Breaking new ground

Judges for this third annual Outside the Box competition agreed that their role was to select architecture that makes a statement. A building that looks good and adequately serves its purpose also has to extend the boundaries of design. And so debate during the judging session in mid-June in Toronto focused on innovative excellence. The repeated question — was something new and different achieved?

Many of the projects submitted included a number of green initiatives. Building green is happily now the norm rather than the exception. However, new and ingenious green building systems get extra “greenie” points.

Thank you to the judges: Lisa Bate, president of the Ontario Association of Architects and principal of Six Degrees Architect and Design, Toronto; Joe Pettipas, vice-president, HOK, Toronto; Tom Ponessa, project director, Sustainable Buildings Canada, Toronto; Rhys Phillips, architecture writer, Ottawa; and Kim Storey, Brown & Storey Architects, Toronto. We appreciate the time they spent, their diligence and good humour as they discussed, dissected, debated and applauded the many outstanding entries that were received.

Their choice as top picks were both in the Green Building Design category, Thomas L. Wells Public School, by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, and UTSC Student Centre, by Stantec Architecture.


Bloorview Kids Rehab

Montgomery Sisam Architects/ Stantec Architecture in joint venture

Design team: Terry Montgomery, design principal; Chris Fillingham, managing principal; Chris Klemt, project architect; Jane Wigle, healthcare design principal; David Sisam, Michael Moxam, design review principals; Nicola Casciato; Doron Meinhard; Diane Valentine; Lui Vercillo; Christine Andrews; Norma Angel; Chris Burbidge; David Carter; Thomas Choe; Adam DeSutter; Sylvia Kim; Michael L’Amantea; Grant MacEachern; Gordon Martyshuk; Peter McLaren; Tina Smith; Terence Tam.

A hospital and rehabilitation centre for young people with disabilities can be a frightening and foreboding place. Not so the Bloorview Kids Rehab in Toronto, a multi-use facility, designed by Toronto’s Montgomery Sisam Architects/Stantec Architecture in joint venture.

The six-floor, 358,000-sq.-ft., L-shaped building houses a hospital, research centre, rehabilitation centre, school and recreation centre. Adjacent to a natural ravine, it was designed around a network of common areas that offer ample natural light and views and access to outdoor terraces. Materials used, including limestone, wood and zinc, relate to the natural setting.

Public spaces throughout the facility are open and accessible, encouraging connection to the ravine site and community beyond. Private spaces, including in-patient rooms as well as family accommodations, are homey and comfortable, with access to outdoor areas.

Twenty special art installations, created by local artisans and children, weave a story about the site, nature, community and history. They offer visual and tactile stimulation, and provide landmarks throughout the building, encouraging exploration.


Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies, Sheridan College, Davis Campus

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

Design team: Donald Schmitt; Michael Leckman; Aaron Costain; Malini Rao Smimis; Charles Gagnon; Tony Diodati; Jim Blendick.

When Sheridan College’s Davis Campus was first built in Brampton, Ont., it consisted of disconnected, internally focused buildings and parking lots. Then in the late 1990s, Diamond and Schmitt Architects, Toronto, developed a master plan for the east side of the campus, which included public spaces with streets, quadrangles and the creation of landscape vistas. Following this, the firm was retained to design an addition to one of the existing 1970s buildings.

This new addition was to include a competition-size basketball court and gymnasium; classrooms; industrial instructional spaces; and a robotic manufacturing lab. A tight schedule and budget meant prioritizing certain features: the character of the public spaces; interior and exterior detailing; natural lighting; the efficiency of environmental systems; and the introduction of an innovative concrete-plank thermal-storage heating and cooling system.

The building is the first in Canada to fully integrate a system of thermal storage and air delivery in pre-cast planks, utilizing the thermal mass of standard hollow core precast concrete slabs for an economical and efficient construction process. Thermal comfort is enhanced as the system uses 100 per cent fresh air; energy is radiated or absorbed by the concrete slabs rather than as a result of air movement; and branch ductwork is virtually eliminated, resulting in cleaner lines and better acoustics.

