American Elm, Norway Maple, Black Walnut, Black Locust and Horse Chestnut trees, and represent a wide variety of wood textures and colours.

Due to the bidding process on Phase 1C -- which involves design, construction, financing and maintenance under a private-public partnership -- it’s more difficult to specify the use of this reclaimed wood in building elements such as wall or ceiling panels, however that is also a possibility, she says.

Calling all wood artisans for expressions of interest

Next steps on this project involve reaching an agreement with a timber salvage company, and receiving expressions of interest from wood artists by September 29th as part of the Phase 1C call for art. Close to six hundred artists have already downloaded the Call to Artists package, Susan said. The CAMH Art Selection Panel will then work with art consultant Karen Mills to create a short list of applicants. The short-listed finalists have their proposals reviewed by a professional jury. Then, CAMH will work towards commissioning and finding the best locations for the artworks. Site preparation will start early next year and the buildings, including installed wood art, are expected to be complete by 2020.

Susan notes that many mature trees in Shaw Park, and other mature trees to the south of the future site of the acute care building, will be preserved and maintained as green spaces.

In addition, CAMH will continue to be a steward of its tree canopy through regular assessment and tree care.  This includes ongoing planting of new trees at all three CAMH sites and an annual audit and assessment by a professional arborist that may also identify potentially hazardous or diseased trees that need to be trimmed or removed. CAMH has not been immune to the ash borer beetle affecting Ash trees throughout Toronto and has been working to address this issue at its sites.  New tree planting will replace Ash trees affected by the disease.

“CAMH is committed to keeping it green as we move towards the next exciting phase of our site redevelopment,” says Doug.

Concept rendering of future client recovery mallConcept rendering of future client recovery mall.  Wood art and objects will be situated in different locations at the new buildings.
Plane tree closeupHiding in Plane sight – The smooth and variegated bark of the Plane tree is a common sight in Europe. This young Plane tree is thriving near a more mature canopy just west of White Squirrel Way.
Black walnut tree barkBack in black: Detail of bark of Black Walnut tree at Queen Street site. Black walnut is highly prized for its deep colour and straight grain. It is heavy and strong but can be easily split and worked (see milled example below). Along with cedar, chestnut and black locust, black walnut is one of the most durable hardwoods. (Info from Wikipedia)
Table viewed from topTable viewed from the sideAbove: Image of a wooden table fashioned from salvaged timber. Courtesy: Canadian Salvaged Timber

Learn more:  CAMH was recognized as a stand-out for its continued energy savings under its Green CAMH initiative.

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