Glass Magazine Awards 2015: Redefining What's Possible

Glass Magazine Award winners push the envelope of aesthetics, efficiency and performance

Most Innovative Decorative Glass Project, Exterior

Student Learning Centre at Ryerson University

The eight-story Student Learning Centre at Ryerson University in Toronto, designed by Zeidler Partnership Architects and Snohetta, features a 53,820-square-foot glass façade printed with white geometric patterns. The prominent and innovative decorative glass façade was designed to achieve the aesthetic and performance goals of the architect.

To meet the university’s requirement that its buildings be LEEDcertified, Zeidler Partnership Architects explored new ways to achieve high energy efficiency while maintaining the use of natural light and views that were integral to the design. Combining digital ceramic in-glass printing with a triple-glazed construction and low-emissivity glass coating achieved the required functionality. This included thermal comfort and glare control that is vital for students studying and using computers, bird safety, and sun/ shade control that creates a dynamic experience of the interior as the sun moves across the building, according to project officials.

The combination of technologies enabled glass to be used for 60 percent of the building, significantly outstripping most LEED-certified buildings that are no more than 40 percent glass. LEED Silver certification is pending, according to officials.

The building features more than 3,000 digital ceramic printed glass panels, which were fastened to the aluminum support system with silicon, eliminating protrusions and creating a clean and smooth appearance.

“The digital printed façade had a profound effect on the overall look of the building,” says Mike Smith, senior associate, at Zeidler Partnership Architects. “In addition to enabling the required functional and energy efficiency performance, it created a feeling of one large and unique building, as opposed to the standard stacked floor plates one usually sees.”

The façade was printed by Canadian glass fabricator Prelco Group, using a Digital Ceramic In-Glass Printer from Dip-Tech. Prelco was an instrumental partner in solving one of the key challenges of the project— maintaining the integrity of the design while keeping the project affordable, according to officials.

“It was a unique project from the outset in part because Ryerson University was seeking an innovative design, but the contract price had been capped in the tender,” says Jens Harnest, an agent at Prelco.

To meet these challenges, Prelco worked closely with the building envelope contractor, Flynn. By modifying the shape of the panels to ease the difficulties in installation, they dramatically reduced the installation complexity and cost, according to project officials. Digital printing successfully aided in preserving the integrity of the design despite the changes to the glass.

“[Creating] an innovative design, [achieving] all performance criteria and [meeting] a finite budget are not usually concepts that go hand in hand,” Harnest says. “I believe this project shows what can be done when a group—architects, general contractor, glazing contractor and glass manufacturer— agree to the end result, but are prepared to listen to [the] expertise [of one another] and work together to get there. Digital printing allowed us to do our part, within the budget.”

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Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at