Other design features included textured surfaces as focal points; sunshades animating the theme of horizontals on the south face; dense horizontal lines of ashlar block framed in vertical sections and illuminated by cast-in floor uplights in the central corridor; and broad vertical swaths of engineered cement panels containing calibrated horizontal discontinuities.

The project was designed and constructed in 14 months for $8.5 million. It came in five per cent under budget. The surplus was used to increase the scope and complete additional items on the client’s list.


Discovery Landing at the Waterfront Centre

Baird Sampson Neuert

Design team: Jon Neuert, partner-in-charge; Yves Bonnardeaux, project coordinator, building design; Mauro Carreno, project coordinator; Barry Sampson; McMichael Ruth; Andria Vacca; Winda Lau; Jose Uribe; Mark Martin; Nene Stout.

Lake Ontario shoreline and abundant nearby parkland were obvious promotional advantages when the city of Burlington, Ont., embarked on an ambitious revitalization program to attract residents and visitors to its downtown area. Key to the revitalization and a focal point within the extended waterfront parkbelt is Discovery Landing, a 13,000-sq.-ft. building that successfully integrates architecture and landscape.

Designed by Baird Sampson Neuert of Toronto, the building features an elliptical Exploratorium presenting exhibits about the history of the city. During the summer, visitors to the Exploratorium enjoy natural ventilation made possible with a pair of 26-feet-tall operable, pivot doors that funnel and accelerate the speed of prevailing winds. The building also includes a poolside lounge, snack bar and 150-seat restaurant. Outside is a dining terrace overlooking a 9,000-sq.-ft. pond and skating rink with a canopy providing a rain-protected seating area. During the winter, this same canopy rotates to provide a vertical wind barrier


Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

Design team: A.J.Diamond, Gary McCluskie, Michael Treacy, Matthew Lella, Duncan Bates, Sydney Browne, Thomas Caro, Shouheng Chen, Martin Davidson, Tony Diodati, Charles Gagnon, Branka Gazibara, Suzanne Graham, Des Gregg, Michelle Gucciardi, Kurt Hanzlik, Paddy Harrington, Forde Johnson, Jonathan King, Winga Lam, Michael Leckman, Gabriel Li, Ana Maria Llanos Sarah Low, Mike Lukasik, Leo Mieles, Geoff Moote, George Przybylski, Malani Rao Smimis, Hans Rittmansperger, Val Rogojine, Jon Soules, Caroline Spigelski, Goran Sudetic, Eric Sziraki, Adam Thom, Sybil Wa, Jessie Waese.

The new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Toronto has a dramatic story line of building cancellations, budget cutbacks, plans reworked then resurrected, and finally, a successful grand opening last year.

Designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects, Canada’s first purpose-built opera house occupies an entire city block, its space comprising five components: the lobby, auditori
um, orchestra pit, stages and back-of-the-house facilities.

The 2,000-seat, horseshoe-shaped auditorium is among the top three in the world for acoustic quality and the first structurally isolated performance facility in Canada, completely separate from all exterior sound and light, especially the sound of the subway rumbling directly underneath.

But it is the four-storey lobby that brings the drama of the building to the public. Facing University Avenue, the city’s ceremonial boulevard, the transparent wall reveals the procession and activity associated with a performance. Using low-iron glass and with exterior solar blinds, the entire faade is hung from the structure at the roof level on stainless steel rods and tied back to columns.

Inside the lobby, the longest-spanning glass staircase constructed in the world climbs to the upper balcony levels. From the Grand Ring to Ring Four, this design innovation represents a significant development in structural glass design.


French River Visitor Centre

Baird Sampson Neuert with Philip Beesley Architect (exhibit design)

Design team: Jon Neuert, partner-in-charge; Geoffrey Thun, project coordinator, building design; Geoffrey Reuter, project coordinator, construction; Dieter Janssen, project coordinator, exhibit design; Barry Sampson; Mauro Carreno; Jennifer Anderson; Seth Atkins; Mark Martin; Nene Stout; Jose Uribe.

