Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence

Creative facade wraps high-performance envelope

Located on a campus of 104 buildings and 10 million square feet, the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence has recently become York University’s first LEED Gold certified building. The facility provides a holistic platform to educate the next generation of ‘Renaissance Engineers’, creative problem solvers and entrepreneurial leaders with a social conscience.

By Paul Stevens

The bold architecture of the Bergeron Centre is a metaphor for creativity. Evoking the properties of a cloud, the undulating façade is comprised of a series of triangles positioned according to a complex algorithm. The façade reflects light and pattern while at the same time minimizing the window-to-wall ratio of the building envelope.

Through a highly integrated and collaborative process, the design team was able to attain LEED Gold certification, a first for York University and a considerable achievement for a facility of this size and type.

The Bergeron Centre is a highly technical building with a significant infrastructure requirement to deliver a lab-intensive program. Energy conservation strategies included a focus on achieving a high-performance building envelope.  Specifically, the window-to-wall ratio was minimized to allow for greater overall insulation and an increased wall thickness. A vegetated roof adds to the insulation value of the roof.

Beyond these energy conservation measures, the sustainable design strategy was based on sustainable site development, materials management, waste diversion and innovation credits that included an extensive public education and outreach program.
The university is undergoing a transition from a suburban, car-based campus to one that is more urban and sustainable. In keeping with this goal, the building is located on a former parking lot. Optimal orientation was determined using detailed microclimate analysis, and the building footprint was minimized by stacking the program vertically.

The project transforms what was a “back of campus” site into an entry point linking two major pedestrian routes and ensuring continuity of the public realm that leads to the University’s recently completed subway station. These strategies are important, as more than 80% of commuters now travel to York by public transit, walking, cycling or carpooling. The design brings the student community together using streetscape furniture, planting strategies, sheltered courtyards and night sky friendly lighting.

Located adjacent to an established naturalized storm water catchment area called Stong Pond, the project involved extensive consultation with the local Conservation Authority extending the naturalization strategy beyond property lines to create a contiguous ecosystem. All storm water not used for irrigation follows a naturally draining system of holding and water polishing ponds. Bird and small mammal habitats established around Stong Pond were enhanced. Planting comprises drought-tolerant grasses and low ground cover, together with local trees that reinforce the existing species mix.

The extensive vegetated roof is an important water management tool but also a highly visible ecological and educational component of the project. It exceeds the minimum size mandated by Toronto’s green roof bylaw.

Daylight strategies are designed both to save energy and to enhance occupant wellbeing. Occupancy sensors are installed in interior areas, while daylight sensors are used in perimeter areas. Full cut-off ‘dark sky’ LED lighting is used externally. Operable windows were not considered, as all laboratory areas require positive air pressure for exhaust ventilation. Therefore, CO2 sensors are used to regulate air change rates in classrooms, meeting rooms and labs.

Paul Stevens Architect, OAA, MAIBC, NSAA, AAA, MRAIC, AIA, LEED® AP is Senior Principal with ZAS Architects + Interiors in Toronto.

  • Owner York University
  • Architect ZAS Architects + Interiors
  • LEED Consultant ZON Engineering
  • Landscape Architect Forrec Inc.
  • Structural, Civil, Mechanical & Electrical Engineer Arup
  • Commissioning Agent CFMS
  • General Contractor Laing O’Rourke / Gilliam Group
  • Façade Structural Engineering Blackwell Ltd.
  • Façade Pattern Resolution Mesh Consulting
  • Photos Younes Bounhar, DoubleSpace
    Energy intensity [Building and Process energy] = 224.8 kWh/m2/year
    Reduction in energy intensity relative to reference building under ASHRAE 90.1-2007 = 33% energy cost savings
    Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 934 L/occupant/year
    Reduction in potable water consumption relative to reference building = 37%
    Regional materials as defined by LEED [by value] = 34%
    Reclaimed and recycled materials [by value] = 23%
    Construction materials diverted from landfill = 91%


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