George Brown College’s tall-wood, mass-timber building
George Brown College is poised to transform Toronto’s skyline with the construction of a tall-wood, mass-timber, net-zero carbon emissions building called Limberlost Place. The 10-storey structure, an addition to Waterfront Campus, will be the first institutional building of its kind in Ontario.
The name of the building, inspired by the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve near Huntsville, Ont., was unveiled in December 2021, when Canadian business leader and philanthropist Jack Cockwell donated $10 million to George Brown College for the project, adding to his earlier donation to the college of $8 million in 2015.
This is an exciting moment for Toronto as we continue the hard work to rebuild our city post-pandemic. The new Limberlost Place will not only add to our growing waterfront, and to George Brown’s already established reputation, but will help us move further in our climate action goals with its net-zero carbon emissions. This expansion and new building will bring in new jobs, new students and much more and I look forward to seeing it along our waterfront. Thank you to Jack Cockwell for his generous donation and for making this possible – people like Jack are city builders who share the same goals of making our city a better place for everyone. - Toronto Mayor John Tory
Construction is underway at the corner of Queens Quay East and Lower Sherbourne Street, just north of the Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences. Limberlost Place is scheduled to open in the summer of 2024.
Construction that addresses climate change and supports innovation
Limberlost Place will be a model of mass-timber construction and eco-friendly design. The building will harness green energy from the surrounding environment using solar chimneys, rooftop photovoltaics and deep-water cooling.
Neat fact! Limberlost Place will contribute to meaningful revisions of the National and Provincial Building Code to allow for mass-timber buildings over six storeys.
Other highlights include:
- Made in Canada: All mass timber components are sourced nationally.
- Net-zero ready: Limberlost Place will be capable of generating the same amount of energy it uses.
- Living lab: Students will learn in and from the facility and the innovative techniques and materials used to construct it.
- Centre for research and innovation: Limberlost Place will house the Brookfield Sustainability Institute (BSI) where students, community partners and industry can connect to develop solutions to problems caused by accelerating climate change.
Limberlost Place by the numbers
Limberlost Place is targeting Tier 4 of the Toronto Green Standard, which will be the minimum standard for all new construction in 2030. Below, you can see how Limberlost Place stacks up:
- 55 KWh/m2/year energy use intensity (the amount of energy Limberlost Place will need to operate)
- 65 kWh/m2/year, Toronto Green Standard
- 12.8 KWh/m2/year thermal demand intensity (the heating and cooling needs of the building related to its envelope)
- 15 kWh/m2/year, Toronto Green Standard
- 2.5 Kg/m2/year greenhouse gas emissions intensity
- 4 kg/m2/year, Toronto Green Standard
- 204,039 square feet (18,959 square metres)
Download high-res images
Learn more about Limberlost Place
Learning, research and community spaces
Limberlost Place will house the School of Architectural Studies and the School of Computer Technology. Our students will learn in and learn from this flexible and future-proof facility that will be equipped with networked and adaptable smart building systems. The building is designed to adjust to changing academic uses and a changing climate.
Research and innovation
Limberlost Place will also serve as an important research and innovation hub focused on addressing problems related to climate change. It will also provide real solutions for building sustainable communities that are environmentally, socially, culturally and financially viable.
The Brookfield Sustainability Institute (BSI) will be housed on the top floor of Limberlost Place and will focus on collaborative research with community and industry partners. Research topics may include:
- Sustainable building solutions
- Smart transportation solutions
- Food security initiatives
- Studies of the determinants of health and wellness
- Systems for aging in place
Limberlost Place will house a childcare centre serving the surrounding neighbourhood.
As part of George Brown’s Indigenous Education Strategy, the new tall-wood building will dedicate space to deliver on Truth and Reconciliation, ensuring that our campuses support and enrich the experiences of Indigenous students, employees and community members.
The BSI (Brookfield Sustainability Institute) will work with community and industry partners to develop solutions to problems posed by climate change and explore tangible ways to develop sustainable communities.
George Brown College has played a key role in the revitalization of the East Bayfront community. In 2012, we opened the Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences at Waterfront Campus. In 2019, we expanded our Waterfront Campus when the School of Design took up residence at the Daniels Waterfront—City of the Arts complex at Queens Quay East and Lower Jarvis Street. We’ve also become an important anchor in the Corktown community. Our first residence, The George, opened in 2016 and houses approximately 500 students.
The design team
Toronto-based Moriyama and Teshima Architects has received more than 200 awards, including six Governor-General's Medals for architecture. Vancouver-based award-winning firm Acton Ostry Architects recently completed the Brock Commons Tallwood House, an 18-storey student residence at the University of British Columbia.