The French River, in northern Ontario, was Canada’s first designated heritage waterway, a historically significant route for trade and exploration. Located near the municipality of Alban, the French River Visitor Centre was opened in July 2006, quickly becoming a popular destination.

The centre is set on inclined topography, with a series of terraces providing physical extensions between exterior and interior landscapes. The building is organized into two primary vessels with visitor and mechanical services located behind an expansive concrete wall that merges with the site. A larger wooden volume, in cedar and Douglas fir, hovers above this natural and constructed landscape, providing shelter for the exhibition and multipurpose events space.

Responsible stewardship extends the interpretive experience with the building sited to minimize environmental impacts. Exterior terraces promote favourable microclimate and extended seasonal use. The building sits on an outcrop of exposed granite, establishing an insulated thermal mass that is partially exposed on the interior as part of the building’s exhibit.


Thomas L. Wells Public School

Baird Sampson Neuert Architects

Design team: Barry Sampson, principal-in-charge; Seth Atkins, project coordinator; Geoffrey Thun, project architect; Jon Neuert; Yves Bonnardeaux;, Mauro Carreno, Ian Douglas, Gregory Reuter; Colin Ripley; McMichael Ruth; Andria Vacca; Mark Martin; Nene Stout.

Students and staff at Thomas L. Wells Public School love their school in a new development in the Scarborough area of Toronto. Set on a small three-acre site, the two-storey, 71,000-sq.-ft. building maximizes the exterior play area as well as allowing solar exposure for classrooms. Conceived as a system of systems, the building integrates architectural design with environmental performance.

All classrooms face south and are grouped around courtyards, a central library and a gymnasium and multipurpose room used by the public and visible from the street.

Light shelves shade high summer sun and reflect low winter sun deep into the building. A combination of high and low window vents provides effective passive ventilation as an alternative to mechanical cooling, and sensors turn off unneeded classroom lights. The precast concrete floor and masonry structure provide thermal mass, storing winter solar energy and retarding summer heat buildup. They are also an integral part of the displacement air ventilation and radiant floor heating system with heat in the return air stream recovered in the central plant along with free heat from bathroom and service room exhaust.

The school has received a LEED Silver designation.


Toronto Botanical Garden

Montgomery Sisam Architects

Design team: David Sisam, principal-in-charge; Julie Finkle, project architect; Nicola Casciato; Richard Myers; Amin Ebrahim; Ivana Gazic; Cameron Turvey.

The Toronto Botanical Garden is a well-established charitable institute helping promote respect and understanding of gardening, horticulture and the natural landscape. A new green building addition, the George and Kathy Dembroski Centre for Horticulture, has updated and revitalized the TBG.

The fritted glass addition expands on two existing linked buildings, designed by Raymond Moriyama (1964), and Jerome Markson (1976). It includes a new store, expanded library, new children’s centre, new administrative offices and upgraded meeting areas.

All major public functions are now on ground level with the store as a prominent pavilion in the park, positioned to create a series of garden courts directly related to interior public spaces and to bring the gardens closer to activities inside the building. The glass building was designed as a sculptural form, relating to the gardens during the day, a lantern in the evening.

The building has been certified LEED Silver based on a number of low-cost initiatives including: a green roof; high performance windows with fritting and sun shading; use of locally manufactured materials and reuse of materials from the demolition of the existing building; recycled content for much of the construction materials; reduction of potable water use for plant irrigation by the use of cisterns to store rain water collected from the roof and storm drains within the site; use of waterless urinals and low-flow faucets; and maximizing the use of natural light and opening windows.


