University of Toronto’s Koffler Scientific Reserve (KSR), is a major venue for research and instruction in ecology and environmental biology. The current property, stitched together over a hundred years, features an estate house, several small farms, beautiful woodlands, watercourses and fish lakes.

As an accessible, affordable field site, KSR has seen a dramatic increase in use over the past decade and lacks in housing, teaching and dining space. To overcome this challenge, a new purpose-built Dining and Operations Centre will be built. Twenty new 3-person seasonal bunkies will also occupy the site to provide more accommodation for students during the peak warm weather months. With this initiative, KSR will gain much needed residential and multi-purpose teaching space in proximity to their lab building, capitalize on efficiencies between facilities, and discontinue use of several inconvenient outlying buildings.

Our approach to the design evolved with our understanding of the work of KSR’s scientists and students. Their diligent study of the tiniest changes in one specific type of plant or insect species can yield findings that speak to issues on a global scale, such as climate change. This relationship between micro and macro became a lens through which we viewed the development of the design.

The Dining and Operations Centre with its exposed timber structure is the social heart of the Reserve – a place to gather, to share, to enjoy. Nestled into the topography with generous glazing on both its upper and lower levels, the building sits delicately on the site; views in, out reinforce a sense of openness and transparency while large overhangs, covered walkways and a courtyard promote strong indoor-outdoors connections. Comfortable in scale and practical in function, the building finds definition through its expressive roof formation; two large lantern features project upwards, allowing light to filter down into the spaces below and, when lit, serving as beacons in an otherwise untamed landscape. Clustered around the new Dining and Operations Centre, the bunkies are minimal structures with south facing roof-top solar panels. They have easy access to shared washrooms off the main facility, minimizing operating costs, reducing water usage and the number of septic fields, and enabling easy off-season shut-down. This proximity also works to reinforce synergies between the teaching, research and social dimensions of field work.

KSR has a robust sustainability mandate and is targeting net-zero-carbon, net-zero-energy performance and LEED Gold. The buildings will be the product of a rigorous and scientific approach to design and construction, finding year-round comfort with passive design strategies and minimal energy use.


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Building Size:

28,860 sq. ft.

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