Designed for a healthy future

Exterior of OSSTF/FEESO new building

OSSTF/FEESO’s new Provincial Office building

At the edge of the Don Valley Ravine in North York, the new OSSTF/FEESO Provincial Office and multi-tenant building at 60 Mobile Drive is envisioned as an enduring, sustainable building inspired by its unique context and the identity of the Federation that provides a healthy and responsible protective environment.

When Moriyama Teshima Architects were commissioned with this project, we first did our due diligence to examine the possibility of renovating and adding to the existing building that stood on the site. The original building, while structurally sound, was at its end of life, the mechanical systems were old, inefficient, and not to today’s standards for emissions to the environment. The deep floorplates and layout did not meet the best practices for inclusivity, wellness, or accessibility. Following a robust review of the existing building’s ability to be adaptively reused, it was determined that the project simply had too many limitations to become a healthy and inclusive work environment. When the decision was taken to rebuild, together with OSSTF/FEESO we established guiding principles for the design. These principles are:

  1. Sustainability (environmental and financial)
  2. Healthy work environment
  3. Reflection of the Mission of OSSTF/FEESO

The resulting design was achieved in a highly collaborative process which included OSSTF/FEESO, BTY group, a series of expert consultants, as well as Eastern Construction. The design of the building now under construction, is anchored in a responsibility to the Members of OSSTF/FEESO who work and visit the Provincial Office as well as to the context and fragile nature of our environment in the climate emergency. This dedication to responsible development is poignantly evident in the building’s site.

The key distinction of the project is that it will be a 125,000 square foot three-storey facility with a single level of parking underground, service loading, and all the current OSSTF/FEESO departments occupying approximately half of the square footage. The remainder of the space includes leased space for income contributing to long-term financial stability as well as shared spaces for the activities of the Federation, including some larger scale meetings and gatherings. The heart of the building is its three-storey central atrium space where there will be an informal lounge space, visual and actual connections to the outdoors, food services, as well as the ability to house social events for the larger community of OSSTF/FEESO. A feature stair connects the three above-grade levels with the reflecting pool that sits below it and is bathed in natural light from above. These features will provide a sense of connection to nature and the outdoors throughout the year for workers in the building and for its many visitors.

The atrium plays a key role in this LEED Platinum, low embodied carbon building solution that utilizes passive and renewable systems to reduce the overall energy consumption of the building, resulting in both a positive model for buildings as well as lowered operational costs. The building is on target to achieve LEED Platinum certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a globally recognized certification process that involves third party verification. Denoting excellence in sustainable design and green building leadership, Platinum is its highest tier low carbon design and is not only a reference to reducing or eliminating fossil fuel fired energy sources for heating, cooling, and lighting the building. I also refers to the reduction in high embodied carbon construction materials, leading to the use of mass timber for the majority of the structure of the building in lieu of concrete or steel. Both in the actual material and their fabrication methodologies, concrete and steel represent significant negative impact in the form of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. While there is work being done to reduce the footprint of these industries, wood is a natural carbon sink and if harvested sustainably, we can use this carbon sequestering material and protect it within a high-performance building for another hundred years and use this durable and beautiful material instead of high emitting materials.

About 90% of Canada’s forestry industry harvests from forests that are publicly owned. Forests such as the one in Chibougamau, Quebec where the wood for the building comes from, are subject to robust and regulated forestry management plans that are decades in duration and focus on sustainability. Sustainable forestry includes protection, conservation, and regulated harvesting. It means that a replanting regime is put in place as room is made in the forests for new growth, thus creating a more circular and resilient industry than exists with other materials. Using wood for the construction of buildings is at once very innovative as well as very familiar. For smaller scale and residential construction, wood has always been a construction product. What we are seeing now is the uptake of timber, in the form of mass timber systems in larger scale construction, as the innovation of mass timber has emerged along with changes in codes and regulations allowing the building industry to prioritize a shift to low carbon material use. Mass timber is the technology of taking smaller pieces of wood and laminating them together to make them stronger and more appropriate as large-scale structural materials in bigger buildings. Currently it really is the only low embodied carbon and renewable option for structural systems.

