Digital Cermaic Printed Glass Shines in Green-Designed Building at Ryerson University
The new Student Learning Center at Toronto’s Ryerson University, which opened in February 2015, is a trailblazer on multiple interconnected levels: outstanding achievements in both sustainability and innovation, within a strictly limited budget.
Designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects of Toronto and Snøhetta of Oslo, Norway and New York City, the eight-storey building features a dazzling 5,000 sqm (53,820 sqft) glass façade printed with white geometric patterns. The pattern design, ceramic digital glass printing, glass treatment, and installation techniques were all crucial to the building’s overall design and functionality.
50% higher glass use than most LEED buildings
Located at a busy city intersection, the building serves as a state-of-the-art center for study and collaboration and also stands as a bold mark of Ryerson University's presence in central Toronto. To meet the university's requirement that its buildings be LEED-certified, Zeidler explored new ways to achieve high energy efficiency while maintaining the use of natural light and views that were integral to the design. Combining ceramic digital glass printing with a triple-glazed construction and low-e glass coating achieved the required functionality. This included thermal comfort and glare control that is vital for students studying and using computers, bird safety, and sun/shade control that creates a dynamic experience of the interior as the sun moves across the building. The combination of technologies enabled glass to be used for 60% of the building, significantly outstripping most LEED-certified buildings that are no more than 40% glass. As at time of writing, LEED certification for the building is pending.
The white shapes were printed on more than 3,000 digital ceramic printed glass panels, which were fastened to the aluminum support system with silicon, eliminating protrusions and creating a clean and smooth appearance.
"The digital printed façade had a profound effect on the overall look of the building," said Mike Smith, Senior Associate, at Zeidler Partnership Architects. "In addition to enabling the required functional and energy efficiency performance, it created a feeling of one large and unique building, as opposed to the standard stacked floor plates one usually sees."
Unique alignment of innovation, performance and budget
The façade was printed by Canadian glass processor Prelco Group, using a Dip-Tech Digital Ceramic Glass Printer. Prelco was an instrumental partner in solving one of the key challenges of the project: maintaining the integrity of the design while keeping the project affordable.
“It was a unique project from the outset in part because Ryerson University was seeking an innovative design, but the contract price had been capped in the tender,” recalled Jens Harnest, an agent at Prelco. To meet these challenges, Prelco worked closely with the building envelope contractor, Flynn, and by modifying the shape of the panels to ease the difficulties in installation, they dramatically reduced the installation complexity and cost. Digital printing successfully aided in preserving the integrity of the design despite the changes to the glass.
"Innovative design, achievement of all the performance criteria, and capped budget are not concepts that usually go hand in hand, but we did it! Digital printing brought us in line with the budget."