Laurentian University is home to one of the most environmentally sustainable laboratories in North America. The Vale Living With Lakes Centre (LWLC) is a $16M research facility which houses a unique partnership of scientists. The Design Team worked with the Client's Core Review Team to holistically develop design concepts and solutions. There were two mottos that were repeated frequently throughout this process. They were: 1) Good architecture = good engineering, and 2) Nobody is as smart as everybody. From early working meetings that embraced an integrated design approach, a rigorous set of goals were developed. These project goals would go on to become the DNA of the project. They helped guide virtually every design decision as the project moved forward.
The project consists of two buildings: the Main Building, a two storey structure housing office, laboratory, teaching, and meeting spaces; and the Watershed Centre, a single storey structure that houses field crew operations, storage, and specialized facilities. The form and layout of the buildings were generated from the site topography and echo the shoreline of Ramsey Lake. Northern Ontario is reflected in the palette of local materials used throughout the project. The interior spaces provide a beautiful, healthy, and quiet work environment, offering views to the lake. 90% of spaces are naturally day-lit and are provided with natural ventilation. The building has been designed to very high standards for sustainability and is LEED® Platinum Certified.
Most importantly, the building respects the watershed within which it sits and plays an active role within the ecosystem. Stormwater leaving the site is cleaner than if the project had not been constructed and contains particles that will help reverse ecological damage caused by 100 years of industrial activity. The concept of a building that will continually improve its ecosystem fundamentally changes the relationship between the built and natural environments and sets a high standard by which future sustainable building projects may be judged.