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University of Waterloo Environment 3 Building

By: Pearce McCluskey Architects

EV3: New Expanded home for the Faculty of Environment (A-Frame Photography)


Project Name:
Environment 3 Building

Project Owners:
The University of Waterloo

Project Location:
200 University Ave W., Waterloo, ON

Pearce McCluskey Architects

Project Completion Date:
August 2011

Project Site:
Suburban - University Campus

Project Type:
Post Secondary Education

Project Type Context/Setting:
Previously Developed Land

Other Building Description:
Addition/renovation (93% addition, 7% renovation)

Lot Size:
6,563 m2

Building Gross Floor Area:
5,644m2/61,000 sq ft

General Description:

Located in the heart of the University of Waterloo’s campus, the Environment 3 Building (EV3) serves as the expanded home for the Faculty of Environment. The new 61,000 sq ft addition and renovation represents a significant departure from the existing EV1 and EV2 facilities - which are characterized by small windows, dark corridors, and little interconnectivity between program elements. The Design-Build project is one of five the University of Waterloo commissioned under the Government’s Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP) and was completed in an impressive seventeen month timeline for a $21.1 million dollar budget.

EV3 is built overtop of EV2, and increases the development density by minimizing EV3’s footprint by taking advantage of the ample vertical space. The facility is organized around a four-storey sky-lit atrium, located along the northern edge of EV2. North of the atrium, four storeys of student space contain a ground floor cafe, a one hundred and fifty seat auditorium, six new classroom spaces, a planning studio, study spaces and common areas. South of the atrium, the third and fourth floors built over EV2 house new faculty offices. 

The design of EV3 primarily utilizes active technologies, and optimizes program organization to create an exceptional work and learning environment. The building expresses its environmental theme through the use of colour, light, texture and demonstrative operations. The result is a leading edge green building that reflects the Faculty’s commitment to sustainability. EV3 was the first LEED® project for the University of Waterloo, and the second certified LEED® Platinum building on a campus in Ontario. 

Perhaps EV3’s most noteworthy achievement is that the Platinum rating was accomplished with a modest budget, using a design-build model while under a fast tracked schedule to qualify for funding. The project’s success illustrates the significant commitment put forward by all involved during the project’s design and implementation. The investment in design and stakeholder consultation allowed for the thorough analysis of the user needs, project constraints, and technology suitability, which proved invaluable in the execution of a well coordinated construction approach that maintained budget, schedule and client goals.

Sustainable Metrics  


·         Annual Energy Consumption: 1,272,531 ekWh

·         Energy Use Intensity: 225.47 ekWh/m2/year

·         Building Full Time Equivalent Population: 502 (102 occupants, 400 transients)

·         Annual potable water consumption: 349.607 m3 or 696 L/person/year




Aerial image of EV3 showing the solar panels, skylights, outdoor classroom and green roof. (EYE Fly Media)


The project was framed by the University as a visible showcase for high performance building. The Faculty of Environment wanted to update their aging facilities, while constructing an industry leading building that reflected their philosophy and teaching methods.

The desire to integrate the building’s features into the Faculty’s curriculum required the design team to maximize building efficiencies while ensuring technologies were accessible for students. These goals are now expressed in both the form and the function of the building, and can be found in the highly technical items such as the solar array as well as in simpler items such as the bamboo finishes. Other examples include the green roof, which incorporated student design concepts and is now maintained as part of their program, and the Building Automation System (BAS) which generates the data from which students are able to study the building efficiencies. 

Larger building moves are supported by the implemented technologies to bring the building to a LEED® Platinum standard. Where solar gains are minimal, generous glazing activates the building’s cores by bringing in ample natural light, operable windows in private offices allow faculty to control exterior ventilation, a living wall in the atrium filters air from the first and second floors through its integration into the building’s return air system, a rainwater collection system displaces unnecessary consumption of potable water, and the roof mounted solar array displaces between 23.2 and 26.8 tonnes of CO2 annually at the Ontario marginal rate of 0.4 kg CO2/kWh. The daily health of the building is monitored, analyzed and optimized by the BAS. 

Feature Staircase that cantilevers into the Four-Storey Skylit Atrium (A-Frame Photography).


Throughout the process of EV3’s design and construction, the Faculty of Environment aimed to integrate the needs of the community, staff and students, and approached the project as an ideal teaching tool. In addition to public forums, student involvement in the project was encouraged through a design competition that became part of the student curriculum.

