Sustainable Energy and Engineering Building at Simon Fraser University

How one architecture firm’s fast-track approach kept a university building’s construction on budget and on time.

For Revery Architecture, expedited design and construction schedules are nothing new. With two fast-track buildings under their belt — the Guildford Aquatic Centre and the Surrey City Centre Library — the firm was well prepared to tackle its most recent project: the Sustainable Energy and Engineering Building at Simon Fraser University in Surrey, British Columbia.

Partially funded by the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, the project initially required a substantial completion in just 24 months. Using lessons learned from these previous projects, Revery was able to deliver on this ambitious schedule, while also strengthening its record of successful fast-track designs.

Revery’s distinctive façade design is composed of alternating strips of energy efficient, undulating framed precast concrete panels and reflective glass, meant to represent a circuit board, relating to the technological subject matter that will be taught within the building.

When asked about the firm’s approach, Associate Director Lisa Potopsingh — who was involved in the project from functional programming to indicative design and construction — credited two clear priorities. “Knowing our roles and keeping each other informed was crucial from the onset,” she said. “The very first thing we did was call the City of Surrey to engage them early in the process. We knew we could meet our own deadlines, but we wanted to ensure there would be no challenges related to permit approvals to allow construction to take place, which was progressing in tandem with the design.”

Over the course of the following months, the team worked closely with the City and communicated amongst themselves, dividing up responsibilities to ensure that permits and tender documents, as well as client requirements and expectations, were adequately secured and addressed. Early conversations with the construction manager and those responsible for mechanical and electrical components also helped. “Giving everyone a seat at the table at our coordination meetings meant that we could iron out details related to schedule, budget, feasibility and constructability early on,” said Potopsingh.

Designed by the late Bing Thom, the new campus landmark features teaching labs, an open atrium and a 400-seat theatre that is available for use by both SFU and the community.

From a design perspective, the firm ensured quality control through mock-ups and used prefabricated elements where possible to speed up installation. The building’s award-winning exterior, for example, was built using prefabricated concrete panels and highly reflective glazing, framed by precast fins that undulate and animate the façade. Constructed off site, the concrete served multiple purposes. “Having the exterior precast sandwich panels provide the exterior finish, moisture and thermal barrier, and interior finish, contributed to achieving our cost and schedule goals,” said Potopsingh. Conceived by Revery’s Design Principal, Venelin Kokalov, the building’s façade mimics abstracted circuit board geometry, serving as a nod to the energy and engineering activities occurring inside.

Set to welcome students in September 2019, the resulting 223,000-sq.-ft. LEED Gold-targeted building has become an attainable and accessible model for fast-track design. “Our firm’s motto, no matter the project timeline, is building beyond buildings,” says Potopsingh. “In the end, we want to fulfill the basic requirements of architecture, while also creating places where people want to be.”

The building will accommodate 440 new full-time equivalent (FTE) student spaces (320 undergraduate and 120 graduate spaces) and also support SFU’s Mechatronics Systems Engineering (MSE) program with space for research and student entrepreneurship.

Photography by Ema Peter



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