There are significant benefits to using timber, the most significant of which is the carbon sequestering nature of the material along with the renewability. Beyond this, surrounding building users and visitors with a natural material provides health benefits. Biophilia is the term used to describe our innate attraction and sense of wellbeing when we are around nature and natural systems. We believe that the warmth and colour of the material, its texture and presence, will create a calming and healthy environment that will reduce stress by acting as a welcoming and warm place for those in these environments. During construction we have also found a culture of detailed integration and pre-planning; every pipe and connection is located and every hole or penetration or steel connector is in place when the timber arrives on site. As the process is largely prefabricated the construction process is crane driven and can be sequenced for a quieter, less problematic, and less disruptive construction process for both the job site and the OSSTF/FEESO community who are currently temporarily located in a neighbouring building.

Diagram of the building

The materiality of the building is only one aspect of the environmental commitment in the building design. The OSSTF/FEESO Provincial Office and multi-tenant building is targeting LEED Platinum Certification and is an exemplary project for the use of passive systems and regenerative protocols. The project includes a ravine restoration plan that re-introduces plants such as trilliums which are unique and indigenous to the Don Valley, and a responsible storm water management plan that includes large planting beds in the parking areas filled with plants and trees that thrive in wet environments. These plants will take up and naturally process the storm water run-off prior to it infiltrating and eventually making its way into the water system. Together with the approach to the landscape, the building utilizes passive systems such as a natural ventilation system that combines a solar chimney so that we can use minimal fan energy to vent the building, a robust daylighting and sun shading strategy so that we can maximize daylight and views while mitigating heat gain, solar photovoltaics on the roof for solar harvesting, and a geoechange system, all of which help to reduce the need for mechanical and electrical sources for fresh air, conditioned air, and artificial lighting.

The atrium plays a significant role in the features mentioned above that reduce the building’s energy consumption. Firstly, the atrium skylight brings natural light deep into the building’s centre space, reducing the need for artificial lighting. Secondly, it is designed to heat up and therefore create a stack effect or air buoyancy that causes air to flow upwards from cooler to warmer locations. Therefore, when appropriate, the natural ventilation system will be used. With minimal fan energy, air will flow in through the operable windows in the building and naturally flow up and out of the atrium skylight vents, continuously flushing the building with fresh air. When the building requires active mechanical heating and ventilation, we have taken steps to select efficient equipment and to have sensors and monitors to optimize the system. The solar photovoltaic array (PV) on the roof will also work to supply some of the building’s energy needs.

The net-zero carbon emissions requirements for this building were largely achieved via a seventy-two borehole geoexchange heating and cooling system, daylight harvesting strategies, and the solar PV array on the roof. In addition, the high-performance building envelope which includes triple glazed window system within an R32 thermally broken rainscreen wall supported off vertical Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels help reduce the size of the mechanical plant. Each floor of the building has two decoupled Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERVs) that distribute air through a ductless raised access floor (RAF) system to swirl diffusers. The RAF allows us to fully expose the beautiful wood structure above while creating highly efficient displacement air to all spaces.

Finally, the building is designed with people and inclusion in mind. In the atrium and the workspaces, choices are given to occupy more social or more focused spaces. There are meaningful connections to the exterior with excellent views on every level and a terrace overlooking the ravine at grade, with another on the third floor. The building will have gender neutral washrooms and be fully accessible as will the landscaped terraces. Within the workspaces, each floor has meeting spaces, a kitchenette, and a mixture of work environments. Private offices will be framed in demountable partitions for long term flexibility, and these will be placed on the interior of the floorplate to give a democratic access to daylight for all the workers in the building. These interior offices will strike the right balance of acoustic privacy, confidentiality, and visibility for a healthy environment.

At the terminus of Mobile Drive, those who come to 60 Mobile Drive will find a new type of healthy work environment enveloped in natural materials and connected to the ravine.
This design represents a commitment to a future where we see ourselves as part of nature, not separate from it. The building celebrates a sense of community and common values while designing for the diverse needs in contemporary workplaces for a mix of private, quiet, collaborative, social, and communal spaces. Scheduled to be completed in early 2024, this will be a place of welcome for all.

About Carol Phillips, Phil Silverstein
Carol Phillips is a Partner at Moriyama Teshima Architects. Phil Silverstein is a Project Manager, Contract Administrator, Designer, and Job Captain at Moriyama Teshima Architects.

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