Centennial College opens Canada’s first LEED Gold, zero carbon, mass timber building

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Ontario Construction Report staff writer

Centennial College opened the doors on Sept. 21 at its A-Building ─ Canada’s first LEED Gold, zero carbon, mass timber, higher-education building. A-Building, formerly known as A-Block, is located at the Progress Campus in Scarborough and supports Indigenous ways of being and teaching.

Black Spruce from Chibougamau, Quebec, figures prominently in the mass timber structure of the A-Building, with generous wood exposures showcased through its cross- and glue-laminated columns, beams and floor slabs throughout.

“From the college’s inspired imagining of the building, and all through our Design Build team’s efforts to bring that vision to life, there were so many contributors and everyone really wanted to emphasize the first-of-its-kind mass timber structure,” said Dan Beadle from EllisDon Construction, who led the building’s detailed design and construction. “It not only speaks to the Indigenous ideal of living sustainably in harmony with nature, but also gives this truly special building such a warm, natural and inviting feel.”

A-Building has achieved zero carbon certification thanks in large part to a highly efficient building envelope, along with all-electric domestic hot water heating and HVAC systems. A solar photovoltaic panel array on the roof will generate enough electricity to offset the facility’s electricity use by 68,000 kilowatt hours annually, which will contribute to its LEED Gold certification. Floor-to-ceiling windows that let natural light into the space will support its WELL Silver certification.

“We are so excited to see Centennial College’s A-Building expansion be completed,” said Craig Applegath, partner and architect at DIALOG. “It’s a source of immense pride that this project stands as the nation’s pathfinding zero carbon higher-educational facility, underscoring DIALOG’s unwavering commitment to achieving and exceeding sustainability benchmarks across our work. We want to thank Centennial College for being great partners and for ensuring both Indigenous principles and environmental justice were at the forefront of this design.”

An Indigenous working group contributed to Indigenous elements of the build as the college worked with Colliers Project Leaders, EllisDon Construction, DIALOG and Smoke Architecture to deliver the approximately $112-million project. Spanning six storeys and more than 130,000 sq. ft., the expansion was accompanied by a 15,000-sq. ft. renovation.

The inclusively and sustainably designed building project was guided by the Indigenous concept of ‘two-eyed seeing,’ or viewing the world through the lens of both Indigenous and Western knowledge.

“At a time of increasing climate calamity, Centennial is eager to deepen its commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Dr. Craig Stephenson, president and CEO of Centennial College. “Acknowledging the relationship between sustainability, Indigeneity and inclusivity was essential to creating a welcoming new gateway to Centennial’s flagship campus.”

A-Building also houses administrative offices, collaborative areas, food services and space for the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science. An interior courtyard serves as an outdoor classroom allowing teaching in a circle formation, among other flexible classrooms, while 13 rooms equipped with special exhaust fans make it possible for smudging to occur.

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