New centre seeks renewable energies

Grand opening of energy systems research centre sparks efforts for innovating greener, cleaner technologies

by Sian 29 November 2011 Sustainable Buildings
  • Images courtesy of Diamond and Schmitt Architects Click image to expand

    Images courtesy of Diamond and Schmitt Architects

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    Yesterday marked a day of celebration and growth for all those affiliated with, and responsible for, the latest expansion at the University of Ontario’s Institute of Technology. The grand opening of this latest venture, an ‘Energy Systems and Nuclear Science Research Centre’, is but one example in a spate of growth, witnessed by an increasingly bustling campus. It is the completing element in a master plan that had envisioned eight new buildings to be installed - with six being placed directly around the main campus quad. All of them however have the shared characteristic of descending from the designs of Diamond Schmitt Architects, the locally-based firm chosen to oversee the various additions.

    Climbing four storeys high and amassing a total volume of 100,000 sq ft, this respectably sized facility looks set to house 16 laboratories, inside which further exploration will be enacted into, amongst other technologies, those pertaining to nuclear, solar and wind energy sources. Alongside these, within the building’s confines, will also feature six multi-media classrooms, 70 offices, plus lounges and study areas. The latter of these will be configured around a central skylit atrium, aimed to provide a point of ‘orientation, gathering and connection for students and faculty.’

    The facade of the structure, attaining to uniformity with the surrounding man-made forms, will be constructed to a matching scale and composition to pre-existing elements of the campus. Composed of bricks (selected in hues of warming red), copper cladding, cedar detailing and large expansive windows, a seeping of natural light and mellow tones will predominate throughout. Distinguishing the out-looking wall will be an embellishment of all-copper treatment; here the conductivity of the copper is intended as a visual metaphor for the ongoing research, into energy sources, planned for its midst.

    On the potential uses for the research centre, Dr. Tim McTiernan, UOIT president and vice-chancellor, stated: “ERC’s cutting-edge facilities will allow UOIT’s highly regarded professors to advance innovative research of the highest quality in clean and green energy technologies.” Considering these ambitious environmental designs, it is likely unsurprising that the issue of sustainability was at the heart of Diamond Schmitt’s concepts, and will aptly fit in with UOIT’s already impressive reputation as the ‘greenest campus in North America’*. The 42acre expanse of the university’s grounds has a comprehensive, sustainable landscape strategy, culminating in a protected wetlands and adjacent ravine. Whilst lying beneath Polansky Commons - a grass-covered quadrangle - is what was once North America’s largest geothermal heating and cooling system. This latest asset, as with all other buildings in the 900,000 sq ft of built space, fully adheres to the necessary specifications required for acquiring LEED Gold standard.

    Tom Aston

    *Awarded by the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), when UOIT opened in 2003.

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