Moriyama Teshima Architects (MTA) are deeply committed to environmental responsibility and sustainability in the built environment and are a leader in the ﬁeld. Their integrated approach to sustainability in the overall improvement of a building’s performance is a holistic one, utilizing best practices with the goal of signiﬁcantly reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions to achieve as close to net-zero as possible.
Raymond Moriyama founded MTA in 1958 with the health and wellbeing of our planet as a core principle. The firm’s central values of generative, generous, and regenerative design are founded in that ideology and drives them to improve the ways of designing and building with the planet in mind. MTA makes positive changes legible, improving the daily lives of those who experience their designs – inspiring awareness and ultimately, change. They believe that healthy communities require inspiring public spaces and experiences, designing places with both agency and responsibility to practice and explore the lowest carbon solutions. MTA seeks to foster resilience, both environmental and cultural, in every project by developing unique, contextually appropriate solutions.
With mass timber construction still in its infancy in Canada, MTA is on the brink of completing Limberlost Place for George Brown College (joint venture with Acton Ostry Architects) which is poised to be the first tall, assembly occupancy, mass-timber building in the world. The building is also net-zero carbon emissions and through rigourous proofs and research will demonstrate the successful use of an innovative, cost-effective, exposed wood structure for an institutional application. The open-sourced research executed for this project has already been shared globally and has resulted in new innovation to further advance the use of mass-timber in larger scale buildings. This landmark project, which has used sustainably harvested black spruce from regulated Canadian forests in Quebec, will open doors to the use of this rapidly renewable resource in public assembly buildings while shining an accountable spotlight on sustainable forest stewardship.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation Multi-Tenant Complex (OSSTF) is a 3-storey, mass timber headquarters building. OSSTF also restores the adjacent ravine by installing a significant stormwater run off pathway to mitigate erosion and re-introduces original planting species. The innovation and principles from this project and Limberlost Place were tested in an application that was financially viable and fully future-proofed for long-term private investment.
MTA have been trailblazers in Toronto, designing to Tier 3 and Tier 4 of the city’s Green Building Standards – the city’s step program towards 2030 targets – achieving and, in the case of Limberlost Place, surpassing the requirements in 2018.
The integration of sustainable innovation and cultural identity is exemplified in MTA's project at Algoma University, Makwa Waakaa’igan Indigenous Centre of Cultural Excellence (with Smoke Architecture). The building is designed with an expressive mass timber structure in the public spaces, evoking the lacings of traditional artifacts. Makwa Waakaa'igan is designed for a fully integrated riparian landscape that establishes a dry meadow, wetland, and rejuvenates a forest slowly restoring Indigenous species and managing stormwater with original habitat.
Adaptive reuse represents an inherently sustainable approach by preserving the embodied carbon of existing materials, and accounts for a large portion of the firm’s portfolio. Many of MTA’s projects involve the assessment, renovation, and adaptive reuse of buildings to bring existing facilities into the 21st century. They have carefully integrated new structural, technical, and functional updates into the fabric of century-old designated heritage buildings, as well as modern buildings from the 1950s through the early 1990s. Examples include the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, built in 1890 and now converted into a classroom facility for Humber College, the Goldring Student Centre, a renovation and expansion of the historic Wymilwood building at the University of Toronto, and the 1874 Old Stamford Town Hall in Niagara Falls, now the Niagara Falls History Museum.
Advancing Sustainability Standards
MTA led the consultant team that developed the Version 3 update to Waterfront Toronto’s Green Building Requirements (GBRs). The GBRs form part of a larger vision to build inclusive, climate positive, urban communities that lead the city on the path to decarbonization. They include targets to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption, but also address areas of water conservation and quality, transportation, and ecology. Beyond these targets, MTA brought a social perspective, including equity and human health. The team evaluated existing policies and standards including LEED v4, the Living Building Challenge, the Zero Carbon Building Standard, and Passive House. The GBRs align with the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) and take into consideration a zero-emissions built environment.
Sustainable Design Leadership
The breadth and calibre of MTA’s work has positioned their firm as industry leaders in passive principled sustainable design, decarbonization of buildings, and mass timber innovation and technology, allowing them to continue taking on opportunities to further revolutionize the design and construction industry towards decarbonization. MTA’s successful work with mass timber from authorities, to proof-of-concept design-assist collaboration with fabricators has led to advancements in the industry and has removed barriers for other projects looking to employ mass timber construction.
The team at MTA shares knowledge globally, actively lecturing and participating in programs such as the Mass Timber Seminar, The Timber Professionals Meeting Point, the World Architecture Festival, Canadian Wood Council seminars, the RAIC’s and FPAC Thriving Forests outreach initiatives, and the Society of College and University Professionals Conferences, to name but a few. Practice leaders are instructors in low-carbon design studios at the graduate student level, participate in academic research projects using active projects and open the doors to the job sites in a regular series of tours inviting other practitioners, contractors, students, and government officials through these innovative buildings. MTA does so because they believe that the journey is one not taken alone; this is a collective effort to change design and construction culture.
MTA seeks out means of expanding both their own, and society’s, understanding of the priority of low carbon construction. They aspire to continue finding novel and increasingly more successful ways of implementing sustainable building practices to the Canadian architectural landscape.