Interweaving Sustainable Building + Learning

The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College

September 21, 2017

Facilitating the Understanding of the Human-Energy Ecology

The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College will create a new paradigm for sustainable building and learning in North America and underscores a cultural shift in design where occupant behaviour migrates from open, unrestricted energy consumption to personal accountability for an individual’s carbon footprint. The building will make users aware of the energy they’re consuming and will encourage them to consciously change their behaviour – such as charging laptops and mobile devices at home instead of constantly plugging them into the facility’s infrastructure. The emphasis on providing building performance feedback to the occupants builds a culture of awareness, whereby energy is no longer abstract.

The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk Collage will be the region’s first net zero energy institutional building.

The fundamental challenge of advanced sustainable design is not so much a technological one, but more a cultural issue. We have the strategies, methods, and technology to make ultra-efficient buildings: 75% less energy consumption than conventional buildings. We also have the systems to power these low energy buildings with renewable and low-carbon energy; e.g. through on-site solar electricity and clean power utility grids. The real impedance to the adoption of ultra-low carbon buildings is the current culture of design and construction that clings to modes of delivery that rely on the convenience of a carbon rich environment. It’s becoming ever more evident that this convenience has been exploited beyond any resilient boundary.

In response, it’s imperative to design buildings that not only employ the appropriate low-carbon technologies but also inspire a renewed culture of the built environment – where owners, designers, builders, and occupants no longer view the building as something mute and unresponsive – but rather, as a system that demands the active participation of all stakeholders in order to achieve the most optimized performance. This has been the mandate, as establish by Mohawk College, for the design of the new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation.

The Mohawk project leadership understands the importance of buildings with respect to the health of our atmosphere, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution; and they understand their responsibility to push for positive change. So quickly, let’s recap the impact buildings have on the atmosphere. According to the World Green Building Council’s (WorldGBC) 2015/2016 Annual Report, buildings account for over 30% of CO2 emissions and use about 14% of the world’s potable water[1]. Considering the influence our built environment has over our personal health and well-being, incorporating advanced sustainable design into our buildings is of critical importance. We also note, it makes strong economic sense. In 2014, Canada’s green building industry generated $23.45 billion in GDP and supported 297,890 jobs[2].


Defining Net Zero

The CaGBC introduced the Zero Carbon Buildings Framework that defines a Zero Carbon Building as: “A highly energy efficient building that produces on-site, or procures, carbon-free renewable energy in an amount sufficient to offset the annual carbon emissions associated with building operations.”[2]

The clear emphasis on carbon emissions underscores the urgency of addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Another component of the framework is that, “onsite renewable energy is incorporated into new construction projects to provide added resiliency, minimize offsite environmental impacts, and prepare buildings for a distributed energy future,”[3] – both key cornerstones of the new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College’s Fennel Campus.

A National Pilot Program

Sixteen projects across Canada were selected to participate in the CaGBC’s two-year Zero Carbon Building Standard pilot project, which assesses the carbon performance of commercial, institutional, and multi-family buildings and warehouses, and will help determine the requirements and standards for the Zero Carbon Buildings Framework.

Among those sixteen pilot projects is the new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk, which, when its doors open to students in the fall of 2018, will be one of the region’s first net zero energy institutional buildings. A joint venture partnership with B+H + mcCallumSather, new students will be greeted by 96,000 sq.ft. of solar-powered state-of-the-art labs, workshops, and open study spaces lecture theatres, creating a new paradigm for sustainable building and learning in North America.

Challenged with a highly-accelerated schedule to qualify for the federal government’s April 2018 SIF Substantial Completion deadline, (a deadline of two years after the project was awarded), a unique, solutions-based collaboration amongst Mohawk College, B+H Architects/McCallumSather and Ellis Don (the construction manager) was employed to achieve the ambitious net zero energy performance target.


Government Support

As Canada continues to strategically position itself as a leader in sustainable building and construction, it’s making a remarkable investment in its future. The Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) will see up to $2 billion invested in improving the quality and life of Canada’s college and university buildings[1]. Along with the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) commitment to develop a net zero verification program and support of the WorldGBC’s goals that all new buildings are constructed to be net zero by 2030 and all buildings achieve net zero by 2050, the country’s progressive stance on building solutions to mitigate climate change presents incredible opportunities for designers and architects to advance the culture of sustainable design.


The building itself will also serve as a teaching tool. Students, through capstone or research projects, will have the opportunity to manage the operations of the building. Through extensive systems metering and real-time data streaming analysis, they’ll have the ability to observe the temperature, humidity, ventilation rates, thermal distribution, lighting performance, and occupancy status, in addition to other key building performance metrics.

Known as the Steel Capital of Canada, the net zero energy design of the Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation aligns with a new vision for the re-emerging city of Hamilton as an educational and healthcare hub. Innovative in its approach and iconic in its design, the Joyce Centre marks both the beginning of a transformation for the city, as well as bolstering the evolution of truly sustainable design.

Pilot Project Logo