Pomerleau, U of T build Passive House-certified student residence in Scarborough

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

After years of research, design, and construction, the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) and Pomerleau say the new Scarborough Campus student residence building, one of Canada’s most eco-efficient buildings, will be completed by September 2023.

Construction started in July 2020 on the building being constructed to the Passive House high-performance building standard, and features many low-energy design elements including high-efficiency insulation and windows as well as building systems that dramatically reduce energy consumption by 40-60 per cent compared to conventional buildings.

The 24,620-square-metre building has 746 beds with single, double and wheelchair accessible suites and includes an energy efficient cafeteria, common area for learning workshops, two suites for visiting scholars, a dining room, administrative offices, and several mixed-used spaces. A rooftop garden and terrace are also planned for future development.

Pomerleau was awarded the design-bridge-build contract to help achieve the sustainable architectural design and energy efficiency standards required for Passive House certification. Together, with its local trade partners, Pomerleau has managed to keep the project milestone on schedule despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, local union strikes and global supply chain issues.

“There are so many interesting elements to this building,” said Michael Faustini, project drector, Pomerleau. “The mechanical system is designed to recuperate heat and energy. We have a pit in the basement that captures all the hot water from showers and uses it as a heat source, and the heat from the commercial kitchen in the cafeteria is also captured and reused. The construction of the building envelope had to be so perfect and detail-oriented that an on-site mock-up was built to ensure the process was clear to all parties prior to final installation.”

The project has been described as an inspirational example of what is possible from a sustainability perspective, but also in terms of informing the local construction industry on best practices. U of T in partnership with Pomerleau, developed a network of designers, contractors and sub trades that have hands-on experience working on a Passive House project. They can now apply those newly acquired skills to drive more sustainable construction projects in the future.

Pomerleau has four active contracts with U of T, including a new 14-storey educational facility above the existing Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport. The building is expected to be among the tallest timber (cross-laminated timber or CLT) and steel hybrid buildings in North America. The erection of the timber structure is expected to commence in Winter 2023.

The Passive House high-performance building standard sharply reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides resilient structures that withstand extreme weather related to climate change. Passive House standards represent an optimal way to build healthy, climate-resilient, affordable, and energy-efficient residential, institutional, and commercial buildings through all stages of design, construction, and livability.

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