Notification Window

Centre for Green Cities

By: Diamond Schmitt Architects

Main entrance to the Welcome Centre (right) and Centre for Green Cities.


Project Name:
Centre for Green Cities

Project Owners:

Project Location:
Evergreen Brick Works, Toronto, Ontario

Diamond Schmitt Architects

Project Completion Date:

Project Site:

Project Type:
Commercial Office / Assembly

Project Type Context/Setting:
Previously Developed Land 

Other Building Description:
Educational Institute / Idea Incubator

Lot Size:
11,743 m2 (Brick Works Site)

Building Gross Floor Area:
4,984 m2 / 53,647 sq ft

The Evergreen Brick Works project transformed an abandoned industrial site in Toronto’s Don Valley into an environmentally themed community landmark that engages visitors in diverse experiences connected to nature and the city. In collaboration with the non-profit Evergreen, whose national headquarters are located here, a multi-disciplinary team adopted the approach of ‘light touch and loose fit’ to all aspects of the project: site remediation, preservation of 16 heritage buildings, landscaping, water management and programming. 

The one new building is the Centre for Green Cities (CGC). This 5,000-square-metre LEED Platinum candidate uses the existing footprint and walls of a former brick-pressing shed and retains historical elements and cultural interventions, such as decades of graffiti. It was critical to embody Evergreen’s mission to bring together nature, culture and community in the Centre’s design. The result is a highly energy-efficient building that respects the site’s heritage and is adaptable to myriad programming options. In addition, the buildings design took into account its location in the Don River floodplain with appropriate flood-mitigation strategies; after the great storm of of July, 2013, the building was operational 24 hours after it’s ground floor was completely submerged by floor waters.

Sustainable Metrics

  • [12ekWh/ft2 = 133ekWh/m2 modeled] Energy density in ekWh/m2;

  • [200] Building full time equivalent population;

  • [31.5%] Percentage recycled material content; and 

  • [46%] Percentage regional content


The Centre for Green Cities with it’s three solar chimney’s is the only new building on the site. 


Objectives including aggressive site-wide energy and water conservation, an extensive native planting program and the pursuit of LEED Platinum for the Centre for Green Cities were challenged by the site’s isolated location, contaminated soils, subsurface archaeology, and a gap between ambition and budget. The overriding sustainable initiative for the building resulted in an innovative and interactive approach to controlling the internal climate. Heating, cooling and ventilation use both active and passive systems. Sensors and e-mail notifications alert users when to open or close windows for natural ventilation to maintain optimal conditions. These measures support the decision to operate the building with only half the conventional cooling capacity, one which allows for cooling the ground floor event space or the office areas, but not both at the same time.




Right Sizing the A/C - Either the offices or the event spaces, but not both.



Rendering of Community Wall.


To accommodate increased visitor attendance, bicycle and pedestrian path access has been improved, a regular shuttle bus operation is in place, priority parking for car share and recharging stations are available and an expanded parking lot has a permeable concrete surface. The west façade of the building is intended as an open-ended canvas for community engagement. An infrastructure of projecting steel plates can carry sun-shade screens, large scale art installations, or a vegetated wall with vines and planter boxes.


  • 64,000 shuttle trips per year

  • Number of parking spaces (occupants & visitors): 368  


Measures taken to reduce automobile use.




                                                     The weekly farmers market is held indoors during winter months.



Site Plan


Evergreen Brick Works is positioned within one of Toronto’s most vibrant ecological and vehicular corridors, the Don Valley. The industrial pad of the historic brick factory forms a physical barrier between the verdant landscapes of the Weston Quarry Garden and the Don River.  The intention of Evergreen Brick Works is to break down this barrier through the integration of architecture and landscape, while taking advantage of the site as threshold to the city’s ravine system. The synergy between natural, built and architectural landscape is realized through the restoration of habitat and buildings, the reuse of materials, and the re-establishment of landscape and water flows through the industrial pad to encourage ecological development while accommodating the site’s flooding.  


Evergreen Brick Works, 2012


Don Valley Brick Works with clay quarry in foreground, early 20th century.


South view showing the Centre for Green Cities in the context of adjacent structures. 



  North-west view from the Weston Quarry Gardens.






Heating Strategy 


Heating, cooling and ventilation use both active and passive systems. Because the ground floor assembly spaces and upper floor offices are rarely occupied at the same time, the cooling plant was sized for only one of these loads at a time, not both as in a conventional design. This resulted in a smaller plant that ran more efficiently. As well, natural ventilation in the office spaces provide additional energy savings, using a combination of high and low operable windows, coiling fans and solar chimneys. Sensors and e-mail notifications alert users when to open or close windows for natural ventilation to maintain optimal conditions. A single variable speed central air handeling unit provides up to 100 percent outside air and serves the entire building.


Cooling Strategy


Natural Ventilation Strategy


The window-to-wall ratio is 23 percent and the proportions of the glazing and the floor plate orientation allowed excellent daylight penetration. 90 percent of the occupied floor area is within 7 meters of operable windows, natural light and views to the surrounding landscape. 

All floors except for the fourth have direct access to the exterior, via individual doors, wrap around balconies, exterior entrances or roof terraces.

The building has a programmable lighting control system that can automatically shut off lights if there is enough natural light in the rooms. This system saves electricity, reduces the cooling load and reduces operating costs. The projected annual energy consumption of the lighting system is 17.2 kwh/m2.


