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Located in the community of Athabasca, Alberta, the Athabasca University campus is a unique post-secondary institution, offering primarily distant-learning education and some specialized on-campus opportunities for their inclusive and close-knit community. The university was in need of a space in which to house their University Collections, all of their Academic Centres, and spaces for in-person meetings and collaborations.


To create an environment that is welcoming, flexible, and modern is the principal intention for the design of the University’s new Academic Research Centre. The building merges contemporary learning practices and technological innovation with the warmth and resiliency of the surrounding community and its natural landscape. As the university serves as a beacon for future generations of innovators and leaders, so will the building herald in a new frontier of sustainability and design. 


The interior space is bright, open, and well-proportioned. With clerestories and high windows covering nearly 50% of the exterior walls, the building takes full advantage of the natural daylight and the site’s beautiful views. The windows are operable, allowing the circulation of fresh air throughout the building. The wood accents and the spruce roof structure give the space a sense of comfort and authenticity, while paying homage to the local wood-based economy. 


The Research Centre stands at the forefront of sustainable design. LEED® Gold certified, the building envelope and HVAC systems are highly tuned to reduce the size of heating and cooling plants in the building. A high-performance glazed curtainwall system more than doubles the insulating value of the exterior wall over conventional glazing systems. The building’s roof was constructed using an innovative decking system with locally-sourced lumber, reducing the total carbon footprint of the structure of the building. This system was later refined by the fabrication firm and has since become a standard product in floor and roof decking applications across western Canada and beyond.

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