New buildings offer an opportunity for innovations in efficiency and eco-friendly design. ZAS Architects, in collaboration with Bucholz McEvoy Architects, considered these goals in the design for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) new Administrative Office Building. The result is an administrative building that sets an example for green construction by using natural materials and achieving a net-zero carbon target.
It’s not surprising the TRCA would place a priority on protecting the surrounding environment, considering that’s the company mission. Taking its inspiration from nature, the building is perched on the edge of a ravine where it integrates into the landscape. Taking into consideration all aspects of sustainability, the new headquarters is one of the most energy-efficient mid-rise commercial buildings in North America.
At the center of the design is the use of wood for nearly the entire frame, in contrast to commonly used steel and concrete. The mass timber structure relies on natural materials from the elevator core to the staircase and through to the exterior cladding. Inside and outside, the building reflects the mission of the company and mirrors the naturally curving topography of the landscape.
“We envisioned TRCA’s new workplace as one that will inspire, motivate and support the culture of its employees, who are champions of the local environment,” said Peter Duckworth Pilkington, principal of ZAS Architects. “We approached the design as an opportunity to reimagine the TRCA’s relationship with Black Creek Ravine, of which TRCA is a guardian.”
In addition to the wood components and a tight construction envelope, the building includes a green roof and a rainwater collection system. Solar chimneys generate 5% of the building’s electricity. Additional energy needs are met through a combination of low-carbon power from Ontario’s grid, geothermal energy and solar panels mounted to the roof. Massive floor-to-ceiling water walls in the main atrium symbolize TRCA’s role in protecting the nearby watersheds and multitask as a central component of the HVAC system.
“Through the water wall feature, we’re making the building’s life support systems that are usually hidden infrastructure visible and tangible,” said Duckworth Pilkington. “Making the invisible, visible when it comes to energy use, serves as a very real reminder of the impact our daily lives and decisions have on the planet every day.”
The innovations continue with technology that automates blinds on the exterior of the building to facilitate passive temperature control and natural lighting. In addition, the system alerts employees inside the building when they should most effectively open and close windows.
From the beginning, the project has had sustainability in mind and is targeting Net Carbon Zero, LEED Platinum V4, Toronto Green Standard Level 2 and WELL Silver certifications. Construction began in January 2020 with an expected completion during the fall of 2021.
Images via ZAS Architects