Sustainable Laboratory Design From an Owner's and Architect's Perspective

Nigel Tai, Diamond Schmitt Architects
Jeff Miller, University of Toronto Scarborough

The Environmental Science and Chemistry Building, was officially opened in January 2016 at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC), and had achieved LEED® Gold certification in April 2016. The building energy model achieved an annual energy reduction of 54% and annual cost reduction of 38% per LEED® standard.

While there are many mechanical and electrical design elements that contribute to the overall sustainability goals of the project including the ground source geothermal system, Earth Tubes system, Air Sampling system, Cascading ventilation strategy, heat recovery system, LED lighting with daylight and occupancy sensor, etc., the architectural design features of the building envelope and the laboratory planning approach of this fume hood intensive lab building are a key factors enabling the project to achieve a LEED® Gold Certification.

This presentation will look at exterior wall detailing that substantially upgraded standard curtain wall systems to achieve a higher level of thermal performance. A unique customized exterior solar shading design which was inspired by nature offers lab users views to the nearby ravine while screening unwanted glare and solar heat gain in order to improve occupant comfort efficiently.

The design of the teaching and research labs, which included the selection of high efficiency low flow fume hoods, sustainable and durable material selection, optimizing space utilization, modular and demountable lab benching, built in flexibility to minimize the impact of future changes in research and teaching methodologies and planning layouts to make the most use of day-lighting opportunities, is a major contributor to the overall sustainability of the building.

Other sustainable design features include: green roof to reduce heat island effect and reduce storm water flow rate to city sewer; cistern to collect rainwater for landscape irrigation, radiant floor heating and displacement ventilation strategy to provide better thermal comfort to occupants; bird friendly fritted glazing; electric vehicle charging station, and a Grass Pave Fire Lane, etc. are a few items that worth highlighting on this project.

With the building being fully functional and occupied for over a year, we will look at how the building performed and operates in real life with the Jeff Mitchell, Director of Facility Management, University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). We will also look at how the design of the building influences the behavior of the occupants including students, instructors, researching staff, and visitors.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify sustainable architectural design feature that can be implemented to laboratory building type in order to achieve a high performing building that reduce long term operational cost without sacrificing functionality.
  • Identify how by implementing open lab plan concept and careful consideration and placement of architectural programming can create a built environmental that foster multi-discipline collaboration to speak new research idea.
  • Understand how efficient lab planning and building infrastructure design would allows for the creation of research and teaching lab space that is open, flexible, safe and inspires learning and investigation.
  • Understand how a completed building perform when compare to design assumptions and how the building interact and influence the occupants in a positive way when the design was done right.


Nigel is an Associate with Diamond Schmitt Architects. He is a member of the Ontario Association of Architects, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and is a LEED AP. With 14 years of experience, he has worked on a number of the firm's complex lab projects including the LEED Platinum certified Canmet MATERIALS lab in McMaster Innovation Park, the Wildlife Health Centre at the Toronto Zoo and the Environmental Science and Chemistry Building at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus.

Jeff Miller is an engineering and construction professional now serving as the Interim Director of Facilities Management and Capital Projects at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Over the past 7 years through progressive roles Jeff has been involved with all major capital projects for UTSC including ongoing infrastructure development and operations on campus. Jeff is a Mechanical Engineer and has been involved in a vast array of projects in health care, institutional and utilities.


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