University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

Design team: Donald Schmitt, Michael Szabo, Christian Alkins, Duncan Bates, Mark Berest, Frank Bisci, James Blendick, Steven Bondar, Sydney Browne, Walton Chan, Cecila Chen, Shouheng Chen, Natalie Cheng, Elena Chernyshov, Steve Choe, Aaron Costain, Leonard DeMelo, Donna Dolan, Charlotte Dunfield, Kent Eliuk, John Feeney, Miriam Fitzpatrick, Joy Fogg, Charles Gagnon, Graham Gavine, Vincent Goetz, Suzanne Graham, Michele Gucciardi, Laragh Halldorson, Lisa Hasan, Duncan Higgins, Bryan Jin, Alexander Josephson, Agnes Kazmierczak, Edward Kim, Jonathan King, Dan Klinck, Rebecca Kroeger, Meldan Kutertan, Robert Labonte, Suzette Lam, Gabriel Li, Sarah Low, Jana Lyskova, Warren Mack, Carl Madsen, Atsunobu Maeda, Ines Marchese, Harisa Mazgic, Breck McFarlane, Geoff Moote, Petra Muenzel, Derek Newby, Farid Noufaily, Mark Ojascastro, Neal Panchuk, Ian Pieterse, Malini Rao Smimis, Val Rogojine, Sandor Rott, Don Ryan, Birgit Siber, Matthew Smith, Steven Sobel, Kristin Speth, Erik Sziraki, Florin Tanasoiu, Michael Waring, Alvin Yee.

Established in 2003 as a leading centre for education and research, UOIT’s campus, shared with the already established Durham College, in Oshawa, has proven to be an innovative prototype for sustainable design for other universities and urban communities.

Diamond and Schmitt Architects were retained to develop the master plan for the campus and to design nine academic buildings on a 117-acre site. From the beginning, the architects decided to present new technological and infrastructure strategies with public open space. The campus design would lead by example.

All the buildings face a central landscaped quadrangle, placed there to preserve the site area, to promote an urban setting for the students and to maintain a relationship with Durham College. They also share several significant sustainable building strategies including a Storm Water Management
strategy (SWM), Borehole Thermal Energy Storage System (BTESS) and Building Systems Integration Plan utilizing atria.

The SWM strategy integrates environmental technologies with public outdoor open spaces to mitigate the impact of parking areas on the environmentally sensitive watershed while greening the campus and exposing the filtration process to the campus community. It incorporates green roofs, storm water cisterns, linear wetlands, landscaped bio-swales, storm water management ponds, passive filtration with native wetland vegetation, drought resistant and native plants, and reduced landscape maintenance process.

Each academic building has it own sunlight atrium acting both as a winter garden and as the main return air for the general displacement ventilation HVAC system, working in tandem with the raised access floor system. Return air ducts are eliminated and excess heat rises via a heat wheel. This system has reduced ongoing operating costs of the buildings as well as significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The BTESS, using a ground loop heat pump system to harvest thermal energy from the earth, is shared between all the new buildings on the campus. It involves 392 closed loop boreholes extending 600 feet below the surface of the campus commons. The result is the second largest system of its kind in North America and on the leading edge of this technology’s development. Each building also uses supplemental strategies to achieve energy efficiency, including ventilation via atria and raised access flooring; daylight harvesting; heat recovery systems; high performance building envelopes; electrostatic humidification; thermal mass; CO2 monitoring and grey-water reuse.

Annual environmental benefits of the BTESS system are a 16.5 per cent reduction in cooling energy; 40.4 per cent reduction in heating energy; 6 million gallon reduction in water; reduced boiler plant capacity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The project is targeting LEED Gold certification.


University of Toronto at Scarborough Student Centre

Stantec Architecture

Design team: Stephen Phillips, principal; Tom Kyle and Dathe Wong, project architects; Michael Moxam; Eugene Chumakov; Simon Chan; Ian Evans

Students at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus led the drive to create their own student activity centre, passing a referendum in 2001 for a $60 annual levy per student for 30 years. The university responded by matching each dollar at 50 cents and committing a prime site for the centre at the entry to the campus.