During a summer semester, the Faculty of Environment offered an elective that permitted students from any faculty to enroll. As part of the curriculum, students were asked to design one of four exterior spaces - the north site, the west site, the south site or the green roof/rooftop patio. Their designs were asked to address the needs of the Faculty and were encouraged to be welcoming spaces that facilitated community learning and involvement. The final designs, prepared by Brodie & Associates Landscape Architects, were an amalgamation of the winning student entries with practical environmental concepts.

This philosophy has been carried into the daily use and maintenance of the building. A teaching circle to the south of the building encourages the use of the landscape by faculty and students for educational and social opportunities. The four-storey atrium and ground floor cafe serve as a vital public space, bringing together students, faculty and the public.

To encourage alternative forms of commuting, bike racks are located around the building’s perimeter, and showers are available to students and staff. Bus service to nearby stops has increased, and priority parking is available for registered carpoolers.

Waterloo has developed a reputation for being an industry leading technology hub, which has resulted in significant growth for the University and the City of Waterloo. This growth has established technologies emerging from the University of Waterloo as a litmus for the future direction of industry. EV3 continues to establish the University of Waterloo as a trailblazer and contributes to the larger city discussions surrounding transit, community involvement in development, and Waterloo's sustainable future.

Site Plan


The site strategy is focused on water reuse and management, and the facilitation of natural habitat for a variety of wildlife. Its proximity to the adjacent parkland required the building and site design to minimize the impact of the development on the surroundings.

Planting beds are layered to optimize growing conditions and native drought-tolerant plants eliminate the need for a permanently installed irrigation system. A lush tree canopy creates a variety of shaded areas to help reduce solar heat gains. A custom 267 m2 green roof constructed over the existing EV2 rooftop, features semi-intensive and intensive areas designed to encourage burrowing invertebrates, nesting birds and a wide range of ecological conditions. The green roof also features different depths of planting beds that serve as a laboratory for faculty and students to study optimal planting conditions.

A bioswale, located on the south side of the site reduces storm water runoff through infiltration and improves water quality.  Increased water retention in the soil surrounding the bioswale aids in the maintenance and survival of plant material in areas where the soil has a tendency to dry out very quickly. 

A constructed wetland control peaks flows with high pollutant removal capacity (65% TSS-total suspended solid and 25% TP-total phosphorus). Permeable pavers on both the pedestrian and vehicular surfaces allow rainwater to naturally replenish the water table. To further reduce run off, two underground cisterns collect excess rainwater from the roof and surface areas, which is then circulated through the building for non-potable uses.

                   Light and Rainwater Harvesting Diagrams.


EV3’s orientation was largely dictated by the very restricted site.  To the west, Laurel Lake defines the edge of the University’s Ring Road and the existing Environment 1 (EV1) and Environment 2 (EV2) buildings bound the site from the south and the east. The unique building strategy to build over the existing EV2 building heavily influenced massing and programmatic design decisions.

EV3 is oriented perpendicular to the existing EV2, running north south. Program is organized such that larger glazed public spaces are grouped in the north portion of the building to minimize heat gains, while the more private areas including individual offices are situated to the south. Native deciduous tree cover is provided on the south side of the building to mitigate the heating effect of the sun during the summer months, while permitting the heat of the sun to warm interior spaces during the winter months.

The roof was approached as a design opportunity and plays an active role in the building’s program. The portions of the existing EV2 roof not enclosed by the addition, are covered by the new green roof and patio. The remainder of the EV3 roof areas are finished with a two-ply modified bitumen roof membrane that received a white coating to reduce heat gains. The roof also houses two hundred and ten 300W solar modules, that are arranged into three arrays that have DC capacity of 48 kW, 12 kW and 3 kW. These arrays harvest sun energy and feed it back into the power grid.

Left:Living Wall in Atrium (A-Frame Photography). Right: Four-Storey Skylit Atrium (Harold Clark Photography)


The use of ample interior and exterior glazing maintains a strong connection to the outdoors, and provides occupants access to views in over 90% of the building’s occupied spaces. This creates a high quality, user friendly environment while significantly reducing the electrical light load.

The atrium and interior courtyards are used to bring natural light deep into the building’s core. Classrooms and offices open onto a four-storey atrium that welcomes light through east and west glazing as well as a large skylight. The fourth floor interior offices and corridors are organized around two smaller skylit courtyards. 26.45% of the occupied floor area is within 7m of an operable window.