Learn more about our design team at mtarch.com.
The plan for Limberlost Place, formerly known as The Arbour, has been winning awards and making headlines since we announced the project in 2018.
2021 - 'Mass timber' movement breaking ground on Ontario's tallest wood building (The Globe and Mail)
2021 - MaRS lists the project as one of its 10 Toronto green buildings to get excited about.
2021 - NOW Magazine includes the project in its 11 buildings that will change Toronto list.
2019 - WAN (World Architecture News) awards — gold, Future Projects–Education category
2019 - AZ Award (Azure Magazine) — winner and People's Choice, Unbuilt Buildings category
2019 - MIPIM/Architectural Review Future Project Award — Sustainability Prize
2018 – Rethinking the Future, Architecture, Construction and Design Award — Institutional Concept
2018 – Canadian Architect Award of Excellence
What is mass timber?
Mass timber refers to large dimension solid lumber, glued-laminated lumber (glulam), cross-laminated lumber (CLT) or other large-dimension wood products as opposed to conventional stick-frame construction typically used in low-rise and mid-rise buildings. With advanced construction technologies and modern mass timber products, building tall with wood is not only achievable but already taking place around the world.
Learn more about mass-timber construction:
- Canadian Wood Council – cwc.ca
- Ontario Wood Works – wood-works.ca/ontario
- Think Wood - thinkwood.com
Why was a mass timber structural system selected for Limberlost Place?
Mass timber offers several advantages, including improved dimensional stability and better structural and fire safety during construction and occupancy. These new products are also prefabricated, which offers tremendous opportunities to improve the speed and quality of construction in tall building applications.
The use of mass timber components for Limberlost Place represents a ‘Made in Canada’ approach that will showcase Ontario as a leader in sustainable timber construction. As the first mass-timber, low-carbon institutional building in the province, Limberlost Place will serve as a practical example of what can be achieved with advanced wood products in construction.
Is mass timber construction safe?
Advancements in building technology and research, coupled with the rigorous five-year process for building code changes ensure that safety is of the utmost importance for every building, regardless of the materials used.
Recent case studies of modern mass timber buildings in Canada and around the world showcase the fact that wood is a viable solution for attaining safe, cost-effective, and high-performance tall buildings. For more information, refer to the following case study and references: Brock Commons Tall Wood House (Canadian Wood Council).
What about fire?
Mass timber has inherent fire resistance due to charring which tends to protect residual wood as it acts as an insulator. Moreover, it is quite difficult to ignite mass timber elements in a building (i.e., columns, beams, floors) due to their massive sizes. Often, mass timber buildings are fully or partially encapsulated with gypsum or cement boards which further protect the wood from being engaged in a fire. Tall mass timber buildings are also required to have active fire suppression systems such as sprinklers which are the first line of defence in the event of a fire. Typically, mass-timber buildings are equipped with smoke and fire alarms to further enhance fire safety.
Why build tall with wood?
The use of wood in tall buildings offers some significant advantages, including:
- the ability to build higher in areas where poor soils exist – a wood superstructure is lighter than other building materials and therefore, has reduced foundation requirements;
- a quieter construction site - neighbours are less likely to complain and workers are not exposed to high levels of noise due to the high level of prefabrication involved;
- improved worker safety – safety during construction can be improved with the ability to work off large mass timber floor plates that have already been machined at the plant to facilitate easy on-site assembly by the small number of crew involved;
- shorter construction times - prefabricated components manufactured off-site can be shipped and installed relatively quickly, reducing the overall duration of construction which has huge positive financial implications; and
- improved energy performance – wood’s natural thermal resistance combined with tight tolerances in the building envelope assembly can produce buildings with high operational energy performance, increased airtightness, better indoor air quality and improved human comfort.
Wood products store/sequester carbon absorbed by the trees while growing. Buildings constructed with mass timber are particularly advantaged when it comes to carbon sequestration because of the high wood volume in mass timber panels, columns, and beams. As a low-carbon material, wood has significant potential to reduce the overall GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions of the building sector compared to other energy-intensive materials. Mass timber has the potential to be reused or repurposed in the event of disassembly at the end of the project’s life, thus allowing for longer carbon sequestration and reuse of construction materials.
Life cycle assessment studies consistently show that wood outperforms other construction materials, in identical applications, in terms of embodied energy, air and water pollution and global warming mitigation.
Are mass timber buildings all wood?
Mass timber buildings are hybrid structures that incorporate systems comprised of several building materials for foundations, the first floor or for elevator and stairwell shafts. By including wood as a structural option in taller construction we can benefit from the many advantages wood offers, while still incorporating other materials like steel and concrete where their use makes the most sense, ultimately making the best use of all our material resources.