U of T Cool New Buildings

St. George:

Lawson Centre for Sustainability, Trinity College

Figure: Schematic illustrating the sustainability features planned for the new Trinity College Lawson Centre for Sustainability building.

Further info

The Lawson Centre for Sustainability has been made possible by the great generosity of donors to Trinity College, including a $10 million lead donation by Trinity alumnus Brian Lawson and U of T alumna Joannah Lawson. Scheduled to open in 2024, the Lawson Centre will be the embodiment of the College’s Integrated Sustainability Initiative, enhancing the spaces we offer our students and providing them with new opportunities to live and learn sustainability in collaboration with experts and community partners. A rooftop farm for urban agriculture, a unique farm-to-table program and a Community Kitchen for teaching, food-related research and community building are a few examples of how the design and program will achieve next-level sustainability.

Major design features of the Lawson Centre for Sustainability are depicted in the above Figure and include:

  • Hybrid mass timber/concrete structural design
  • Geothermal-source heating and cooling with distributed chilled beams/radiant heating and cooling
  • Enhanced building envelope design to achieve highly efficient thermal and airtightness operating targets
  • All-electric cooking equipment in residence kitchen lounges, Community Kitchen, and central food service kitchen
  • Almost no use of natural gas in the building
  • High-efficiency and highly effective ventilation system for maximum IAQ
  • Rainwater collection and reuse system with below-grade cistern, for irrigation and flushing
  • Rooftop photovoltaic array (solar panels) for energy generation
  • Rooftop agriculture program, including an outdoor farmed area
  • Addition of planted green roofs where possible, in combination with setbacks and other building design features
  • Advanced measurement and verification
  • Ample bicycle parking, including an indoor facility with showers and lockers
  • Landscaping to feature drought-tolerant and native species

Additional features will include:

  • Energy efficient lighting and controls, coordinated with natural light where appropriate
  • Energy efficient equipment and fixtures
  • Flexible building automation systems (with occupancy/occupant load sensors to moderate HVAC and lighting levels)
  • Zoned HVAC control wherever beneficial and desirable
  • Durable, local materials with renewable and/or recycled content
  • Provision of recycling depots for source-separation of waste throughout the building to meet the needs of the University’s recycling and waste reduction programs and vehicular access to these sites
  • Low-use systems for flushing toilets and urinals, including use of collected grey water for toilet flushing in common public-facing areas
  • Water-efficient fixtures and combined water fountains/bottle-filling stations

Academic Wood Tower

Rendering courtesy of MJMA and Patkau Architects

Further info

This building is a proposed 74.5m high, fifteen story wood tower on top of the Goldring Centre at Bloor St and Devonshire Pl. Winner of the 2019 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence, it’s been designed by MJMA Architects and Patkau Architects and will include office, research and classroom space for Rotman’s Executive Program, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education, the Faculty of Art’s & Science Masters of Mathematical Finance, and expansion of the Munk School Global Affairs. It will be the first tall wood structure in Ontario and is intended to be a prototype for mass timber wood use, utilizing passive design features for high energy performance.

Performance Targets

  • TGSv3T1 (15% better than AS2013+SB10)
  • Leedv4Gold – non-certified
  • 40% better than ASHRAE 90.1-2013+SB10

Building Envelope

  • 60% Window Wall Ratio averaged over all elevations
  • Improved thermal performance with high insulation value (R-25)
  • Low Sun Heat Gain Coefficient Glazing (0.3 on South)
  • Passive Solar Design Strategies taking advantage of orientation:
    • Shallow floorplate to maximize benefits of natural lighting
    • External solar shading on south façade to reduce solar gain
    • Opaque wall cladding on east and west facades to reduce heat gain from low-angle sun
    • Full glazing on north wall to let in diffuse daylight to reduce lighting loads.


  • Heat Recovery and efficient systems
  • Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)
  • Low flow fixtures
  • Connection to the University’s Central Steam


  • LED Lighting
  • Daylighting and Occupancy Sensor Control
  • Photovoltaic Panel Ready – separate project following the completion of AWT


  • Wood Structure
    • Low Carbon footprint (low embodied energy and carbon sequestration)
    • Improved occupant well-being through natural aesthetics and thermal comfort through passive humidity control from wood
  • Green Roof Expansion

Landmark Project

Image courtesy of A Climate Positive Campus: St. George Campus Carbon and Energy Master Plan

Further info


Currently under construction, the Landmark Project includes Canada’s largest urban geoexchange system beneath King’s College Circle. Geoexchange technology leverages the natural thermal storage properties of the ground to regulate building temperate. Combined with building retrofits, this system will reduce the carbon footprint of numerous buildings on our downtown campus.

