Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship

A new engineering building at the University of Toronto brings endurance and efficiency into focus

Ten years ago, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto recognized a pressing need to construct a new facility that would foster research excellence and support the potential of its growing students and staff. In response, Toronto’s Montgomery Sisam Architects and U.K.-based Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios designed a nine-storey, 160,000-sq.-ft. facility that welcomed its first class in September 2018, setting a new standard for a Faculty which is known as the number one ranked engineering school in Canada and among the best in the entire world.

The Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship (centre) at 55 St. George Street is U of T Engineering’s new building designed to facilitate interactions between students, faculty and industry partners and spark collaborations across disciplines. (Photo by Daniel Ehrenworth)

The Myhal Centre for Engineering, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship — named after donors and innovation advocates Rayla and George Myhal — was designed according to the priorities of function, collaboration and energy efficiency. In addition to a grand, four-storey atrium and open-air terrace, the exposed concrete and abundant wood facility contains a slew of tech-enhanced spaces: eight design studios, five active-learning classrooms and a two-storey aerial robotics laboratory.

The foyer on Level 1 of the Myhal Centre. Students can study, meet, or collaborate on projects between and after classes in the flexible space. (Daniel Ehrenworth)

The facility also contains a 468-seat classroom auditorium with an 18-m. long digital screen and a unique seating configuration, the first of its kind in North America. Here, students sit in small groups around tables, allowing them to collaborate, share ideas and engage more actively with each other and their instructors. “The building encourages informal and spontaneous interaction,” says Robert Davies, principal at Montgomery Sisam Architects. “It is often through chance encounters that innovation occurs and entrepreneurial thinking flourishes.”

Members of the University of Toronto Robotics Association (UTRA) fly a drone in the two-storey Norris Walker 5T7 Robotics Laboratory. The laboratory is the new home of U of T Engineering’s Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics, which unites more than 50 researchers from across the University of Toronto to develop the next-generation of robotic technologies, with applications from health care and social assistance, to space exploration and advanced manufacturing. (Roberta Baker)

Though the building is the 14th in the University’s engineering precinct, it is among the most energy-efficient on the downtown campus; and while LEED Certification was initially considered, the design team opted for Tier 2 Toronto Green Standard Performance Measures and energy savings instead. From a 80-kW photovoltaic roof system to solar panels, cisterns for rainwater irrigation, LED lighting, a high-performance building envelope, passive heating and cooling systems, and more, the building measures in at 25 per cent efficiency improvement over the Ontario Building Code, with a first-year cost savings of nearly $10,000: an impressive feat for a building of its size with a hyper focus on high-tech upgrades.

The Myhal Centre’s Level 0 is home to The Engineering Society Arena, featuring flexible ‘garage’-style spaces to house several of the more than 100 clubs and teams led by U of T Engineering students. (Daniel Ehrenworth)

Equally impressive is the way in which the building responds to the historic fabric of its surrounding campus. Though modern in material, the Myhal Centre is demure in form with a purposeful approach that ensures a non-competitive aesthetic when compared to its neighbouring Romanesque Renaissance and Gothic Revival structures. “We were interested in an architecture that aspires to an idea of engineering precision while encouraging the messy and chaotic activities of human beings,” said Davies. “The new Centre is an architecture that is disciplined and quiet, understated; not about itself but about the activities that will occur within it and change over time.”

The Myhal Centre rises above the University’s iconic Convocation Hall.
(Laura Pedersen)

Through its understated architecture, impressive tech features and progressive energy-efficiency, the new Myhal Centre leads by example for the aspiring engineers and inspiring faculty who will utilize its resources for years to come.

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