DIALOG Announces Canada's First Zero-Carbon, Mass Timber Higher-Education Building

Centennial College, Ontario's first public college, has collaborated with DIALOG, Smoke Architecture, and EllisDon to design and build the first zero-carbon, mass timber higher-education building in the country. Scheduled for completion in 2023, the new gateway structure will bring together Indigenous and Western cultures in both form and function.

We wanted to raise the bar for future post-secondary projects […] At Centennial we view sustainability, inclusivity and Indigeneity as wholly interconnected ideas and we wanted a building that demonstrates that crucial relationship. -- Craig Stephenson, President and CEO, Centennial College.

Courtesy of DIALOG

Courtesy of DIALOG

DIALOG, an integrated, multidisciplinary design practice and Smoke Architecture, a studio that focuses on First Nation and Indigenous projects, based their approach on the concept of “two-eyed seeing”, which is viewing the world through the lens of Indigenous and western knowledge. Highlighting the College’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, the $105-million expansion of the A Block also represents the sustainable values praised by the institution.

Courtesy of DIALOG

Courtesy of DIALOG

This project will be a clear demonstration of how higher-education facilities can make an important contribution to reducing environmental harm by eliminating CO2 emissions. Its zero-carbon emissions design, and its ability to store thousands of tonnes of carbon in its sustainably harvested mass timber wood structure, will be an important precedent in both Canada and around the world. -- Craig Applegath, Project Principal, DIALOG.

Courtesy of DIALOG

Courtesy of DIALOG

Using engineered wood products to create building structures instead of steel or concrete, in line with the sustainable vision of the college, the project is set to become the first post-secondary mass timber facility completed in Toronto. Creating over 150,000 square feet of new and renovated areas, without adding more carbon footprint, the project offers new academic spaces with flexible classrooms that support active learning and Indigenous ways of teaching and being. In fact, the expansion includes new labs for the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science (SETAS) program and numerous informal spaces for collaboration and socialization.

Courtesy of DIALOG

Courtesy of DIALOG

This project grows beyond the simplistic application of Indigenous elements onto a mainstream design. This design is rooted in Indigenous principles, evoked in a contemporary setting. The building’s narrative is a story of seed, growth, culmination, and balance, revealing the seven directions teachings in a cyclical view of an interconnected world. -- Eladia Smoke, Principal of Smoke Architecture.

Courtesy of DIALOG

Courtesy of DIALOG

Inspired by regional Anishinaabe architecture, students will enter the building from the east into an active multi-story space of convergence. Revolving around an Indigenous Commons that opens up into a central courtyard with native plantings, the project reinterprets Indigenous concepts of community, biophilia, and sustainability.

EllisDon’s mass timber specialists eagerly anticipate working closely with Centennial College and our design partners at DIALOG and Smoke Architecture to create this precedent-setting project. Centennial College’s A Block [expansion] project delivers us all the wonderful opportunity to construct sustainable structures that are not only beautifully functional, but more importantly help immediately address the critical challenges posed by climate change. -- Geoff Smith, CEO, EllisDon.