WZMH Architects conducts innovative design research initiatives that we believe will benefit the practice of architecture and improve our built environment. Often these initiatives evolve in collaboration with industry partners and, when viable, are realized in built form. Recently, we completed studies on prefabrication in the Canadian construction industry, which led to our design of a modular site construction office complex for a major hospital, currently under construction.
Product Development Case Study
For a recent project, WZMH developed a concept for a unique undulating ceiling comprised of a series of vertical planes or “fins.” Located in a highly public area, the fins needed to be visually substantial yet light weight, as well as durable and easy to clean. We explored prefabrication to make the units easy to construct and install, and to be cost-effective. WZMH worked with product manufacturers to create a series of prototypes in order to evaluate a variety of materials and assemblies in meeting these criteria.
WZMH is researching prefabrication concepts for both residential and commercial buildings with materials and systems already used for many years in construction. We are currently developing concepts for washroom and kitchen components within hi-rise residential suites. Our vision for the use of an Intelligent Structural Panel (ISP) in new construction has met with enthusiasm by leaders in the industry. The ISP includes a sandwich plate system that can be used for floors and walls in lieu of conventional structural elements such as reinforced concrete or steel decking —but with the added benefit of containing the building’s “intelligent infrastructure.” Components, such as mechanical or electrical, that would be traditionally installed after the structure is in place are now part of the ISP. The panel is fabricated off-site with skilled labour, installed on site with minimal labour, and is 100% complete once “plugged” in.
At WZMH we are convinced that prefabrication is the future of construction in Canada —built in controlled environments, prefabricated building components yield benefits such as precision and productivity gains, life-cycle and waste reduction, reduced costs, and schedule savings. Our designs for the conversion of shipping containers into office and retail units have already been successfully built and are in use for several clients in Southern Ontario. A modular office building at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus (UTM) will be a demonstration of the potential to achieve design excellence with prefabrication.