January 30, 2014


The 226,000-square-foot School of Business & Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University wraps around a galleria atrium and presents its program space on the exterior in dynamic cantilever and curvilinear forms that signal a fresh face for the campus to the community.


Steel integral to complex Wilfrid Laurier build

Staggered levels, long cantilevered steel sections and a central atrium with a structural glass and steel skylight are just some of the hallmarks of a striking — if not dramatic — building now under construction at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.

Designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects, with structural design by VanBoxmeer & Stranges Engineering Ltd., the $103-million, four-storey 226,000-square-foot Global Innovation Exchange Building will house the university’s School of Business & Economics (SBE) and the Department of Mathematics.

Construction by general contractor Bondfield Construction started last June and is scheduled for completion by July 2015. Niagara Falls-based E.S.Fox Ltd. is the steel detailer/fabricator/erector.

Other highlights of the zinc, glass curtain wall, and wood veneer phenolic panel clad structure include a 1,000-seat auditorium, a 300-seat lecture hall, and six horseshoe-shaped tiered classrooms.

“This is a complex building,” says Diamond Schmitt principal Birgit Siber.

Targeted to achieve LEED Gold and meet the “2030 Challenge”—a worldwide campaign which sets energy efficiency targets in building construction—the project required close interactive design planning between the architects and the engineers, as well as the contractor and steel subcontractor, she says.

A critical tool in that intensive process was the use of Rivet, the modelling software program, says the architect.

With more than 4,500 full and part-time students, the School of Business is the university’s largest and fastest growing faculty and there was a need to consolidate its operations, says Siber, in an explanation of the university’s rationale for the building.

But the university’s vision went beyond simply meeting the centralized classroom and lecture space, she says.

Located on the north side of University Avenue, the Global Innovation Exchange Building will be the first major building at the north edge of the main campus and its construction will create a “more urbanized” presence along that street.

To meet that vision, Diamond Schmitt designed a number of key signature elements by using steel.

On the southwest corner, for example, the third and fourth floors of a 1,000-seat auditorium cantilever nearly 24 metres. Structural support is provided by three intumescent-coated north-south trusses, which varying depths and a combined weight of 225 pounds.

“We’re literally 1.5 metres from the property line,” says Siber, explaining the cantilever optimizes land use and provides program space. The overhang also provides shelter from the elements for students.

At the opposite end of the building, on the southeast corner, is a 300-seat auditorium with a “drum feature” which appears to float on top of a café.

The drum’s entire roof and sloped seating area is, in fact, supported by a series of cantilevered welded wide flange roof beams and cantilevered WWF floor beams. Carrying the drum on the outside are two round HSS columns, says Siber.

Similar to the auditorium cantilever, the drum also provides protection from the weather, she says.“There was more time spent on designing and detailing the drum and all the coordination to get the drum to work than on any other part of the building,” says VanBoxmeer & Stranges owner Rick Stranges.

But then there was a whole list of other challenges, he says.

“This project has so many intricacies that it is the most detailed project that we have completed to date.”

With so many different areas, the project had to be divided into teams with the lead designer coordinating all the various design components, says Stranges.

For general contractor Bondfield Construction, the challenges have included the multiple exterior facades and the integration of the steel and concrete sections, says senior project manager Errol Dube.

Approximately 150 workers will be on site during the peak of the project which extends from approximately September 2014 to July 2015, says Dube.

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