University of Toronto Koffler Scientific Reserve

Montgomery Sisam Architects

The University of Toronto’s Koffler Scientific Reserve is a major venue for research and instruction in ecology and environmental biology. it offers students an opportunity to move beyond the classroom to the actual practice of science. The 800-acre property was bequeathed to the university after having been a country estate for much of the 20th century. Part of the Oak Ridges Moraine, this ecologically complex site includes in its composition meadows, woodlands, watercourses, lakes and some of the most noteworthy examples of drumlins and eskers in southern Ontario. The new 28,860 sq. ft. building is modelled after a university quad, it comprises sleeping and bathing quarters, a refectory, living areas and teaching spaces. Nearby seasonal bunkies provide additional accommodation during the peak research season. The building takes the place of three aging barns. Its massing is inspired by agrarian building forms, adapted to include lanterns for natural light, overhangs for appropriate solar response, covered walkways, and a courtyard. The design reinforces indoor-outdoor connections: this is a building for people who love to be outside, working in the field. The project is targeting net-zero-carbon, net-zero-energy performance and LEED Gold. This robust sustainability mandate is met through passive design strategies that minimize energy use, while offering year-round comfort to users. Like breathable clothing developed for outdoor exploration, its timber structure is wrapped in a highly insulated skin that can be opened and closed in response to changing temperatures and weather conditions.