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We are glad to to be selected along with our collaborators, MJMA, as one of four finalists in the George Brown College Tall Wood architecture competition, The Arbour.

We are glad to to be selected along with our collaborators, MJMA, as one of four finalists in the George Brown College Tall Wood architecture competition, The Arbour.

A building is not an object.
A building is a network—a system that is itself made of interdependent systems. To consider a building as a network, and part of a network, is to better understand what it does and the scale of its significance. The Arbour is a network that supports multiple interwoven flows. It affords an optimized flow knowledge, a measured flow of energy, and a generous flow of community.
Each part of a network must have integrity, bearing its own weight and lending strength to the whole. Reciprocally, the network supports each part. The more connections within a network, the more valuable it becomes. The most important connections in a network arise between people. The Arbour supports these connections by integrating four basic subsystems, the Spatial System, The Information System, The Energy System, and the Structural System.
Experienced simply as comfort, each system fits together in a mutually supporting complex of performative relationships that are both visibly evident and accessible as raw data. The success of these relationships comes as a transmission, through The Arbour’s many occupants, to the greater community. Over time, The Arbour becomes an anchor, a seed, a generative node in a growing network of evermore intelligent construction.

Spatial System
The Spatial System is the most immediately experienced aspect of The Arbour. It is where you go, how you get there, what you do there, and how it feels. It begins with the form of the building, which announces the intrinsic values of The Arbour. Glazed facades tilt to expose a signature pattern of photovoltaics to the sun, while blocking a minimum of sky. Through the skin, two wooden masses and wooden trusses are visible, revealing a deep material identity. The two masses organize primary learning spaces in linear arrays, and contain vertical circulation and building services. Between these masses, a vertical Learning Landscape, the social heart of The Arbour, connects every aspect of the building to an energetic, light-filled urbanity. It is less like an atrium than it is like a synaptic gap, or the space within a capacitor, where potential is released as a charge. Reaching from the entry, on Sherbourne Common, all the way up to the Canopy, where the Tall Wood Institute resides, the heart of The Arbour is large yet articulated with a fine grain of sub-spaces that afford intimate connections. Within the bridges linking the two wooden masses, small alcoves bring the public space down to the scale of the individual and small groups. Here, nodes of community are made, in personal connection. In the Arbour, each person is a center of the network.

Information System
The information system is the self-awareness of the Arbour, how it teaches, and maintains future-proof vitality as it ages. Throughout the various systems, sensors record the demands and loads put upon the building and how it performs. These Smart Building sensors include strain gauges, moisture and temperature sensors, and occupancy monitors. Their data stream is accessible throughout the Spatial System on large-format screens. More than an interpretive gallery, the Learning Landscape emerges through multi-directional interactivity—an information landscape. IT students and researchers of the Tall Wood Institute can hack the data stream to present their own projects and analyses, enabling deeper understanding, broader communication, and further innovation. The Arbour is an open book.

Energy System
The Energy System is akin to the vascular and respiratory systems of living bodies. The comfort we experience in a building is determined by how various energies flow through the space. Light, heat, sound, electricity, and the kinetic energy of fresh air, are the province of the Energy System. Beyond comfort, the Energy System balances electrical load with electrical production, approaching Net Zero equilibrium. The most prominent feature of the Energy System is the double skin façade. This façade is the environmental interface, regulating exchange with the surrounding environment. While permitting a maximum of daylight, it creates an extra barrier of insulation against solar gain, releasing excess heat through automated apertures. The Façade features an integrated array of high efficiency monocrystalline photovoltaics, supporting electrical demand. Patterning of PV modifies sunlight penetration, creating the dappled shade of a leafy bough, while presenting the building’s energetic commitments to the public. Geothermal piles exchange heat with the Earth’s crust, stabilizing the seasonal temperature of interiors. Heat is pumped through wooden ceiling batons that absorb or radiate depending on the season. The batons also diffuse sound and screen acoustic absorbers, providing a more conversant atmosphere. During mild seasons, the entire façade is openable allowing maximal flow of fresh air. In more severe seasons, air flow is automated through select apertures with heat recovery systems to maintain a stable, comfortable, thermal experience.

Structural System
The root of the Arbour is the Structural System. An innovative hybridization of heavy timber and concrete, the Tall Wood structure is designed to consume a minimum of material while assembling quickly. This dual efficiency reduces construction costs, making room in the budget for the other systems. Prefabricated wooden components arrive on site and are assembled as a kit of parts. A carefully integrated construction sequence allows all concrete floors to be poured at once, after enclosure. A strategic matrix of cavities cast into the slabs, permits minimal concrete use, reducing overall weight and cost. The Structural System initiates the Energy System with low-carbon, locally sourced building materials. Sensors integrated into structural members during construction, are the foundation of the Information System. Future proofing the Spatial System, structural trusses span alternating floors, making 40% of classroom space fully adaptable. Every system in the Arbour is mutually dependent upon and integrated with the Tall Wood structure.

The Arbour is an integrated network. It is a network that builds a network. It is the seed of a growing idea. With its carefully integrated systems, it affords each person the space to develop their own integrity in contribution to the growth of intelligent building.

About the brief.


Patkau Architects: John Patkau, Greg Boothroyd, Shane O’Neil, Thomas Gaudin, Pete Wenger

MJMA: Ted Watson, Chris Burbridge, Leland Dadson, Mike Stofko,  Timothy Belanger, Amanda Chong

Blackwell: David Bowick, Simon Rayment

Transsolar: Thomas Auer, Tommaso Bitossi

Smith + Anderson: Brad Bull,  Langdon Baker

GHL Consultants: Andrew Harmsorth

RDH Building Science: Alex Luckachko

Altus Group: Mel Yungblut

Stantec: Dave Sauve, Mario Bon

CHM Fire Consultants: Steven Craft

RWDI: Dan Lyzun

SVN: Drew Sinclair

Soberman: Jon Soberman