NorQuest College – Singhmar Centre for Learning
Transforming campus and the student experience
NorQuest College has been an important post-secondary institution in Edmonton since the 1960s. Their student population is diverse with over 100 languages spoken on campus across dozens of full-time and part-time programs. They needed a space that reflects their inclusive and student-centred philosophy. As the first new building for NorQuest in almost 50 years, Singhmar Centre for Learning is transformational. It gives students a true college experience, and advances NorQuest’s technology and program options. It’s a huge step forward for NorQuest College and a catalyst for growth around their downtown Edmonton campus.
- Edmonton, AB
- NorQuest College
PCL Construction Management Inc.
- DIALOG Services
Planning & Urban Design
The design offers a collegial character and integrates NorQuest’s downtown campus with Capital Boulevard and the surrounding community. The entry location was coordinated with the Capital Boulevard street improvements, aligning the major pedestrian crossing with the doors. The landscape site design provides a warm welcome to the campus and encourages social interaction. The overall landscape architecture approach is to create outdoor places that serve the needs of the campus community.
The two-storey entry lobby welcomes people to campus and connects with NorQuest’s existing Heritage Tower. The 10m cantilevered roof opens the space and draws people towards the building. The spacious corridor allows easy movement between the two buildings, and also connects to the mechanical and electrical building facilities in Heritage Tower for a more energy efficient campus. The head-end systems of Heritage Tower were redesigned to free up heating, cooling, and emergency power capacity to serve the new Learning Centre, saving energy and cost.
The evening sun shining in from the west can produce a large amount of heat within the building. To mitigate this, a dynamic buffer zone is designed on the west side of the building. Fans inside the buffer zone turn on at low and high speeds to exhaust hot air from the space, thus lowering the amount of heat entering classrooms. Motorized dampers open in conjunction with the operation of the fans.
The V-shaped ceiling profile is designed to improve the natural illumination at the floor level by deflecting daylight penetrating through the north and south clerestorey windows down to the floor level. The angle of the V-shape was studied and specifically chosen to maximize this. Using the atrium ceiling as a ‘daylight illuminance reflector’ has influenced designs on other projects as an efficient method to illuminate these types of spaces.
NorQuest College asked the design team to encourage people to make better use of the stairs. The solution was to make the stairs more prominent and create a more engaging experience with a sculptural feature stair as a focal point of the Central Atrium. Visibility and access to daylight helps encourage people to take the stairs. Even the building’s corner stairwells are wide and have windows so people never feel cramped while moving around in the building.
The materials of the building continue the themes of reinterpretation and openness. A light-coloured precast concrete is on the exterior at vertical circulation nodes and the mechanical penthouse to compliment the form and materiality of the existing Heritage Tower. Exposed cast-in-place concrete is found indoors. Clear glazing, anodized metal panels and dark grey zinc panels are used to contrast the heavier precast panels. Warm wood clad elements both outside and inside accentuate key features of the building.
Coloured classroom entry walls, precast concrete benches and locker banks are framed by the exposed concrete columns, and a floating acoustical ceiling. Each level of Singhmar Centre for Learning has its own colour identity, purposefully placed at classroom entrances and throughout student services.