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Way cool: Campus wins architectural award for cooling towers

CHILL, BABY: The frosted glass rectangular panels covering the cooling units on top of H-Wing are part of the cooling tower revision project that has won an architectural award. (Photo by Ken Jones.)

by Mary Ann Gratton

Talk about a cool idea. The University of Toronto Scarborough campus has won an architectural award for its creative solution to a practical problem.

With the spate of recent construction on campus over the past few years, the two old cooling units housed in an enclosed area on the roof of H-wing no longer had the mechanical capacity to cool the Science, Humanities, Bladen and Recreation wings of the original Andrews structure, nor could they be expected to handle the extra cooling needs of new and future buildings.

In order to add cooling capacity, the two old units had to be replaced, and four newer and even bigger units had to be installed. However, the new units would not fit in the old space.

The problem: How to hide four large, rather unattractive but necessary cooling units needed to keep the staff, students and faculty from deep-frying in summer?

The solution: Put the four units on the top of the H-Wing, but encase them in a steel cage covered in a showpiece of more than 100 rectangular panels of frosted glass. The glass panels frame the cooling units and provide an elegant camouflage.

This creative and aesthetic solution to a mechanical problem has won the campus an architectural design award of merit at the Ontario Steel Design Awards ceremony, hosted by the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CSIC) recently. The $2.9 million cooling tower revision project was led by Jon Neuert of the firm of Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, in cooperation with Facilities Management and the university’s Design Review Committee.

Architect Ajon Moriyama of Moriyama & Teshima Architects, was a panelist and judge at the competition. He described the campus entry as follows. “This modest project was nicely resolved, especially considering some of its design constraints. This design elegantly and seamlessly ties into the existing structure below.”

Jim Derenzis, Director of Facilities Management, attended the CISC annual awards meeting on May 16, and accepted the award on behalf of the university. It was one of four awards of merit presented at the CSIC event held at the Congress Centre in west-end Toronto. Other award of merit recipients included the Royal Ontario Museum’s Crystal addition and a Wind Stress Lab at the University of Western Ontario. The award of excellence went to the U.S. Air Force Memorial.

“I was delighted to accept this award and doubly pleased that the industry recognized the validity of a creative solution,” said Derenzis. “Although a cooling tower replacement sounds rather mundane, our architects were recognized for an unusual approach. The glass frame around the units covers up this utilitarian machinery and actually enhances the look of the top of the building so that the whole structure looks as if it had always been there. The frame is now a landmark on the campus in its own right.”

“Cooling units are not the most visually appealing physical structures, but the vision of the architects enabled us to blend these units in with the lines of the original John Andrews building,” Derenzis added. “The result is that something that might have been an eyesore is instead something very pleasing to the eye when you look up.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough