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Paul Raff’s Biosphere Sustainability Centre


On March 6, at York University’s Schulich School
of Business, architect Paul Raff will discuss his ground-breaking,
multi-pronged design strategy for the Biosphere Sustainability
Centre (BSC), a large-scale mixed-use facility in Gananoque,
Ontario. The lecture will take place as part of the GreenEdge
Conference at the Schulich School of Business Auditorium
in Toronto, at 1 p.m. Raff has been selected to speak as part
of the conference’s New Business segment, which will focus
on how new technologies are changing design practices.

Paul Raff Studio has created a world-leading approach to
sustainability in this design to adaptively reuse an 11,500-square-metre brownfield site near the Thousand Islands in Gananoque. The BSC design includes two green roofs with walk-out garden, a walkthrough biowall that cleans and recycles the air, and sculptural sun shades alongside the building. The BSC’s most striking feature is an atmospheric canopy that hovers above the building and
performs multiple functions: it collects sunlight from solar panels;
provides shade; reflects the surrounding landscape; and channels
rainwater for collection at the corner of the building, where it also
transforms into a spectacular icicle sculpture in the winter months.

“The design is unique in that is has a zero-carbon footprint target,
but also in that it visibly demonstrates green architecture,” says
Raff. “It is exemplary of how we’re combining sustainability and
artistry in architecture.” Says Don Ross,
executive director of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, “This project showcases the best of Canada. It will result in significant economic development for Eastern
Ontario by attracting tourists and scholars to a unique
region recognized with three international designations;
UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site,
and National Geographic Geo-Tourism Destination.”

From September 2009, Paul Raff Studio has worked with the
Committee for Sustainable Community Development, which
includes representatives of Parks Canada, the Thousand Islands
Playhouse, and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve – a UNESCO
world heritage site that includes the Thousand Islands. Together,
they coordinated the Centre’s vision, which will ensure that the
building’s design plays a large role in generating positive new
cultural, social, economic and environmental activities, along with
awareness for the entire region.

The design includes exhibition and conference facilities,
artisan studios, market retail and office space. The building’s
programming is integral within its design, which demonstrates to
users and visitors how renewable energy technologies – including
earth, water, solar, wind and biomass – can provide clean heating,
cooling, electricity and waste management. Furthermore, the
centre will serve as an education resource with a positive longterm
impact on planning, living and working in the region.


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