Green Machine

Integrated Learning Centre at Beamish-Munro Hall, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario

B+H Architects

Six faculties of engineering are housed in this 100,000-square-foot three-storey building, arranged around a central atrium. The ground floor contains the highly public student union and lounges in addition to the machine, metalworking and rapid prototyping shops. Instead of a conventional classroom and lecture hall configuration, innovative and collaborative learning environments are designed specifically for the university’s project-based curriculum. Various space configurations were explored with the client, resulting in terraced “instrumented classrooms” organized around the central atrium. Two levels of “teaching plazas” overlook the atrium, and instructors equipped with wireless microphones broadcast their lectures as they travel amongst the student workbenches. Sliding partitions form the walls lining the corridors of these plazas, and when open, the activities within can be shared with passersby. This visual connectivity throughout the facility is intentional; a mandate of the ILC is to bridge the gaps and open the channels of communication between theory and application in engineering, and to increase collaboration amongst the profession’s sub-specialties.

The ILC is essentially an infill project replacing a former parking lot between two existing buildings on the campus, and serves to connect them in a contextually responsive manner. Consequently, the building only has two elevations with limited light and views, so additional clerestory lighting is achieved through a glazed sawtooth roof section. To maximize the effect, the soffit of the ceiling of this diagonal skylight is coated with highly reflective material to bounce the light into the terraced interior plazas.

Building systems and structural elements are exposed to explicitly demonstrate their function and operation. For instance, a wall in the student lounge is cut away to reveal the many layers of material that compose it. A steel “tree” structure exhibiting all steel frame construction connection types is placed in the landscaping of the ILC. A segment of a column on the first floor is boxed out to reveal the rebar reinforcement structure. Two sections in the floor slab are boxed out and covered with scratch-resistant tempered glass so that its reinforcement is visible. For purposes of comparison, one of these sections is standard rebar while the other utilizes Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) bars.

Both the client and the architect agreed that the building should educate and increase awareness of environmental and sustainable issues, such that the students may take the valuable lessons learned with them to their careers in professional practice. Sustainable practices have been interwoven into the project from the very outset for these very reasons.

Indoor air quality is addressed through a three-storey green wall at the building’s main entrance. Aside from being an aesthetically pleasing design feature, the plants comprising this wall purify the air for distribution throughout the building, and are capable of removing up to 90% of common pollutants.

Various energy-saving systems are employed at the ILC. High-

efficiency lighting systems include lighting controls, photocells and occupancy sensors that have been installed to optimize efficiency. Radiant flooring is installed in parts of the building where it will be most safe and effective, such as the ground floor student lounge and workshop. Flow-reducing faucets and low-flush toilets conserve water, and other energy-saving systems include displacement ventilation, heat recovery, variable-speed fans, and high-efficiency motors. Very little additional heat will be required in colder months due to the high performance of the building envelope, as much of the heat will be generated by internal gains from lighting, IT equipment and occupants. Similarly, a diminished need for air conditioning is achieved through judicious choices in glazing, insulation, and a generous western overhang intended to reduce solar gain.

Live building technologies are a part of the ILC, and specially designed software enables students to monitor and collect data on air quality, lighting, and heating and cooling systems via sensors which are located in various regions of the building. For example, carbon dioxide and humidity sensors in the airstream of the green wall can monitor its filtration effects. And on the western elevation, several different types of glazing comprise a test area enabling students to research the comparative performance of the glazing under different environmental conditions.

BREEAM’s Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program gave the ILC a “Four Green Leafs” rating out of a possible five leaves indicating “national industry leadership in terms of eco-efficiency design, practices and management commitment to continuous improvement and industry leadership.” The Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) report further concluded that “the building meets the requirements of the MNECB and CBIP programs. The building was found to be 25.9% more efficient than the MNECB reference building.”

In seeking to design a green building with a pedagogical function, B+H Architects have created a rich educational environment that affects not only its students but the entire Queen’s community. This real-life laboratory of the ILC explicitly illustrates the successful integration of thoughtful and responsive architecture with expressed building engineering systems, a shining example of intelligent and responsible design.

Client: Queen’s University

Architect Team: Bill Nankivell, Douglas Birkenshaw, Alkim Sonmezocack, Christophe Gauthier, Tarisha Dolyniuk, Jeanette Gamboa, Caroline Kim, Janet Nowakowski

Structural: Halsall Associates Limited

Mechanical: Smith & Anderson Consulting Engineers

Electrical: Crossey Engineering

Environmental: Allen Kani & Associates

Landscape: Janet Rosenberg & Associates

Contractor: Bondfield Construction

Area: 7,580 m2

Budget: $17.3 million

Completion: September 2004

Photography: Richard Johnson of Interior Images