  • Total building area that is daylit: 76% 

  • Percent of building that can be ventilated or cooled with operable windows: 90% 


Typical office space.


Third and Fifth Floor Plans




Rainwater is harvested from the roofs.


Most of the heritage buildings had sloped roofs to gutters while the grade consisted of concrete or asphalt, creating an opportunity for rainwater harvesting. This was implemented throughout the site, with fifteen 20,000-litre above-ground rainwater cisterns expected to capture more than 4 million litres of water annually. The rainwater is filtered, UV sterilized and then reused for flushing toilets in the Centre for Green Cities, for irrigation and for make-up water for the cooling tower. The result is potable water reduction in the building by 60 percent compared to LEED® baseline buildings.


  • Precipitation managed on site: 50% 

  • Total water used indoors: 0.34 Million gal/yr (excluding the estimated 500,000L of stormwater reuse) 

  • Annual potable water consumption: 4,307 L/person 

  • Total water used outdoors: 31,700 gal/yr 

  • Total water from reclaimed sources. 43%


Net Annual Consumption of Potable Water.




North-west view of the Centre for Green Cities, with Children’s Playground and last remaining Brick Works chimney in foreground. 


It was recognized that the most important building feature for the Centre for Green Cities was a high performance envelope that not only reduces energy costs for the building’s new life span but also improves occupant comfort. Ventilation energy conservation strategies include a high-performance heat recovery system with a desiccant wheel for latent energy and a glycol run-around loop, for sensible energy. Heating is decoupled from ventilation and is provided by an in-floor radiant system on the ground floor and radiators around the perimeter of interior spaces, rather than through the ventilation system. Fresh air is delivered through voids in pre-cast planks making use of the thermal mass to store energy and radiate heat or cool. The result of these types of solutions is an electricity and gas consumption reduction of 50 percent.

Evergreen is currently exploring partnership opportunities to fund a 110 kW (peak) photovoltaic system at the Brick Works site. A 20 kW array is planned for the roof of the Centre for Green Cities, while the remaining 90 kW is planned for the roof of an adjacent industrial building. In the interim, Evergreen purchases Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from Bullfrog Power for 100 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption.

The projected annual electrical energy consumption for the building: 248 MJ/m2/year(68.9 ekWh)



 Natural ventilation - 3 ventilation chimneys and 3 roof ventilators.





Building Enclosure - Detail Section



Energy Use Reduction

Welcome Centre, Centre for Green Cities


All interior finishes have been selected on the basis of long term performance and low emissions. Up to 50 percent of the first floor and 25 percent of the second floor had to retain the existing un-insulated double wythe brick wall for heritage reasons, and the remainder of the building was constructed with R-35 walls. The roof was insulated to an R-50 level. The glazing was composed of triple sealed units with fiberglass frames, heat mirror film, warm-edge spacers, and krypton gas resulting in an R8 thermal performance. The building contains recycled material content of 23 percent, reclaimed recycled material content by value of 23 percent and local material content of 46 percent. 76 percent of waste materials were recycled during construction.


Welcome Centre before construction.


Welcome Centre before construction.


Measures taken during construction. 




To capture the spirit of the historic site and its industrial heritage, the Centre for Green Cities knits new elements into and around existing elements. 



The building rises from existing brick walls.





North façade.


The Centre for Green Cities is designed to be very flexible and durable so that it may accommodate a variety of events. 

The building is designed to reduce or eliminate devices requiring maintenance while keeping capital costs down and thus resulting in reduced life cycle costs. Solutions included natural/mixed mode ventilation, reduced cooling plant size, heat recovery systems and radiant slab heating.


Welcome Centre, Centre for Green Cities



Welcome Centre, Centre for Green Cities


Education and information sharing is the mandate of Evergreen. An active schedule of free events at the Brick Works is raising awareness of the issues surrounding ecology and the built environment. The Centre for Green Cities has exhibits on its sustainable design features. The Centre is a meeting place for conferences, both public and professional, on issues of a sustainable urban future. Evergreen Brick Works has received extensive media coverage in Canada and abroad for its innovative program and facilities and was named one of the Top Ten ecological destinations in the world by the National Geographic Society.


Second-floor meeting rooms are available for office occupants, community or conference uses 


Welcome Centre, Centre for Green Cities



Entrance canopy.


Design Architect:
Diamond Schmitt Architects

Master Plan Coordinating Architect with Evergreen Brickworks:

Energy/Climate Engineers:
Halsall / Stantec

Heritage Architect:
ERA Architects Inc.

General Contractor:
Eastern Construction

Landscape Architect:

Landscape Architect:
Claude Cormier + Associates

Civil Engineer:

Electrical / Mechanical Engineer:
Stantec Consulting

Structural Engineer/ Sustainbility Consultants:
Halsall Associates 

Interior Design:
Diamond Schmitt Architects

Lighting Design:
Stantec Consulting



Comissioning Agent:

Quantity Surveyor:
Eastern Construction and Turner & Townsend cm2r Inc. 

Durable Building Consultant:

Life Safety:
Leber Rubes Inc.

Traffic/Access/Parking Engineer:
BA Consulting Group  

Geotechnical Engineer/ Hydrogeolgist:
Alston Associates 

Food Services:
Van Velzen + Radchenko  

Adams + Associates Inc.

Engineering Harmonics