Over 250 boreholes have been drilled 250 meters under front campus as part of the excavation for the underground parking structure. U-shaped pipes are inserted into each borehole, through which water will be circulated, taking excess heat from buildings in the summer and storing it underground for use in the winter. Heat pumps will circulate the water, transferring heat to or from the University’s building ventilation systems. This installation will feature an underground display to serve as an applied learning classroom to showcase how the system works for visitors and students. This project is an important component of the University’s Climate Positive Plan, with an estimated completion date of Fall 2023.

Other elements of the Landmark Project include a greener, more walkable and accessible campus with more trees, gardens and green spaces.

Laneway Housing

Photo by Lisa Lightbourn, courtesy U of T News

Further info

These three laneway houses located in an alley near Robarts Library and an adjacent infill on Huron St were designed by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects to be net-zero for energy consumption and carbon emissions by using super-insulated, prefabricated wall panels and windows and foundation insulation systems with on-site renewable energy generation. The houses are all-electric and don’t rely on any fossil fuels. Rooftop solar panels and a ground source earth-tube heating system generate equal amounts of energy to operate the houses.

Two student families with children and a faculty member and their family will be the first lucky residents of these modern, eco-friendly homes. The first two laneway homes were a pilot project for further expansion of similar housing in the area, where the university owns enough property to potentially build up to 40 more laneway houses. Such buildings are part of the University’s “four corners” development strategy to build sustainable on-campus housing while also enhancing the public realm.


New Student Residence

Rendering of proposed residence building looking north, courtesy Handel Architects

Further info

Located at 3300 Ellesmere Road on the Scarbourgh Campus, this is one of the largest Passive House projects in North America. Designed by Handel Architects in collaboration with Toronto-based Core Architects, it is proposed to be a 9-storey tall student residence to accommodate up to 750 beds. There will be a green roof on the second floor, with a large dining hall on the ground floor that will look out onto the grove of trees north of the building. Tall, narrow windows have been selected to retain and optimize heat and ventilation to enhance energy efficiency and maximize light exposure. Mechanical control systems will optimize energy recovery, heating and ventilation, and reduce the building’s water consumption. Completion date is expected in Fall 2023.

Indigenous House

Rendering courtesy of Formline Architecture and LGA Architecture Partners

Further info


This building will be designed to achieve Toronto Green Standard Tier 3 and will maximize the use of natural elements and building materials, including cross-laminated timber, earth tubes, low energy heating and water conservation. Meant as a new gathering place dedicated to learning about Indigenous culture and knowledge, landscape elements will include large outdoor gathering spaces for pow-wows and other seasonal ceremonies, as well as a sunken learning garden, edible, pollinator and rain gardens with space for fire and gathering circle activities.

The 10,700 square foot, two-storey building will be located south of the Instructional Centre, overlooking the surrounding Highland Creek Ravine. It will include a student lounge, library, teaching kitchen, office space for the campus Elder, two gathering spaces to host ceremonies, and flexible research spaces geared towards faculty working on such topics as language preservation and revitalization. Heat sensors will replace smoke detectors to allow for smudging, a cultural practice that involves the burning of sacred plants.

The building design is inspired by traditional winter wigwam and longhouse that used thickly insulated roofs and central campfires for heat retention. Fresh air will be drawn from the outside and passed through an underground intake to help cool the space during summer and warm it in winter.

New Science Building:

Rendering courtesy of KieranTimberlake

Further info


UTM’s Science Building is slated for completion in 2023 and is aiming for a minimum of Silver LEED certification. It will be the home to the Centre for Medicinal Chemistry, housing the forensic science program, researchers from the Departments of Biology and Chemical and Physical Sciences, wet labs, and a computing data centre. Expected to be the most energy-efficient biological and chemical laboratory facility in North America, a geoexchange system and rooftop photovoltaics will provide most of the building’s heating and cooling. Interior features will include LED lighting throughout, automatic sash closing for fume hoods and real-time air-quality monitoring systems. The planned green roof and natural light wells will be environmentally friendly money-savers and will also improve the experience and well-being of building users.

The building is currently under construction between the William G. Davis Building and the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex