One York exterior

Toronto’s One York connects patrons easily to the city outside its doors. [Photo: Doublespace Architectural Photography]

HEIGHT: 569 feet
ARCHITECT: Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Company Architects
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: EllisDon Construction Services Inc.
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Stephenson Engineering Ltd.

The vision for One York, a new multipurpose building in the center of Toronto’s increasingly dense downtown, was ambitious from the start. But all expectations were shattered when the property achieved LEED Platinum certification with 89 points—the highest score in the city’s history.

The building was completed in late 2016 with a mandate to accommodate a wide range of needs across more than two million square feet of space spread across a four-story podium and three towers. Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plans, the owners of the building, now occupy much of One York’s office space; Sun Life Financial is another primary tenant. The building has hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail and restaurant space over a three-story street-facing podium occupied by a range of outlets. The building also has more than 1,000 residential units, with amenities like a large fitness center.

“I think what’s most interesting is how each of the building’s separate uses combine into a really great mixed-use project,” says Dermot Sweeny, founding principal of Sweeny&Co Architects. Sweeny&Co led a team that also included Green Reason, a sustainable building consulting and project management company that served as LEED consultant to One York.

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One York at dusk

[Photo: Doublespace Architectural Photography]

Significant Savings

Rainwater is collected from large cisterns as well as from nearby towers and is used in both drip irrigation and also the building’s toilets and urinals. Together, these modifications account for an annual savings of more than five million liters of potable water.

Energy savings are also significant. In addition to multiple occupancy and daylight sensors, the building also makes use of LEDs in exterior lighting. And the roof is also host to a photovoltaic solar panel network, which generates a significant amount of energy.

Sweeny&Co Architects One York

[Photo: Courtesy of Sweeny&Co Architects]

Innovative Design

Sweeny says one of the building’s most clever features is an under-floor air conditioning system. “This system means you can take air anywhere through the floors, and that translates to a tremendous ability to make everybody comfortable,” he says. “Anywhere you punch a hole in the floor, the air comes out, and all offices have control over their own fresh air supply and temperatures.”

That air supply is also significantly warmer than it would be in a typical building—up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit when distributed, versus the standard 55 degrees Fahrenheit. “That gives us a longer shoulder system in terms of being able to use outside air to cool the building, going into May and June, and we can also use it earlier in the fall,” Sweeny says. “And the air coming out of the floor is also much more pleasant than having 55-degree air blowing on you.”

And there were other sustainable modifications, big and small, that helped One York achieve its groundbreaking LEED certification. The building is well connected to Toronto’s mass transit system, but cycling is also supported with the installation of more than 300 bike racks as well as shower facilities. There are preferred parking spaces for carpool vehicles, plus electric vehicle charging stations. One York also made use of conscientious products during construction and design, including 15% recycled content and 35% regional content, and low-emitting paints, adhesives and flooring.