Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation
Ema Peter

Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation

B plus H ARCHITECTS as Architects

Solar panel “wings” power Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk Collage, the result of a progressive net-zero design by mcCallumSather and B+H Architects 


The new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College’s Fennel Campus in Hamilton, Ontario, is the region’s first and Canada’s largest net-zero energy institutional building.It opened its doors to students in the Fall of 2018. New students were greeted by 96,000 squarefeet of solar-powered state-of-the-art labs, workshops, open study spaces and lecture theatre, creating a new paradigm for sustainable building and learning in North America.


Mohawk Collage Chief Building and Facilities Officer, Tony Cupido, steered the development on behalf of the College. “We’re looking at this building as a catalyst for change. We believe employers will be looking to significantly boost their understanding of carbon-neutral technologies and operations due to provincial mandates. The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation will allow Mohawk College to become a knowledge centre for this emerging point of emphasis. We aren’t just building a centre to house new lab space, in many ways we’re building the lab itself.”


A joint venture partnership with B+H + mcCallumSather, the Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation is a national and global pilot project. The building will help determine the requirements and standards for the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Buildings Framework and contribute to the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) “Advancing Net Zero,” a global project which aims to ensure that all buildings are net zero carbon by 2050. 


To navigate the pursuit of a Net Zero energy building, B+H + mcCallumSather upended the typical design process, rooting their design in the development of an energy budget.


“It’s a progressive approach,” says Kevin Stelzer, Principal at B+H. “Where we are typically driven by a financial budget and schedule, for this to truly work we knew we had to step outside of our comfort zone and approach this challenge from a different perspective.” 


The energy budget accounted for the eventual uses of the building, including lab equipment, a targeted use of mechanical systems and an allowance for unregulated loads such as laptops. With the budget in place, a clear roadmap was established to inform each component of the design, from the building’s orientation and material palette, to the mechanical needs and photo-voltaic targets—the latter of which informs the most iconic part of the Joyce Centre’s design. 


“We really wanted to elevate the concept of capturing the sun’s energy and making it a design feature as opposed to a series of panels that are going on the roof,” says Joanne McCallum, Director and Co-Founder of mcCallumSather. All photo-voltaic panels are housed in a set of wings that soar above the four-storey complex, echoing the building’s lofty ambitions.


“There is a sea of change underway. We’re starting to understand that we, as individuals, are accountable for our energy use. This building will make you aware of the energy you are using and force you to change your habits. You will not be able to plug in your laptop for hours on end,” says McCallum. “It’s an overdue change and we think the future of how buildings will be designed and operated.”


The pursuit of the elusive netzero energy threshold spurred innovation throughout the project, including the development of an innovative curtain wall system with an effective R20 thermal performance.


“Architects love designing with curtain wall, but the standard design can be one of the biggest impediments to sustainable performance right now,” says Stelzer, explaining that the highly conductive materials used in curtain walls are like an energy sieve.


B+H + mcCallumSather were able to work with manufacturers and building scientists to develop a new curtain wall system that incorporated isolation gaskets to achieve their energy conservation targets. Function and form conspired to deliver a transparent, light-filled cladding that delivered on the ambitious energy targets.


“The interiors will be drenched in sunlight and offer flexible learning and collaborative spaces for staff and students. A large atrium flows into modular classrooms organised around a central common area, encouraging social learning. Robust materials are juxtaposed against warmer elements like wood, glass and stone tile to create a rich, inviting palette,” says Stelzer.


In a region known for its steelproduction, the achievement of the Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation aligns with a new vision for the re-emerging city of Hamilton. 


“The building is an incredibly powerful symbol for the city as it continues to evolve into a healthcare and educational hub for the region,” said McCallum. “It’s reflective of current and future trends in sustainability and pedagogy and demonstrates leadership in a meaningful way, proving the public sector can drive change.”


The building represents a significant opportunity for new students. “We welcome students to Hamilton with the ambition that they can study here, stay here and become part of the vibrant city and its sustainable future. This building offers them the chance to learn about sustainable building management first hand, and in tomorrow’s economy that could be invaluable,” said Cupido.

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