The indoor environment is controlled by the BAS, which in real time monitors and optimizes the use of active lighting and ventilation.  Occupancy sensors, installed in most rooms, ensure lights are on only when needed and daylight sensors measure when light levels drop below a threshold. Return air from the first and second floors is drawn through a two-storey living wall located in the atrium. The filtered air is mixed with outdoor air and return air from the other floors and is supplied back into the building. CO2 sensors monitor meeting rooms and classrooms, telling the BAS when fresh air is needed. 



Bamboo Flooring and Millwork throughout the Building (A-Frame Photography)


Ground Floor Plan



Second Floor Plan



Third Floor Plan



Fourth Floor Plan




Permeable Paving and Naturalized Plantings (Brodie and Associates).


EV3’s impressive water efficiency is rooted in the overall site strategy. A comprehensive stormwater management system handles 100% of precipitation on site. A rainwater harvesting system is designed to control peak stormwater flows, and is primarily fed from water collected on the roofs. Drought tolerant native plantings require no supplemental irrigation system, and the use of permeable pavers in most hard surface areas allows excess water to be absorbed into the water table. 

In addition to exterior water management, ambitious interior targets aim to significantly reduce the building’s overall water consumption. Municipally supplied water is augmented with reclaimed water from the 40,000L cistern, forming the heart of the rainwater harvesting system. Filtered water is circulated to toilets, urinals, hose bibs, and to the irrigation system feeding the living wall. High efficiency toilets and urinals help to conserve consumption of cistern water, while low-flow fixtures in sinks and showers reduce potable water consumption. 

The water required to operate the plumbing fixtures is 1,610,070 L/year, from which 1,260,463 L/year is supplied from reclaimed stormwater. The result is a projected potable water consumption of 349,607 L/year, which represents an 87.95% reduction in water use, when compared to the reference building.

Sustainable Metrics:

·         Precipitation Managed on Site: 100%

·         Annual Potable Water Consumption: 349,607 L

·         Annual Potable Water Consumption per Occupant: 696 L/person/year

·         Reduction in Water Use Compared to the Reference Building: 87.95%







Left: South Facade reveals independent structure over EV2. Right: East Entrance (Left and Right: A-Frame Photography)


Energy strategies focus on reducing the loads on the mechanical and electrical systems by providing a weather tight and efficient building envelope. A heavily insulated building envelope provides an R-40 roof, and R-30 walls. A rooftop photovoltaic array produces between 58,000 kWh and 67,000 kWh per year, which displaces between 23.2 and 26.8 tonnes of CO2 annually at the Ontario marginal rate of 0.4 kg CO2/kWh. Sensors control room light and air quality while heat recovery units reclaim the energy from exhaust air subsequently used to heat supply air.

The BAS ensures that the passive and active systems work seamlessly together, by centrally monitoring and adjusting the building’s vital signs. It logs and trends data for analysis by the building operators, which allows for real time adjustments, anticipation of maintenance, and a thorough understanding the building’s overall energy performance.

The projected annual electrical energy consumption for the building is 77 kWh/m2. Renewable energy provides between 10.3  and 11.9 kWh/m2/year, which represents between 13.3% and 15.4% of the annual electrical energy use. This makes up 4.6-5.3% of the building’s total energy consumption.

Sustainable Metrics:

·         Annual Energy Consumption: 1,272,531 ekWh

·         Energy Use Intensity: 225.47 ekWh/m2/year

·       Percentage of Electrical Energy from Renewable Resources: 13.3%-15.4% 

·         Percentage of overall building energy from renewable resources: 4.6%-5.3%



Green in more ways than one: material and colour palette at EV3. (Harold Clark Photography)






Steel Erection over Existing Building (Joe Bevan)


A large part of achieving certified LEED® platinum can be attributed to the consideration taken in specifying the right products for the project, and earnestly understanding the intent behind the performance and materiality of the building. In addition to earning LEED® credits for regional materials, durable materials, certified wood, and rapidly renewable materials, the large steel trusses forming the structure of the building are almost entirely composed of recycled content, representing a significant material economy. However, perhaps the greatest achievement in re-use is the integration of the existing building into the new. With this one larger move, better overall building efficiency and higher site densities were achieved.

Considerations in selecting the exterior building envelope were performance, cost, availability, ease of construction, and durability. Where possible, materials were sourced locally, and during construction, site waste was separated, from which 75.9% was recycled.

