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PanAm aquatics centre’s ‘dynamic silhouette’ to highlight transparency

PanAm PAAC Exterior. Credit: NORR Ltd.

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When working on the bid for the Pan American Aquatics Centre, lead designer David Clusiau wanted the building to encapsulate the landscape of southern Ontario – glacial and sloping.

But several other factors – price, quality, value for longevity and energy requirements – also had to be evaluated alongside the actual design. The bidding team's persistence paid off: In three years, their vision will become a reality.

PCL Constructors Canada and NORR Ltd., working under the team name PCL Aquatics Centre 2012, have signed a contract to design, build and finance the PanAm aquatics centre and field house complex, which is to be built on a former landfill next to the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus at a price of $158.8-million.

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PCL was one of three companies shortlisted by the province last June to lead the project, one of five new sporting venues under construction for when Toronto and the GTA welcome 10,000 athletes from 41 countries to the Games. The facility is being touted as a centrepiece of the event.

Mr. Clusiau, NORR's senior principal architectural design, said the complex will encompass three masses connected by a main corridor, each with contrasting sloping roofs. He said the building's "dynamic silhouette"was designed with transparency in mind, as well as its life for the local community well after the Games have finished.

"In essence to encourage people to become engaged and try things out that they might have seen as they walk through," he said. "There's a significant amount of openness and ability to see all the pools and other activities."

The 300,000-square-foot complex will play host to swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and fencing events, as well as part of the pentathlon. Plans for the venue include an aquatics centre with two Olympic-sized pools and a dive tank, as well as a field house containing three gymnasiums, a 200-metre indoor running track, racquet courts and a fitness centre.

Bidders were also challenged to design the building to the city's Toronto Green Standard guidelines for new buildings and to achieve LEED Silver certification. The third-party certification process uses a points system to rate a building's design, construction and performance across five major categories: Sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.

"We try to overachieve on the initial design in terms of where it would be within the points system," said PCL President and COO Brad Nelson. "You want to get close to a Gold certification knowing along the way you could drop a few points. As you put the pieces of the building together, some points disappear."

The construction company has offices across Canada, and worked on Toronto's bid for the 2008 Olympics. PCL has worked on a number of high-profile construction projects including the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort and the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

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NORR designed the Allstream Centre at Exhibition Place and the GM Centre in Oshawa, and is currently working on Toronto's Union Station renovation.

The cost of the project is being split between the University of Toronto, the City of Toronto and the federal government. In 2010, University of Toronto Scarborough students voted to chip in $30-million toward the facility as part of a 25-year financial levy.

The centre, which will be jointly owned by the university and the city, will become home to the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario after the Games and will house recreation space for U of T students and area residents.

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