Diamond & Schmitt Architects’ one-of-a-kind automotive centre

The Automotive Centre of Excellence is by any measure a unique building – perhaps one-of- a-kind in Canada. It was inaugurated this week at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa.

The new facility designed by Diamond and Schmitt Architects is a rare combination of industrial research and educational programming co-existing under the same roof. The presence of a large and powerful Aerodynamic and Climatic Wind Tunnel lends further distinction to this building-as-machine that serves as a testing ground for product innovation for everything from cars to computers.

“There were many design challenges to make this building function as a multi-purpose facility, not least of which was integrating the monumental Climatic Wind Tunnel into the structure and building systems at ACE”, says project architect Michael Szabo. This technical feat extended throughout the design and construction process in collaboration with Aiolos, the wind tunnel designer.

As part of the UOIT campus, ACE functions both as a centre for proprietary research as well as an active part of university life. “Balancing the need for a secure and confidential environment and the aspiration for an open and transparent engagement of the university was fundamental to the success of the project,” says Donald Schmitt, a principal with the design firm. Public spaces and student areas are located in close proximity to the restricted research areas within the building.

The 16,632-square-metre (179,000 square foot) ACE houses the Collaborative Research Facility (CRF) with an array of testing facilities including the wind tunnel, Soak Rooms where vehicles are exposed to extreme temperatures and other climatic variables, a four-post shaker and Mast Test Cells, a semi-anechoic room to test acoustical properties of components.

The Integrated Research and Testing Facility (IRTF) is a five-storey post-graduate academic research centre that includes a large industrial lab with high bays, engineering support space, concept labs, welding and grinding shops along with two floors of offices, conference rooms and common areas dedicated for research, education and training. The adjoining Ontario Power Generation Engineering building is an earlier design by Diamond and Schmitt and provides 3,716-square metres (40,000 square feet) of UOIT undergraduate learning space with state-of-the-art labs and academic offices.

“These three different components – undergraduate, post-graduate and commercial-sector research – are at the heart of the ACE complex as a multi-disciplinary campus program,” Schmitt adds.

ACE blends in with the look and scale of the campus with masonry and metal panels on the IRTF that resemble other campus buildings, also designed by Diamond and Schmitt. The student area at ACE overlooks a storm water management pond and the raised wind tunnel extends out over the water, allowing for a pedestrian pathway around the perimeter of the core facility.

The planning, design and engineering of the entire UOIT campus exhibits a profound commitment to sustainability, which garnered recognition as the “greenest” campus in North America when it opened in 2003. The Commons quadrangle, besides covering the nation’s largest borehole thermal energy storage system, provides a focal meeting point for the campus at a very human scale. It is defined and reinforced by the robust brick architecture of the modular teaching buildings, punctuated by the more expressive screened and glass-fronted library wing and framed by a colonnade, all overlaid by a comprehensive, sustainable landscape strategy culminating in a protected wetland and the adjacent ravine.


The Wind tunnel component of the ACE building is a three-storey structure. Two of the three stories are high bay spaces that include long spans up to 17.5m in order to accommodate the bulk of the wind tunnel circuit. Lateral stability of the structure is provided by a combination of diagonal steel bracing and cast in place concrete shear walls. The structure supports many individual pieces of equipment and forms part of the wind tunnel facility.


•The fan weighs 60,000 pounds (27,270 kg.) and is powered by a 3000 horse power motor which can produce wind speeds from 2km/hr to 240 km/hr. Climatic conditions can vary from 60 degrees C with 95 percent humidity to -40 degrees C, including snow, rain and hail

•  Wide nozzle size (7 to 9.3 m2 nominal); maximum variable nozzle size (up to 14.5m2)

  • Flow conditioning and variable nozzle aerodynamic design to provide exceptionally high flow quality for advanced thermodynamic testing with provision for improved flow quality commensurate with aerodynamic testing
  • Circuit acoustic treatment sufficient to provide low background noise level (71dBA at 50 km/h) to permit detection of vehicle drive away anomalies such as misfires, transmission hesitation etc.
  • Long test chamber to enable climatic testing of trucks and buses Unique turntable incorporating a chassis dynamometer with four independently powered rolls, to provide climatic testing at yaw angles and enable long wheelbase Class 8 truck testing
  • Total weight of steel used in the fabrication of the air circuit steel shell and floor assemblies is approx. 800,000 lb (364,000 kg). Total weight of the fan assembly is approx. 185,000 lb (84,000 kg).


•4 levels of open concept research labs with robust mechanical and electrical services designed to accommodate a wide range of research and development needs for both faculty and commercial tenants

•Modular researcher offices

•Conference rooms

•Student and staff lounge areas at all levels

Diamond and Schmitt Architects was commissioned to design and plan all new academic buildings for the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. To allow for changing program needs, academic buildings and the library surrounding the landscaped quadrangle feature a flexible design. The next building to open at this fast-growing post-secondary institution with more than 6,500 students is the Energy Research Centre, later this summer.

Diamond and Schmitt Architects (www.dsai.ca) is a leading Canadian full-service architectural practice. The firm is recognized for excellence in the design of award-winning academic research buildings, commercial, residential and health care institutions and performing arts centres. Current projects include the Faculty of Law at UBC in Vancouver, the St. Catharines Centre for the Performing Arts and Bridgepoint Hospital in Toronto.