Stantec Architecture was given the assignment of designing a building which would provide a strong image for UTSC students and the campus, and which would also be sustainable and environmentally responsible.

The new student centre provides 50,700 square feet of flexible, multi-purpose space conceived as two intersecting volumes over a landscape plane. The “bar” volume houses student services such as student affairs offices, meeting rooms, health services, prayer rooms and a bookstore while a “projecting” volume, clad in titanium and glass, cantilevers over the main entrance to house social elements such as the dinning facilities, student lounges and central gathering spaces.

The building footprint occupies about 32 per cent of the site leaving the rest as courtyards and gardens with landscaping and bench seating encouraging outdoor gatherings.

The focus during the design and construction process was to reduce resource usage, energy and water consumption. Significant environmental features include a 20 per cent reduction in water usage; 35- 40 per cent reduction in energy consumption; use of low VOC materials to maximize indoor air quality; use of rapidly renewable materials; operable windows; daylight and occupant sensors to reduce artificial lighting; a green roof; convenient access to public transit and the reuse of 18 tonnes of structural steel from the Royal Ontario Museum redevelopment demolition (the first example of commercial reuse of steel).

The project is LEED registered and currently undergoing certification.


Woodward Avenue Environmental Laboratory

McCallum Sather Architects

Design team: Greg Sather, Rick McEwen, Michelle Austin

The Woodward Avenue Environmental Laboratory in Hamilton, Ont., is responsible for municipal water, wastewater testing as well as process monitoring at the existing wastewater treatment plant. When the old facility needed to be replaced, McCallum Sather Architects of Hamilton, was selected to create a fully sustainable building that would set an example for other Hamilton municipal buildings.

A main concern was to increase the indoor air quality for lab personnel and enhance the environmental characteristics to create a good working environment. As a lab dealing with water, water efficiency throughout the building was also a target. This was achieved using such measures as low-flow faucets, dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, drought resistant landscaping and rainwater harvesting for toilet flushing.

Other sustainable features include a high performance building envelope with large, operable, high-performance fibreglass windows; underfloor air distribution and heat recovery equipment at laboratory exhausts; occupancy and daylighting sensors; high efficiency, instantaneous hot water heaters; low-VOC materials throughout; and on-site storm water cleaning.

The facility is expecting a LEED Silver designation.


Les Logements Joseph-Le Caron

Affleck + de la Riva architectes/Martin Briere architecte in consortium

Design team: Richard de la Riva, Martin Briere, Gavin Affleck, Rene-Luc Desjardins, Melinda Hart, Guillaume Fortier, Jaqueline Lorange, Michelle Mallette, Nicolas Marier, Francis Vanasse.

A trapezoidal-shaped lot adjacent to a high volume urban boulevard in north Montreal had long been ignored by real estate developers because of the challenges it presented. However, the Office municipal d’habitation de Montreal, the city’s social housing authority, saw its potential and commissioned Affleck + de la Riva architects/Martin Briere architecte in consortium to design and build Les Habitations Joseph-Le Caron, a 19-unit public housing block, with eight two-bedroom and 11 three-bedroom units.

A major innovation of the development is the use of transversal units, adapted from the plex-type housing units typical of Montreal’s historic urban housing. Here, applied to a higher density and larger building type, there are numerous advantages including: elimination of central corridors; environmental benefits of cross-ventilation and increased day-lighting; the creation of a clear identity for each unit; development of horizontal variety in unit designs and vertical stacking, ensuring acoustic control.

The building itself is a symbolic transition between the metropolitan boulevard to its front and the residential neighbourhood at the back. Living spaces open onto balconies overlooking landscaped areas. Bedrooms at the front of the building are protected from the noise of the boulevard by a diagonal masonry screen, the screen creating both a sense of enclosure and a strong presence on the boulevard. A passage, modeled on the porte-cocheres of traditional Montreal housing, provides parking access.

Cost savings from the elimination of the corridors were reinvested in the development of an energy-efficient building envelope.



