Harmony Commons at the University of Toronto Scarborough

Client University of Toronto Scarborough, Fengate Asset Management
Location Toronto, Canada
Status Completed in 2023

The new Student Residences at the University of Toronto Scarborough reflects the school's mission of environmental responsibility through Passive House design.

Harmony Commons at the University of Toronto Scarborough is at the centerpiece of the northward expansion of the University’s 300-acre campus. Designed to house 718 first-year students, along with supportive resident advisors, the building also serves the wider campus with its first full dining hall as well as central offices that serve student life and campus security.

Taking advantage of the natural surroundings, the building has been sited and shaped so that as many occupied spaces as possible feel a connection to the outside. A preserved, historic grove of trees to the north becomes a focal point for many of the units, common rooms, and the large dining hall at ground level.

The new student residences are Passive House certified, making Harmony Commons the largest Passive House project in Canada and the largest Passive House dormitory in the world.

The new Student Residences are Passive House certified, the most rigorous sustainability standard in the world.

This method of construction can reduce energy use by 70-80% while improving indoor daily air quality and thermal comfort. The high-performance building envelope incorporates a vertically patterned aluminum cladding system, which helps to diffuse the repetition of the windows. The earthy tones were inspired by and are evocative of Scarborough’s regional geography.

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Double-story layering reduces the apparent verticality of the building, enhancing its “fit” into the low-rise neighborhood, and creating an informal domestic feel.

The window size was selected in order to maximize exposure to natural light, while minimizing potential heat loss and maintaining functional operation without sacrificing the layout of the internal spaces.

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Dormitory rooms are arranged in clusters or “communities,” each having their own identity, and are all designed to create a strong sense of home.

The sculpted nature of the building’s form was driven by this concept of student communities. Each community is afforded private study spaces, gathering spaces and a common kitchen for planned or impromptu interactions.

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Design Architect Interior Designer (dormitory rooms and common spaces)

Project Team

Blake Middleton, Deborah Moelis, Stephen Sheng, Louis Koehl, Katie Donahue, Kentaro Tsuboi, Akash Godbole, Joy Liu, Kai-Yu Yu

Design Partner(s)

Executive Architect, Interior Designer (office areas) - CORE Architects Architect of Record - Arcadis IBI Group Interior Designer (dining and event spaces) - PARTISANS


Passive House

Photography and Visualizations

Ryan Fung Photography CORE Architects Shimahara