Text description provided by the architects. Six years ago, Baird Sampson Neuert architects completed Thomas L. Wells Public School. Designed as the first of a new generation of high performance ‘green schools’ by the Toronto District School Board, Thomas L. Wells was intended to serve as a model demonstrating both sustainable design strategies and an overall environmental quality that is conducive to student achievement.
The project received LEED Silver certification becoming the first LEED elementary school in Canada and was also awarded an American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 2008. Original, energy modeling anticipated a 35% reduction in energy use from the Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) base case, however BSN was pleased to see that recent examination by GreenSource suggests actual performance is much higher at 47% and exceeding expectations.
Thomas L. Wells was designed as a terrain for engagement with learning, society and the environment. The layout of classrooms grouped around courtyards, a central library, and multipurpose room, maximizes green space on the compact site and provides a transparent, stimulating place of growth for young learners as well as civic community for surrounding residents.
Conceived as a ‘system of systems,’ the building integrates architectural design with environmental performance. Classrooms are laid out to maximize solar exposure and their facades are designed for daylighting effectiveness and sun control. Light shelves shade high summer sun and reflect low winter sun deep into the building. A combination of high and low window vents provides effective passive ventilation as an alternative to mechanical cooling and sensors turn off unneeded classroom lights.
The pre-cast concrete floor and masonry structure provide thermal mass to harvest winter solar energy and retard summer heat buildup and are an integral part of the unique displacement air ventilation and radiant floor heating system. Heat in the return air stream is recovered in the central plant along with free heat from bathroom and service room exhaust. Durable materials used throughout promote long term sustainability as well as indoor air quality.