Take a look at Toronto’s first net zero community center


Toronto, Canada is a city with a diverse and inclusive population. Insofar as community centers are a central component of the urban landscape. By emphasizing this with the environmental landscape, the North East Scarborough Community and Child Care Center aims to achieve net zero carbon status.

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In collaboration with design studio Perkins&Will, the City of Toronto initiated the project in line with the goals of building more robust access for community social and recreational activities. The community center focuses on both operational and embodied carbon, keeping an energy-efficient design every step of the way. Net zero operational carbon will be achieved through the use of renewable energy and ultra-efficient systems inside the building. As the first net zero community center in Toronto and Ontario, the project hopes to set a new standard for municipal infrastructure.

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A hallway from one of the floors to the community center

For efficient use of space, the building incorporated vertical stacking. Construction emphasized a tight wrap. In line with the City of Toronto’s 2019 climate emergency declaration, the design relies on air-source heat pumps and hybrid solar panels that generate both electricity and heat. The car park canopies are also equipped with bifacial photovoltaic panels. This will increase the renewable energy production of each photovoltaic panel compared to more traditional photovoltaic systems.

A hallway with dining tables and people walking around

“With our climate crisis in mind, it is no longer enough for community centers to provide quality public space; they should also serve as beacons for resilience,” said Zeina Elali, Senior Sustainability Advisor at Perkins&Will. “Our strategies for the North East Scarborough Community and Child Care Center prove that it is possible to achieve net zero carbon goals that will create holistic and healthy environments. This state-of-the-art building clearly shows the way forward for other municipalities on future sustainable and resilient designs for public spaces. »

An indoor basketball court

For the community, by the community, the center is the result of multi-year communication directly with those who will use it. Throughout the process, the city and the design team were able to identify and meet needs for amenities, programs and green spaces that other community centers lack.

An indoor swimming pool

Speaking of city inclusion, the design meets the demand of primarily South Asian residents with the first purpose-built training cricket ground. Likewise, the center includes gender-neutral changing rooms and a swimming pool strategically located away from the public for Muslim women and women-only baths.

A hallway with seats against the left side and people walking on the right side

The surrounding landscape includes a series of interconnecting trails, as well as an urban skateboard park, outdoor playground, basketball court, and wading pool. Additionally, there is a fitness center, additional swimming pools, a running track, and a green roof with outdoor terraces.

A hallway with stairs leading to upper floors

“As land becomes increasingly scarce in dense urban centers, there is an opportunity to rethink the typology typical of community centers. Our Northeast Scarborough Community Center approach proves that we no longer need large tracts of land to create meaningful community centres,” said Elali. “While stacking programs, such as a gymnasium on top of a swimming pool, is rare, it may prove to be a viable new approach that will reduce a building’s carbon footprint while bringing programs that respond to community needs.

+ Perkins&Will

Images via Perkins&Will


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