Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

By Regan Moffatt, P.Eng., Associate Member ASHRAE

Developing and designing ultra-low energy mechanical systems and integrating them into innovative architecture was the challenge for the design team of Canada’s Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. The building sits on the foundation of a former museum and uses the university’s existing central heating and cooling plant.

The University of Calgary main campus is located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Established in 1966, the university continues to grow and develop into a prominent education and research facility, with a strategic vision to achieve a position within the top five research universities in Canada. 

The design of the 48,000 square foot facility transcends the traditional models of postsecondary education by immersing students, educators, and researchers in an open and collaborative environment dedicated to enriching learning experiences and pedagogical innovation. A soaring glass atrium encompasses a three-story gathering space that harnesses natural daylight while also providing an evening glow, which beckons passersby at night. The architecture harmoniously integrates with highly efficient mechanical systems, while drought-tolerant exterior landscaping further reduces water consumption.

Central atrium, served by radiant heating/cooling floor slab and displacement ventilation. 


Energy Conservation Through Integrated Design

The University of Calgary follows an Institutional Sustainability Strategy to ensure that all new campus facilities align with energy conservation targets. Under this plan, a building’s minimum energy use target must exceed ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-2007 by 48%. Inspired by the innovative objectives of the building, the design team challenged themselves to surpass the minimum targets. 

Their goal was to achieve a net zero ready structure, which is a design that supports the future installation of renewable energy technology such as localized photovoltaic solar panels to offset the anticipated energy consumption of the building site. 

With this ambitious goal in mind, the design team adopted an integrated design approach to achieve a more holistic understanding of efficient building methods. Using building energy modeling (EQUEST v.3.64), the team calculated window-to-wall ratios and building envelope materials. 

Radiant tubing in the concrete floors, as well as a pressurized plenum space, provide efficient conditioning of the atrium without impeding the view of the architectural features. Embedded temperature sensors monitor the space, automatically stopping the heating and cooling systems when the space is unoccupied. A chilled beam system supports the meeting areas and second-floor offices, providing ventilation and conditioning without terminal unit power. 

The integrated design approach successfully met the university’s sustainability target, achieving a 2016 building energy use intensity (EUI) of 51.8 kBtu/ft2. This is lower than what was modeled. The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning also received 19 Energy and Atmosphere points under LEED 2009 NC Credit 1, as well as an additional point for exceptional performance in Innovation in Design Process.

Indoor Air Quality

The design team developed a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) consisting of two air-handling units (AHUs) that use free airside cooling from Calgary’s dry, moderate climate. The AHUs have the capacity to deliver the required ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010 ventilation air, with an additional 30% capacity for future opportunities. The AHUs use fan array technology with heat recovery and CO2 monitoring, with outdoor air supplied to the AHUs through a buried concrete earth duct.

Low-pressure drop ductwork delivers the supply from the first AHU to active chilled beams and displacement ventilation diffusers in the classrooms, office spaces and central atrium. Occupied spaces are equipped with variable air volume boxes with sensors that quickly respond to changes in occupancy and conditions.

The other AHU supplies a pressurized air plenum below the suspended concrete floor in the forum area, providing ventilation air and heating and cooling support through displacement floor diffusers. The design team used the ASHRAE Standard 55-2010 comfort tool to model air velocity and supply temperature for optimum occupant comfort.

Dispersed air is returned to the AHUs to circulate through a heat recovery wheel, and is then circulated as additional free cooling through the communications and electrical rooms.

An Innovative Approach

Cantilevered Vierendeel trusses at each entrance form a stunning gateway, inviting members of the university community into the airy, three-story central atrium. The expansive stretch of glazing and millwork is visually captivating, with mindful placement of HVAC equipment critically maintaining the aesthetic of the space. 

East exterior showing one of the Vierendeel Trusses extending beyond building. 


Coordination models were created using building information modeling (BIM) to avoid service conflicts during construction. Additionally, the area has a flexible design to accommodate various uses, requiring additional heating and cooling capacity, as well as sensors to adapt and serve variable occupancies. Radiant heating and cooling systems in the concrete floor slab and social stair landings provide space conditioning, while a displacement ventilation system installed in the stair risers provides air movement without obstructing the view. Removable ceiling and wall panels blend with the millwork, maintaining the visual flow while allowing access to services for maintenance.

Operation and Maintenance
The Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning uses the existing foundation of the former Nickle Arts Museum, achieving the goal to reduce new building construction material while preserving the site’s native soils. To accommodate use of the existing basement, the mechanical systems were required to fit through a 98 in. × 98 in. opening in the main floor slab. The university’s facility staff required equipment components, such as fans and motors, to fit through a standard door opening for future maintenance.  




Complete Article at High Perfomring Buildings:  http://www.hpbmagazine.org/Taylor-Institute-for-Teaching

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The TLJ Team