The new Student Learning Center at Toronto’s Ryerson University in Canada, which opened in February 2015, Designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects of Toronto and Snøhetta of Oslo, Norway and New York City, features a dazzling 5,000 sqm (53,820 sq ft) glass façade printed with white geometric patterns. The white shapes were printed on more than 1,000 digital ceramic-printed glass panels, which were fastened to the aluminium support system with silicon, eliminating protrusions and creating a clean and smooth appearance.
Moreover, the building has used 50 per cent more glass than most LEED buildings. The eight-storey building is a trailblazer on multiple interconnected levels: outstanding achievements in both sustainability and innovation, within a strictly limited budget. The pattern design, digital ceramic in-glass printing, glass treatment, and installation techniques were all crucial to the building’s overall design and functionality.
To meet the university’s requirement that its state-of-the-art centre for study and collaboration be LEED-certified, Zeidler explored new ways to achieve high energy efficiency while maintaining the use of natural light and views that were integral to the design. Combining digital ceramic in-glass printing with a triple-glazed construction and low-e glass coating achieved the required functionality. This included thermal comfort and glare control which is vital for students studying and using computers, bird safety, and sun/shade control that creates a dynamic experience of the interior as the sun moves across the building. The combination of technologies enabled glass to be used for 60 per cent of the building, significantly outstripping most LEED-certified buildings that are no more than 40 per cent glass.
“The digital printed façade had a profound effect on the overall look of the building,” said Mike Smith, Senior Associate, at Zeidler Partnership Architects. “In addition to enabling the required functional and energy efficiency performance, it created a feeling of one large and unique building, as opposed to the standard stacked floor plates one usually sees,” he added.
Unique alignment of innovation, performance and budget
The façade was printed by Canadian glass processor Prelco Group, using a Dip-Tech Digital Ceramic In-Glass Printer. Prelco was an instrumental partner in solving one of the key challenges of the project: maintaining the integrity of the design while keeping the project affordable.
“It was a unique project from the outset in part because Ryerson University was seeking an innovative design, and initial tenders all came in over budget, forcing them to issue a new tender request with a capped contract price,” said Jens Harnest, an agent at Prelco. To meet these challenges, Prelco worked closely with the building envelope contractor, Flynn. They proposed that the original plan to use 3,000 uniquely shaped panels be changed to 1,000 panels with fewer different shapes, which would dramatically reduce installation complexity and cost. Despite the change in panels, the integrity of the design was preserved.