George Brown College (GBC) officially opened their 380,000 ft² Waterfront Campus' first phase—now known as the Daphne Cockwell Centre for Health Sciences—just shy of five years ago on a former industrial site beside Toronto Harbour near Queens Quay and Sherbourne. Now, the educational institution is gearing up for another phase of development in their Waterfront Campus, set to replace a parking lot with a tall wood building.

Site of Waterfront Campus phase 2 (The Arbour), image courtesy of George Brown College

With an aim to create a carbon-neutral facility, GBC will be launching an international design competition this fall, asking architects to submit concepts for a 12-storey timber-framed building—the first institutional building of this type in Ontario. Several tall wood buildings have been constructed around the world in recent years, making use of new technology that improves the tensile and fire-resistant qualities of wood, and improving overall sustainability. 

To be known as "The Arbour", the building will be designed to function as a "living laboratory" for climate-friendly building design, serving as the home of a new Tall Wood Building Research Institute, George Brown's Centre for Information and Computer Technology, a new child care facility, and additional research facilities. A number of smart building systems will be integrated into the project with an aim towards attaining carbon-neutral status.

"This distinctive new location will help us contribute to the mitigation of climate change and environmental sustainability while supporting our continued intention to create campus environments that are innovative, creative and stimulating for student learning," said George Brown College President Anne Sado in a prepared statement issued on Thursday.

Site of The Arbour, image courtesy of George Brown College

The Arbour's status as the first tall wood institutional building in Ontario means that the project will serve as a demonstration facility and testbed for new technologies in sustainable building design. While the Ontario Building Code (OBC) permits timber-framed structures of up to six storeys as of 2015, there is word that further updates are coming to allow even more height. Given the current OBC regulations, George Brown College aims to receive a site-specific exemption to go beyond the permitted 6 storeys. While not covered by the OBC, a similar site-specific allowance was granted for an 18-storey timber-framed student residence at the University of British Columbia.

In a prepared statement, Waterfront Toronto's President and CEO Will Fleissig said "Waterfront Toronto is pleased to welcome this new carbon-neutral facility to the East Bayfront neighbourhood as another example of sustainable development on Toronto's waterfront that showcases next-generation green building technologies. This facility joins a burgeoning innovation and technology corridor that is fostering creative, knowledge-based jobs and creating opportunities for Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs."

Site of The Arbour, image courtesy of George Brown College

The proposal builds on other area developments like the planned Waterfront Innovation Centre to the immediate west, George Brown's School of Design under construction another block to west, and several condominiums underway or being sold in the area, all equipped with ultra high speed internet. Meanwhile, recent rumours claim that Google's parent company Alphabet is considering an innovative "smart city" on a nearby plot of land. Together, these developments have the potential to cement the East Bayfront's status as a tech-friendly innovation neighbourhood.

We will return with updates once the design competition is launched and additional information becomes available. In the meantime, you can review George Brown's Waterfront Campus in the Database file linked below, join in the discussion in the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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