The Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology teaching children about environmental design
The Humber Arboretum Centre for Urban Ecology is a visionary building that provides a space to teach children about the importance of environmental design.Emphasizing the sustainable interaction of a building and its human inhabitants, with nature and its biodiversity, The Humber Arboretum Centre promotes the advancement of technology in service of the preservation of the natural world, and was one of the first buildings in Toronto to receive a Gold LEED certification.
The architectural goal of the project was to create an assertive, modern, green building which would signal a change in values with respect to sustainable development and energy conservation. It uses materials and forms that would communicate architectural and engineering ideas for future institutional, commercial and residential designs to a wide range of visitors. It is, in essence, a living laboratory.
The mandate of the 5,000 sq ft building is to show a path to a much better future through unity of architecture and landscape – this is metaphorically implied in the journey to the building itself. You must reach the building by foot, with the parking lot situated some distance away. Walking up the pedestrian path, glimpses of the building and its high performance glass envelope, also allow for a view directly through to the landscape beyond.
At the building, one arrives at a big red door high above the landscape to discover that what appeared to be to be a smaller building of only one level, drops down at the back into another storey that contains the working project room. Inside the dedicated educational facility, is an ongoing experimental project – the building monitored constantly by occupancy sensor controls to avoid wasting energy if no-one is in the centre and a building automation system that measures and relays information about energy consumption as a learning tool for the students.
This building is open, and completely engaged with the 100 hectare landscape (outdoor classroom) surrounding it, which includes botanical gardens, meadows, birch trees and the Humber River. A living wall of grasses envelopes the building on three sides and provides shelter for study in the winter months. Wanting to showcase the site’s natural elements, the interior is spare and well-organized and the materials used in the building’s construction are deliberately neutral, allowing the natural environment outside the building to dominate and envelop.