Toronto Paramedic Services Multifunction Paramedic Station
Diamond Schmitt in association with gh3*
WINNER OF A 2021 CANADIAN ARCHITECT AWARD OF MERIT
This project elevates the architecture of a service building. The building is largely designed to house vehicles for essential services, and offsets the energy and carbon in the vehicles’ use with its net zero carbon and net zero energy targets. The building shape is sculptural and purposeful, most notably the photovoltaic roof that unifies the individual sheds of the building, providing optimal angles for solar energy capture and clerestories to the occupied interior spaces. A mass timber structure is used to reduce embodied carbon, helping the project target net zero carbon certification. There’s something seductive and attractive about the resulting form that is a site-specific response to capturing solar energy. -Jury Comment
As the climate crisis accelerates, buildings need to meet increasingly stringent energy performance and embodied energy criteria. How can architects meet these targets, while still delivering architecturally compelling buildings that accommodate complex programs?
By developing a strong architectural idea derived from net zero strategies, Diamond Schmitt Architects and gh3*’s design aims to create a distinctive building with exceptional environmental performance. The boldly angular Multifunction Paramedic Station contains emergency vehicle bays, adjoined by an administrative and educational block, and topped with a dramatic sawtooth roof. The roof is covered with photovoltaic panels, and each bay is optimally angled and rotated for maximum solar capture. A mass timber structure reduces the building’s embodied energy. Overall, the Paramedic Station exceeds the city’s zero emissions mandate, aiming to achieve both zero emissions and net zero energy.
Reaching these targets means going beyond the use of mass timber and photovoltaic arrays. The building is equipped with a high-performance envelope, triple glazing, a well-calibrated window-to-wall ratio, decoupled ventilation, and hydronic floors that heat and cool the building through geothermal wells. The design must also address heat losses through the 12 overhead vehicle doors, and the heat required to temper the large volumes of make-up air for the vehicle bays.
For the overhead doors, interior vestibules were introduced on both sides of the vehicle bay—making this the first ambulance facility in Canada to do so. This design feature conserves 15 percent of the entire building’s energy.
A tilted south-facing solar wall conserves a further 15 percent of the entire building’s energy. Fresh air is warmed by the south sun on the dark metal cladding, rising into energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) on the roof. The ERVs deliver the heated air to the vehicle bays through low-level displacement ventilation cabinets. High-level return air ducts draw air back to the rooftop ERVs, using latent heat to further preheat incoming air.
The dramatic roof, too, does more than generating solar energy: the form also allows for clerestory windows to bring natural light to the building’s interior spaces. Daylit spaces include the vehicle bays for 40 ambulances and 20 supervisor vehicles, locker areas for 700 staff and visitors, fitness facilities, along with classrooms, seminar rooms, and a lounge for limited-duty first responders.
On the exterior, the geometry of the angled roof lines extends into the landscape, with roof drainage feeding into large rain garden detention basins that punctuate the site with swaths of native trees and shrubs in shapes that complement the building’s massing.
The Paramedic Station adjoins Highway 401, and its distinct form will be identifiable even to drivers travelling at high speeds. It aims to act as a signal to the rest of the emergency divisions—and to the city at large—that stringent energy and program objectives can be achieved in tandem with an aesthetically sophisticated design.
CLIENT City of Toronto / Toronto Paramedic Services | ARCHITECT TEAM Diamond Schmitt—Michael Leckman (MRAIC), Tristan Crawford, Martin Gauthier, Parisa Kohbodi, Amir Azadeh, Laura Hutchinson. Gh3*—Pat Hanson (FRAIC), Elise Shelley, John McKenna, Mark Kim, Richard Freeman, Arslan Abbas, Charles Kim | STRUCTURAL/ENVELOPE RJC Engineers | MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL/AV/IT/ENERGY MODELLING Integral Group | LANDSCAPE gh3* | CIVIL Morrison Hershfield | TRANSPORTATION BA Consulting Group Ltd. | COST Turner Townsend | AREA 8,175m2 | BUDGET $49.7 M | STATUS Construction Documentation | ANTICIPATED COMPLETION 2024
Projected Energy Use • ENERGY USE INTENSITY (EUI) 139 kWh/m2/year | THERMAL ENERGY DEMAND INTENSITY (TEDI) 39.4 kWh/m2/year | GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS INTENSITY (GHGI) 5.6 kg CO2e/m2 | WATER USE INTENSITY (WUI) 0.5 m3/m2/year