Sir Sandford Fleming College

Addition combines passive and technical environmental performance

Visible structure is part of a learning centred approach to design, and supports environmental goals by eliminating finishing materials.

by Loghman Azar

The Applied Computing and Engineering Sciences (ACES) building is a 50,000 s.f. addition to an existing 1960s building, in which the highly visible sustainable components and systems are part of a new ‘learning-centred’ approach to educational facility design.
The new wing is located between a ravine and the existing college building designed by Ron Thom. The program initially suggested a deep plan rectangular building, a solution that would have meant construction very close to the ravine, and limited the options for natural light and ventilation. With these factors critical to the environmental agenda, the design team instead proposed a narrow two-storey scheme with an L-shaped plan that touched the existing college at two points creating a courtyard. This solution also creates a new and striking entrance façade for the complex, and makes the exterior wall of the existing building an interior one, a move that immediately translates into energy savings.
The building program includes Engineering, computer and IT Labs in addition to a 150-seat lecture theatre, high-tech classrooms, a 90-seat computer commons, faculty offices and meeting rooms. Linking these academic spaces, the circulation areas are designed as indoor streets that are extensions to the exterior pedestrian network, while at the same time serving as public spaces conducive to interaction amongst students and faculty alike. All labs have glazing to the corridor making activities within visible to students and visitors, while in many places exposed structure, mechanical , electrical and IT systems make the building itself a learning tool.

The new facility is designed with components serving multiple functions. The interlinked circulation spaces provide the physical means of integrating system components for HVAC with natural ventilation; electrical with daylighting; structural components with solar controls; and thermal massing and IT systems with broader learning goals. This system is designed to maximize the fresh-air supply. Three thermal chimneys, each 15m high, are positioned at the perimeter of the building to work in conjunction with the galleria and to assist in natural ventilation. The chimneys have a channel for exhaust and one for supply air, with scoops and relieves oriented to windward and leeward respectively.
Sensors on the roof detect wind direction, wind speed, snow and rain. They signal to the building automation system to adjust the chimney dampers accordingly. The Galleria also has motorized clerestory windows that are automatically triggered to further ventilate the space. Landscaping in the galleria and terraces contributes to the supply of clean air. Light shelves and sunshades are installed on south facades to reduce glare and demand on artificial lighting.
Designing a natural ventilation system in large buildings depends on a careful arrangement of spaces and openings. Miscalculations can result either in untenable drafts or stagnant air. Here, two simulation modelling programs: computational fluid dynamic modelling and Doe 2.1, were used to adjust the design. As a result, the conventional HVAC system was downsized by 25% and a total of 36% overall energy efficiency was achieved in the building. In the future, it will be possible to increase to 50% efficiency by installing atomizers in the roof top units. Provision has also been made for the future addition of photovoltaic arrays.
Technically, the environmental performance of the building has received much attention and it has been showcased by the federal government and other organizations, and was selected to represent recent Canada at the Green Building Challenge in Oslo.
Aesthetically it illustrates how the careful integration of programmatic requirements and environmental strategies can contribute to a meaningful architectural language appreciated by the public and professionals alike. The building has received critical acclaim from Christopher Hume architectural critic of the Toronto Star and a merit award from the Ontario Association of Architects.

Loghman Azar, Architect Partner, LINE Architect Inc. Toronto.


  • Architect: LINE Architect Inc., Toronto
  • Structural Engineer: Halsall Engineers Consultants Ltd., Toronto Gregory Andrews and Claudio Ruoso
  • Mechanical Engineer: Keen Engineering Co. Ltd., Vancouver [now part of Stantec]
  • Electrical Engineer: Mulvey and Banani International, Toronto
  • Acoustics: Valcoustics Ltd., Toronto
  • Energy Simulation: Enersys Engineering, Toronto
  • Contractor: Garritano Bros Ltd. Toronto
  • Photos: Loghman Azar, Toronto


  • Reconstituted engineered wood framing derived from wood from sustainably managed forests; curtain wall system of glass and clear anodized aluminium is used in the galleria for a high-tech appearance and supported by wood trusses and glulam columns, steel used at the base and for connections; south corridor uses a combination of cut lumber with Parallam joists.
    Exterior materials are masonry stone, pre-finished metal, aluminum and glass curtain wall and exposed concrete, stone is reconstituted artificial stone that relates to the rural setting
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