Architecture practice Perkins+Will is set to continue its success of designing highly sustainable education campuses with its new project, York University’s new School of Continuing Studies.

Beating out finalists HOK and Gow Hastings Architects with Henning Larsen in a design competition held by the Toronto-based University, the studio’s design targets a minimum LEED Gold certification, with potential for net-zero energy and net-zero carbon.

The early design concept sees a 9,000sqm, 39-classroom building lean gently as its rises, creating a “landmark gesture” at the campus’ south east entrance.

According to the architects, the prismatic, high performance façade will feature integrated photovoltaics to generate electricity on site and reduce reliance on the grid.

“The dramatic form is a calculated response to the campus public realm, patterns of student movement, and the optimisation of solar orientation,” Perkins+Will says.

The building sits in a generous landscaped plaza, with a passenger drop-off zone facilitating movement in the public space.

Part of the competition design brief was to consider the integration of the building within the existing campus community, pedestrian and bicycle usage.

To improve occupant health and reduce embodied carbon, the team is exploring the possibilities of mass timber as a key structural element of the new school.


Another key ESD strategy is the design of a building envelope that meets Passive House standards—including seamless insulation, air tight sealing, and heat recovery ventilation, which reduces the need for mechanical heating and cooling.


Perhaps one of the most noteworthy aspects of the project’s eco-credentials, however, is that it was largely client-directed. York University had set out several sustainability considerations in its design brief, many of which have found home in the winning design.

This included the consideration of structural cross-laminated timbers, natural light, wind, solar or geothermal technologies, and the possibility of achieving a net-zero standard.


Internally, the design centred on a sense of home and belonging, placing emphasis on the creation of warm, inviting spaces that inspire student communities to form.

Abundant daylight, transparency and interconnected spaces between floors also encourage students to interact, while providing a beautiful stage for events and celebrations.

“This new building will enable us to create even more lifelong learning opportunities, build connections with local and international communities, and help students of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their fullest potential,” says York University president and vice-chancellor Rhonda Lenton.

The CA $50.5 million project is expected to break ground in 2019, and be completed by 2021.

Design concept images courtesy of Perkins+Will.