March 18, 2008 Waterfront Toronto, a 2,000 acre area of largely publicly owned land, is one of the largest urban developments currently underway in North America. As part of the project, a 3500 square meter District Energy Centre is under development which will consist of an interconnected network of underground pipes which that be extended to every area in each of the waterfront precincts. The plant will initially be powered by natural gas but the design will incorporate the necessary features for easy conversion to more sustainable, alternative fuel sources when they are approved for urban use. This "future-proof" system will make the new waterfront neighborhood a more efficient and sustainable user of energy in years to come.

Steven Holl Architects (SHA) has been selected to design the center and construction will begin by the end of 2008 with an expected finish time of early 2010. The architecture and urban design office works from New York City and Beijing and has a staff of 65. The architects are committed to sustainable building and site development and consider sustainability to be an integral component of innovative and imaginative design.

According to the Company Principal, Steven Holl: “The 21st century presents us with one-third of the earth already developed, much of it in sprawling waste. A fundamental change of attitude, a revisioning of values must take place. We hope to make the District Energy Center a cultural and global symbol of sustainable development through an architecture that enacts the authentic connection of nature, society and humanity. The building will be inspiring in its design and excellent in its technical functioning." In keeping with the sustainable aspect of the project, the architects will include a green roof on the Energy Center.

The building will also serve as an educational platform for sustainability. “With the creation of the District Energy Center, Waterfront Toronto intends to introduce this highly-sustainable technology to Canada in a visible and striking way through an iconic architectural expression of energy generation," said John Campbell, President and CEO of Waterfront Toronto. “Therefore, it is critical that the design of the building make a positive statement about the role of district energy in protecting the environment and educating the public about Waterfront Toronto’s efforts to build a green city.”

Steven Holl Architects have designed and developed a number of sustainable buildings around the world including the New Residence at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, DC. Built to strict Swiss standards which call for minimal energy consumption, the building has a green roof with PVC panels, double walls and the south facades use passive solar energy.

Their design for Beijing’s 200,000-square-meter Linked Hybrid complex has the world’s largest geothermal system which uses 660 wells to heat and cool the buildings and includes a grey water system and green roofs and the Vanke Center in China uses solar power and geothermal cooling.

View gallery - 3 images