Hospital for Sick Children Opens New Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning in Toronto

(September 17, 2013)—The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) opened the new Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning today in Toronto. The 750,000 SF, 21-story tower is believed to be the largest health center in the world devoted to children's health research. HDR provided laboratory planning and design services for the new tower; the laboratory spaces make up approximately 70 percent of the building. HDR also provided equipment planning, security, and interior design services. Diamond Schmitt Architects designed the tower building and the main interior spaces.

Inside the $400 million tower, more than 2,000 scientists and staff—previously scattered in six different locations—are conducting state-of-the-art research in disciplines ranging from genetics and brain sciences to genome biology, neurosciences and children's mental health.

"This is a unique facility in that it integrates many different research types (vivarium, fish, imaging, biology, chemistry, robotics, etc.) within the building," said Clare Swanson, principal laboratory planner with HDR. "We'll often design research buildings to include one of these research types, but the sheer volume of labs and the differentiation in research within this building is impressive."

The tower includes sixteen floors of laboratory space with the main research being focused on genomics, cancer research, stem cell research, brain behavior research and organ research. The entire building was designed to enhance collaboration and is divided into six research neighborhoods connected through staircases and shared spaces. In these research neighborhoods, scientists from a variety of disciplines are working side-by-side to accelerate improvements in child health outcomes.

"The goal was to create synergies across diverse disciplines in an effort to create new knowledge and discoveries," added Swanson. "In traditional science buildings, departments are often separated into silos where they each independently conduct research. In this tower, the silos are dissolved as researchers are encouraged to work together to 'cross pollinate' and generate innovative health solutions."

The large laboratories are completely flexible, enabling researchers to move work benches if they choose to work in an open area. Laboratory spaces are also clustered around important shared core facilities housing equipment, further encouraging researchers to work together while reducing duplicate equipment. To put the scale of the laboratories into perspective, it has been calculated that the building houses more than three miles of laboratory bench top.

The tower is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.