September 18 2007

York University - Pond Road Student Residence

York University is going headlong into the frontier of sustainable buildings. Following its much-lauded York University Computer Sciences Building, The university just announced another solid example commitment to high performance design, the Pond Road Student Residence.

The new building was designed by architectsAlliance who also co-designed the Computer Sciences building. Many of the same simple passive strategies were adapted to a dormitory design problem and used to save energy and create a healthy indoor environment.

The main concern appears to be daylight. It is interesting to study the effects the prioritizing of daylight had on the overall design of the building. You will notice that the façade of the dormitory is mostly curtain wall. The large transparent portions of glass necessitate that highly insulated, high performance glass be used. An article in Eco-Structure called "Stepping Stones" even notes that the decision was economically burdensome on the project, but also states that the client understood the benefits. It is also intriguing to note that the remaining opaque panels are a combination of heated mirrored glass panes and opaque colored insulated panes. On this point, I question the sincerity of using opaque glass in buildings. This building really underscores the debate I think should be had on the relationship of daylighting needs to percentage glazing and the odd material conditions that result. A section of the façade is included in the image gallery.

The façade system is also customized by the addition of 24" horizontal sunshades projecting out from the curtain wall at each floor level. These perforated screens are designed to reflect light back up into the space above as well as diffuse direct glare into the room below. Treated glass panels are then attached to the outside of this light shelf to help stabilize the system and provide extra screening against glare.

Interestingly the light redirection system on this façade is placed horizontally with minimal verticals, which in my mind would be contrary to the needs of long east/west oriented façades. I should like to see a study on the effectiveness of the shades.

It is worth mentioning that the concrete used is composed of 50% fly ash, which offsets the use of portland cement and therefore reduces the CO2 produced as the concrete cures.

The concrete structure is also used to radiantly cool and heat the building. Radiant cooling and heating significantly reduce the energy use of the mechanical systems and are exceptionally comfortable for the occupants. Condensation in the building is a concern but the architects planned carefully to ventilate the building well enough to prevent "rain" inside the building. We will talk more about "rain" in buildings later...

Finally the building is topped by a 10,000+ sf extensive vegetated roof. The roof was designed to help meet storm water runoff requirements set by the university... among the many other benefits.

There has not been any rigorous testing of the energy efficiency of the building, but early data suggests (by the owner) that the building energy consumption is "significantly lower" than all other residences on campus, despite its larger size!


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1 Comment

March 30th, 2009 at 6:41 AM

john s

york u will never come close to the performance and design of the buildings u of t is making