Birds eye view of Centennial College

Canada’s First Zero-Carbon, Mass Timber Institution

Centennial’s A Block Expansion will be the country’s first zero-carbon, mass timber facility. The design of the building draws heavily on Indigenous principles and embodies the concept of two-eyed seeing through inclusive, flexible learning environments, gathering spaces and more.


Centennial College


Scarborough, Ontario

Project Scale

$105 Million

Sustainability, Truth and Reconciliation

Located in Scarborough, Ontario, Centennial College (Centennial) has five campus locations, each specializing in unique areas of study. With student enrollment numbers growing, Centennial needed to expand the capacity of its Progress Campus. The campus itself resides on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. In acknowledgement of the Indigenous land the campus stands on and the college’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, Centennial wanted to build a sustainable gateway structure that embodies Indigenous inclusivity and culture.

The new grand, state-of-the-art structure will include 1,057 individual pieces of locally sourced, cross- and glue-laminated Canadian timber. The use of timber is a conscious and sustainable decision, as the facility’s design will also incorporate WELL, LEED, and Net Zero Carbon elements to ensure that the building’s operations produce no emissions.

The six-storey, 150,000 sq. ft. facility’s design stems from the Mi’kmaq concept of ‘two-eyed seeing’ and draws heavily from Indigenous principles and nature. The expansion will incorporate gathering spaces for Traditionalists, Elders, citizens of Indigenous Nations and members of indigenous communities. It will also include indoor and outdoor learning spaces, common areas, office space, and areas suitable for smudging ceremonies. Its flexible learning spaces contribute to the concept of inclusivity as students, staff and visitors will be able to adjust the orientation of the building’s physical elements to be more conductive of Indigenous teaching and learning models.

Poetic inspiration

Building off the rapport developed over the course of Centennial’s Downsview Campus project, the college approached our team in the early planning stages with its vision for this new building. Based on a space assessment and overall Campus Master Plan, our team had several conversations and consultations with Centennial to establish a clear vision for its A Block Expansion.

The college subsequently hired us to provide comprehensive project management services through all phases of work, from the project definition and assessment of the most appropriate construction methodology, through to procurement of the bridging consultants, design-build team and beyond. With Truth and Reconciliation at the forefront of this project, we met with Chief R. Stacey Laforme, of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, who recommended Living in the Tall Grass: Poems of Reconciliation – a book of poems he’d written and published. The book motivated the project team and truly influenced the concept, design and procurement strategies of this project.

Recognizing that we couldn’t convey the book’s messages in a Request for Proposal (RFP), our team purchased a copy for each pre-qualified design-build proponent and recommended they read it to inspire their designs and overall submissions. This unique approach allowed us to recommend a team that understood the importance of the project and aligned with its vision. During presentations, some team members expressed the emotional impact of the Chief’s words and how certain lines translated into the proposed design.

Centennial awarded the project’s design contract in January 2020, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Canada. We then leveraged our working relationships to support the college amidst health and safety, supply chain and other unprecedented project challenges. These strong connections allowed us to successfully re-evaluate our approach and work with the design-build team to adjust the project’s implementation plan, and develop an execution strategy that decreased COVID-19 cost and schedule impacts for the college.

Raising the bar

The A Block Expansion is on schedule to open to students, staff and campus visitors in Fall 2023, and is on track to receive WELL, LEED and Zero Carbon certifications. The project is likely to raise the bar and inspire the inclusion of innovative, sustainable elements in future higher education projects across the country. We are honoured to be a part of such an adaptable, collaborative team and look forward to celebrating A Block’s unveiling alongside Centennial next year.

A circle room with people sitting in chairs
A wide floor with many students chatting and studying
Exterior view of a building