On June 24th, UrbanToronto had the pleasure of attending the ground breaking ceremony for the University of Toronto’s Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CEIE). The project, which was spearheaded by acting Dean of Engineering Cristina Amon, is the $200 million centrepiece of the university’s ‘Boundless’ fundraising effort; the campaign is an investment in the next generation of Canadian academic and professional global leaders. The central location chosen for the CEIE reflects the strategic importance of keeping the engineering faculty modern and relevant, and there is no location better connected than the dedicated plot of land at St. George and Russell Street. In fact, the building will rise from one of the last underdeveloped spaces in the downtown campus, upgrading the parking lot tucked away behind Convocation Hall and between the Physical Geography Building and Knox College.

University of Toronto, CEIE,  Montgomery Sisam, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosPreparing the Site of the CEIE Building - Knox College in the Background, photo by Edvard Bruun

The ceremony itself took place right on St. George Street, with a speaker's podium and audience area set up on the small plaza beside the Bahen Centre’s north entrance. The impressive crowd of alumni and the who’s who of the university’s administration mingled before the ceremony, finding some much needed respite from the torrid sun in the shade of the trees lining the street. The event itself featured speeches from the major contributors to the project, the most memorable being: Cristina Amon, Dean of Engineering; Meric Gertler, President of the University of Toronto; Ron Venter, Engineering Professor Emeritus. Following the ceremonial ground-breaking, the whole congregation moved inside the Bahen Centre for a more technical presentation on specific features of the new building.

University of Toronto, CEIE,  Montgomery Sisam, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosGround Breaking Ceremony Setup Outside the Bahen Centre, photo by Edvard Bruun

University of Toronto, CEIE, Montgomery Sisam, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosBreaking Ground, photo by Edvard Bruun

The CEIE was designed by Toronto-based Montgomery Sisam Architects (MSA) and London-based Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, both recognized for their commitment to innovative and environmentally responsible projects. The building is significantly taller than its neighbours, yet manages to ease into the space with an exterior aesthetic reminiscent of more traditional institutional buildings; the light colour of the cladding panels meshes well with the traditional brick buildings. While the 2-storey atrium is light and open by nature of it being enclosed by glass, the rest of the building has a more solid appearance, eschewing the full height glass curtain wall system so popular with new construction in the city.

University of Toronto, CEIE, Montgomery Sisam, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosRendering of the CEIE in Relation to Existing Structures, photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

University of Toronto, CEIE, Montgomery Sisam, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosClose-up Rendering of the CEIE, photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

MSA has a history of collaboration with the University of Toronto, having worked on the revitalization of the Exam Centre, the first LEED Gold building on the downtown campus. While not accredited yet, the new project also boasts state of the art building science features: under floor ducts and heat recovery systems, rainwater capture for landscape irrigation, rooftop PV cells, skylights for natural lighting and passive solar shading for the building exterior. Additionally, mechanical equipment will be installed with isolation technology to reduce noise and vibration transfer throughout the structure.

University of Toronto, CEIE, Montgomery Sisam, Feilden Clegg Bradley StudiosElevation View of the CEIE Showing Building Science Features, photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

To suit the cooperative spirit that was at the heart of its genesis, the 8-storey building will feature vastly different uses across each floor. The following is a summary how the 15,000 m2 of new space with be distributed:

  • Basement: Parking space for 50 cars and 40 bicycles
  • 1st Floor: Undergraduate Student Club Space
  • 2nd Floor: 500-seat Auditorium
  • 3rd Floor: Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) rooms
  • 4th Floor: Design, Fabrication & Prototype facilities
  • 5th Floor: Multidisciplinary Design and Innovation (IMDI) & The Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics
  • 6th Floor: The Entrepreneurship Hatchery
  • 7th Floor: Centre for Global Engineering & The Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILEAD)
  • 8th Floor: The Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) & Institute for Water Innovation (IWI)

We talked with Teresa Nguyen, involved in the project as the former president of U of T’s undergraduate Engineering Society, to ask how the students were able to secure the whole 1st floor space in such a highly coveted building. It turns out the student-run Engineering Society contributed $1 million to the project, through an endowment fund established in 2010 for such purposes. The generous donation, which all undergraduates supported in part through their academic fees, secured the student body the use of the space in the CEIE.

The project is slated for completion in late 2016, although very little information has been released regarding the detailed schedule. Once completed, the CEIE will mark a significant achievement for the University of Toronto and will further improve the quality and impact of the research done in the Faculty of Engineering. The video below outlines the University of Toronto's vision.


What do you think this building will mean for the University of Toronto? See our database file for more information about the project and be sure to check back for updates once construction starts. Get involved through our associated Forum thread, or post a comment in the space provided below.