Vale Living With Lakes Centre

Services Offered

  • Project Management
  • Architectural
  • Structural
  • Mechanical
  • Civil
  • Location:
    Sudbury, Ontario
  • Size: 2643 m² (28,450 ft²)
  • Client: Laurentian University
  • JLR Contact: Jeff Laberge
  • Related Projects: MacLeod Public School Canadore College Parry Sound Campus

Project Details

The Vale Living with Lakes Centre (VLWLC) is a multi-disciplinary research and educational institute which was designed to assist in the protection and management of northern aquatic ecosystems. Located at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, an area with a history of environmental damage caused primarily by industrial mining activities, on the shore of Lake Ramsey and Sudbury’s drinking water reservoir, the VLWLC is designed to help restore its surrounding ecology and tackle the prominent environmental issues of the 21st century, such as climate change and the scarcity of clean freshwater.

For the first time, a design team collaborated with internationally recognized scientists with expertise in protecting and restoring industrially damaged ecosystems to inform the building’s design, creating a facility that not only minimizes its ecological footprint, but also assists in the restoration of surrounding ecosystems.

Housing the Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit, which includes members from Laurentian University, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the 2,643 square meter facility provides a healthy and inspirational environment conducive to multi-disciplinary research. The building includes offices, multi-media rooms, and open area wet laboratories, in addition to a watershed research facility. An open plan and large windows prioritize views to the lake, echoing the importance of the work done by the building’s occupants.

The building systems and materials integrate with the landscape, forming a positive loop that improves water quality and increases biodiversity. Reminiscent of the glaciers that carved the landscape, the flowing structure follows the contours of the site’s topography and shoreline, integrating itself into the local ecology while embracing and highlighting the landscape’s natural features. The exterior is clad in cedar, a classic shoreline tree species, and the structural frame of jack pine is suggestive of the ancient boreal forests of the region. Locally sourced, non-toxic materials were prioritized throughout the project, and green roofs with native blueberry cover act as an extension of the landscape to reduce stormwater runoff and provide a habitat for wildlife. The extensive use of local limestone in the cladding helps neutralize acidic stormwater runoff while referencing Sudbury’s United Nation’s award-winning land reclamation program. Not only does the building itself act as a filter to improve Sudbury’s drinking water supply, the project developed synergies with the hydrology of the site to drastically reduce water use by 72%, integrating the building with the clients’ research of human effects on aquatic ecosystems.

With climate change a focus of the VLWLC’s research, the LEED® Platinum-targeting building was also designed to maximize energy efficiency and to be adaptable to a 2050 climate. Window shading, green roofs, a high-performance thermal envelope, and energy-efficient lighting work act in conjunction with various passive design strategies, such as natural day lighting and ventilation to improve efficiency. Projected to achieve a 65% energy reduction, the project’s mechanical system allows the building to become more efficient over time as Sudbury’s winters become shorter and warmer. Furthermore, by maximizing energy efficiency, the VLWLC is able to significantly reduce its operating costs, allowing the institute to invest more of its funding into research—a primary goal of the project.