Building Design Overview

The CIRS Building Manual contains descriptions of the design and construction of the building, including the sustainable systems and documented lessons learned.

The different chapters relating to the setup and overview of the Manual are listed below.


Executive Summary:

The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) doubles as both an internationally recognized research institution and the name of the regenerative-designed “living laboratory” building the institution is housed in. The intention is to accelerate the adoption of sustainable building technologies and sustainable urban development practices in society.

View the Executive Summary Chapter of the manual for more details.

Project Background & Overview:

The CIRS building acts as a “living laboratory” that allows research and investigation of current and future sustainable building technologies, as well as the impact of inhabitant’s actions and engagement with the systems. The research is grounded on effective policies, civic engagement, and group decision-making combined with advanced visualization and simulation technologies capable of communicating data through various means.

View the Project Background & Overview Chapter of the manual for more details.

Vision and Leadership:

The CIRS vision is to be the greenest building in North America and an internationally recognized leader in accelerating the adoption of sustainable building and urban development practices. The vision was protected and nurtured by a core team ( Dr. John Robinson, project sponsor, Peter Busby, design director, and Alberto Cayuela, project manager) whose passion and depth of expertise inspired innovation and advanced the design concept and philosophy.

View the Vision & Leadership Chapter of the manual for more details.


Partnerships are a key component of the basic vision of CIRS. CIRS was designed to be a best practice project capable of replication, which is only possible through the involvement of industry and their efforts to create sustainable products and manufacturing processes. Additionally, the partnerships extend the network of project stakeholders into non-academic fields and enhance both the project creditability and financial viability.

View the Partnerships Chapter of the manual for more details.


CIRS consolidates the experiences of the different academic, administrative, and industry partners to bridge the gap between current conditions and up-to-date sustainable design capabilities and technologies. To that end, research groups at CIRS focus on (i) sustainable building design and operation, (ii) the tools for modelling, visualization, and community engagement, and (iii) policy analysis and strategies.

View the Research Chapter of the manual for more details.

Goals & Targets:

Accordingly, the goals and targets of the CIRS project were created to uphold the project vision and accelerate the adoption of sustainable building and development practices. Three goal categories were defined when considering the building design: (i) have a net positive impact on the ecosystem health, (ii) provide a socially and bio-physically healthy environment for human inhabitation, and (iii) integrate the performance of the building with the building inhabitants.

View the Goals & Targets Chapter of the manual for more details.

Rating Systems:

CIRS is targeting certification through both the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Canada New Construction 1.0 and Living Building Challenge 1.3 rating systems. LEED certification had been an early objective for the project, but the goals and targets went beyond the highest level of the performance required to achieve the highest level of LEED certification. The leadership and design teams adopted the certification of CIRS through the Living Building Challenge as a project target, which at that time, no building had previously received the certification.

View the Rating Systems Chapter of the manual for more details.

Building Design:

Many drivers were considered in the design of CIRS, including site conditions, microclimate, surrounding context, accessibility of the site and campus, building program, inhabitant comfort, circulation, and construction. The building design had to be replicable and within an acceptable construction cost range. Additionally, the design had to make efficient use of the space on site and had to be flexible to accommodate different tenants, inhabitants, and users throughout its life.

View the Building Design Chapter of the manual for more details.

Design Process:

The design process for CIRS followed the traditional organization of an architectural project (schematic design, design development, construction documentation). The project team used an integrated design process (IDP) facilitated by building information modelling (BIM) to aid in the development of the design and in soliciting input from a wide range of project stakeholders and experts. The heart of the design process was a series of sustainability charettes that addressed both the high level conceptual design and the technical issues of the project.

View the Design Process Chapter of the manual for more details.