Interior finishes were selected based on their contribution to indoor air quality, user comfort, product durability, life cycle costs, ease of replacement, and aesthetics. All carpeting is certified by the Carpet and Rug institute’s Green Label Plus program, and laminate wood products were specified to exclude any added urea formaldehyde. All wood products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and all millwork is bamboo, including the large entrance canopy soffit. All paint and adhesives meet or exceed the acceptable VOC limits as per SCAQMD rules #1168 and #1113.

Sustainable Metrics  


  • Based on cost, building materials contain a total of 30.67% post-consumer recycled content and 14.17% post-industrial content, for a total of 37.75% recycled material content (based on LEED® formula of % post-consumercontent + ½ % of post-industrial content. 
  • Based on cost, the percentage of local materials sourced within an 800km radius (this value includes materials transported within a 2,400km radius that were transported by rail or water): 52.12%.
  • Percentage of waste diverted from the landfill: 75.9%



Exterior Bamboo Soffit with Skylights (A-Frame Photography)






Second Floor Planning Studio Spaces (A-Frame Photography)


The building durability was approached from two perspectives, the wear from the daily user, and the long term performance of the building envelope. It was designed as a “long life” building, with an anticipated service life in excess of 50 years. The design aims to minimize maintenance while considering existing service and maintenance practices of the University. 

As part of the design team, Morrison Hershfield Limited acted as the durability consultant, reviewing drawings during design development, and conducting site reviews during construction. 

Throughout the design process, finishes were chosen to withstand the heavy use from continuous student traffic, while providing warmth and comfort to the faculty and staff with longer durations of stay within the building. Where possible, unitized finishing systems were used to allow for easy localized replacement, reducing waste material and long term maintenance cost. This approach also allows for building system updates when needed with minimal impact to the building’s function.

The Faculty of Environment anticipated a variety of user groups; as a result several of the classroom spaces were designed with flexibility in mind. The continuous band of windows and the regular column grid, allows for flexibility of the floor plan. Those spaces that were not intended to be flexible, were designed to be as open and spacious as possible, to accommodate diverse user groups.


Section Detail at South Elevation Overlap of EV3 over EV2.


Left: Group Study Room (A-Frame Photography). Right: Tiered Auditorium (A-Frame Photography)/                                                                 


The project’s success can be attributed to the dedication of all involved, including the community, design build team, consultant team, students,  staff, and the members of the steering committee, between which clear lines of communication were maintained until project close. Student and faculty involvement was encouraged throughout the process of design, development and construction, and has continued well into the building’s occupation. 

The design build team and the faculty steering committee met consistently every two weeks throughout the design and construction phases, ensuring up to date communication and discussion of progress. This healthy forum for discussion allowed ideas to be easily presented and permitted resolution to potential issues in a timely manner. This minimized miscommunication, leading to fewer design and construction errors, which was key in ensuring the tight timeline was met. Ultimately, the transparency of both the design and construction phases reduced the project risk for the University, maintained the project schedule, and instilled in the Students and Faculty a sense of ownership over the project, which is now carried through and reflected in the care and maintenance of the building.

Integrated into the student’s curriculum are classes on the building systems and the students are encouraged to actively participate in the maintenance and analysis of the building systems through course projects. 

During construction, a live webcam could be viewed online encouraging the community to follow the project’s progress. Now complete, guided tours are offered on a weekly basis, and a program of informational pamphlets, posters, and signage allow self guided tours anytime during operational building hours. 


Architectural | Interior Design Architect:
Pearce McCluskey Architects

Design-Build Contractor:
Cooper Construction Limited

Landscape Architect:
Brodie & Associates Landscape Architects

Structural | Civil | Mechanical | Electrical | LEED: 

Living Wall Consultant:
Nedlaw Living Walls Inc.

Sprinkler Consultant:
Superior Sprinkler Company Ltd.

University of Waterloo 

Commissioning Agent | Durability Consultant:
Morrison Hershfield Limited

Green Roof Design:
Native Plant Source 

Life Safety:
Sereca Larden Muniak

Constructed Wetlands:
Aqua Treatment Technologies

Solar Panel Design:
Aqua Treatment Technologies

Structural Steel Fabricator and Erector:
Telco Steel Works


Photo Credits:

Photography: Eugen Sakhnenko / A-Frame Inc.

Photography: Harold Clark Photography

Photography: Helle Brodie

Construction Images: Joe Bevan

Aerial Image: EYE Fly Media