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Education by design

Sudbury architecture school building components are teaching tools for students

Laurentian's new school of architecture is a piece of the landscape it sprang out of, both natural and artificial.

The off-campus school in Sudbury's downtown integrates wood, concrete, and steel in the $45-million, 72,000-square-foot space.

The wood reflects the surrounding forests, the steel represents the mining and rail industries, and the concrete binds it all together.

The second phase of the McEwen Architecture building officially opened on Jan. 19. The first phase, encompassing the historical Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) telegraph and rail shed buildings, was completed in 2013.

It's the first new school of architecture in Canada in 45 years, and they're making every piece of the building count.

Ted Wilson, a master lecturer with the school, specializes in sustainable design and resource-efficient building. 

The use of wood, steel, and cement not only reflects the region's attributes, he said, it also allows the students to learn from their surroundings.

The building materials are most exposed in the studio areas to illustrate how they work together; Wilson calls them the “nitty gritty part of the building.” 

The studio building, in the city's former Market Square, houses large scale projects and equipment and is combined with an adjacent and re-purposed CPR building.

The century-old CPR brick building acts as the east-facing entrance to the school.  

It’s within these spaces that students will see a more historical side of their work.

Old marble counter tops, windows, and glass-paned doors labeled “Private Office” have been retained.

There are modern influences too.

While wood may be a traditional building material, students will learn more about the innovative ways it's being put to use thanks to the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT),  which are sheets of wood sandwiched together with glue.

Imported from Quebec, Wilson said it’s the most significant use of CLT in a public building in Ontario to date.

“It's the most innovative piece of the building. There's a simplicity to the structure.”

The sheets are cut to size and are fast and efficient for quick builds, which is essential for Northern Ontario’s short construction season.

One wing took only two weeks to construction, thanks to the prefabricated slabs, Wilson said.

There are environmental benefits to the CLT as well; something Wilson is excited about.

The CLT is made with younger trees, rather than old growth, and stores as much carbon as was generated in the production of the amount of steel used in the building, he claims.

Other green aspects of the building include a “high-performance envelope design,” that effectively contains the internal climate. Thermal bridging on the large building is reduced by using strong insulating materials.

Wilson also described their “clever” energy system, a variable refrigerant flow system, which draws and circulates hot and cool air to different parts of the building.

“If it's warm on one side and cool on the other. It throws the cooling or heating around,” said Wilson.

The system is complemented by an old-fashioned wood fireplace that dominates the new building's central space.

In the outer landscaping, all of their plant material in the surrounding green space is local, native, and durable to reduce maintenance and encourage sustainability. And all of the storm water is managed on the property.

Now that the building is open, students can see all these components in action as they work on their ice hut, sauna, canoe, and landscaping projects.