Cohlmeyer Architects

Design team: James Wagner, architect of record; Sasa Radulovic, associate-in-charge; Joahnna Hume, assistant designer.

Webbsite, a small-scale, 8,000-sq.-ft. condominium project in downtown Winnipeg designed by Cohlmeyer Architects, Winnipeg, began in late 2004 as an initiative with the North Portage Development Corporation to
provide housing in areas seen as difficult or unrealistic for market-driven development by the private sector.

The complex includes seven condominium units and four flex spaces, located between a college and an apartment complex on a narrow 50-ft. by 130-ft. urban lot. The challenge of the narrow lot was to create living spaces with sufficient access, pleasant views and outdoor areas for all units.

Cohlmeyer accomplished this by aggressive siting along the length of the lot, keeping the unit footprint shallow and allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the units, with each unit having a ground level entry opening onto a newly created through-street called the Mews.

The units and four flex spaces are nestled together, each loft volume 18-feet wide. With the addition of the flex space, the living area expands to 34 feet. Upper units open onto terraces, surrounded by trees. The 300-sq.-ft. flex spaces, all with separate titles, have been sold or rented as office or commercial units or as part of the main two-three storey units.

The exterior is clad in two-foot-wide pre-cut cementitious panels of varying heights, secured in place with custom extruded aluminium clips. This results in a pattern of linear boards and clip pairs, breaking up the large wall surfaces, with additional interest created by re-finished aluminium facing around the windows.

The $800,000 project demonstrates the viability of downtown “edge” neighbourhoods for market housing. Profits are to be re-invested in comparable downtown projects.


51 Division

Stantec Architecture

Design team: Michael Moxam, prinicipal; Tom Kyle and Joseph Troppmann, project architects; Janet Gasparotto, programming/interior design; Ko Van Klaveren, design team; Paul Nicholson, contract administrator.

Beyond 2000, a new vision of community-based policing for the Toronto Police Services, was the basic philosophy beyond the new headquarters for 51 Division, located in one of the city’s highest crime and most at-risk urban neighbourhoods. Key objectives of the Beyond 2000 program were to create a contemporary police facility that connects to its community and supports its users’ needs.

The location selected for 51 Division was a downtown brownfield site, housing a historic 1898 masonry building. Excavation of the site’s contamination, due to its manufacturing and industrial heritage, was minimized through the use of caisson foundations, which sealed most of the contaminants safely beneath a vented air barrier. The exterior brick faade, hidden and damaged by a thick coating of grey cementitous stucco, was cleaned so that historic brick was preserved. The roof was replaced and original wood windows were refurbished.

The building was then divided into three zones: the public zone, the community buffer zone and the secure zone. A zoning wall runs along the south and west of the site providing differentiation between public and secure zones.

Secure offices, work and detention areas are set back from original brick walls and contained within a contemporary, insulated enclosure, allowing the historic brick walls to remain exposed. This “building-within-a-building” approach minimizes temperature and moisture stresses within the brick walls.

The main entrance opens into a double-height public lobby space including public exhibition space that depicts the history of the neighbourhood, the building and Toronto’s policing heritage.


DensArmor Plus


DensArmor Plus, a paperless interior drywall from Georgia-Pacific, is a moisture and mold-resistant drywall designed as a replacement for traditional paper-faced drywall. The gypsum for this product is sourced in Nova Scotia and processed in Canada.

The product improves the building process by being able to be exposed to normal weather conditions during construction. It comes with a three-month exposure warranty. Its moisture and mold resistant glass-mat facings and core provide a high level of moisture “forgiveness” within the wall assembly for the life of the building.

DensArmor Plus is also environmentally friendly, scoring a high level of performance when tested for mold resistance. It is the first and only gypsum drywall to be certified to indoor air quality and certified for children and schools and its use can contribute to LEED certification points.

The judges noted that while the product seems innovative they did not have the opportunity to see how well it actually functions.

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