CNL Chalk River Laboratories

sience collaboration centre ad canadian nuclear labs

CNL Chalk River Laboratories

A Resilient Prototype for a Next-Gen Energy Research Campus

In 2017, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories engaged HDR to develop a master plan to help them revitalize their Chalk River Laboratories site, which is approximately 3,700 hectares in size and consists of more than 300 existing buildings. The principles of the master plan promote a more walkable campus, long-term growth and employee safety. With the gradual decommissioning of a 20th-century era infrastructure of nuclear facilities, CNL — with its rich history as a world-renowned science and technology leader — has adopted a resilient architectural outlook for its growing campus.

Following the completion of CNL’s master plan, HDR has remained the master architect as part of an integrated project delivery team for three projects focused on the Entry Precinct and the south half of the Campus Precinct. This series of projects is the largest to be delivered utilizing IPD in Canada. Through programmatically diverse structures open to change and adaptation, this progressive approach to building is based on an incremental and holistic commitment to the "post-resource" era export of clean energy-based initiatives and research.

Through a suite of "kickstart" projects — with the physical and cultural attention to detail often given to singular structures — CNL aims to make a case for a newly bespoke, parallel process within a resilient approach to generational campus transformation. Together, these projects share common attention to innovative construction techniques and details, to the natural setting, and to advanced wood/mass timber construction — honouring the region’s deep logging/lumber history, its economic well-being and its Indigenous territorial roots. 

  • Anchoring the campus' social infrastructure and regional presence, the Science Collaboration Centre is a six-story multi-use building with three flexible, open-plan "studio" spaces atop a lower base that cascades eastward toward the Ottawa River Valley.
  • The Minwamon Building serves as the new public face of CNL that will welcome visitors and staff alike. This facility plays a key support role in enabling CNL to execute its mandate, by providing procurement, warehousing and logistics services across the entire Chalk River site.
  • The Support Facility houses maintenance and manufacturing activities that will enable workflow efficiencies and productivity by consolidating key resources in a centralized location.

The mass timber structure in these buildings will support CNL’s transformation towards a more carbon-literate campus. The buildings are an arrangement of fixed and reconfigurable spaces that adopt flexibility and modular design principles, allowing the facilities to remain relevant for their purpose over the timber's lifetime — attracting talented new researchers to Chalk River, as well as retaining the research and support staff who have been a part of the globally-recognized research work carried out on the campus in recent memory.

sience collaboration centre ad canadian nuclear labs
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories

Chalk River, ON

500,000 sf (9290 m²) across 4 buildings


Popular Choice Winner (2024)
Architecture +Wood, A+ Awards
Ontario Wood Design Award (2020)
Innovation Category
Ontario Wood WORKS!
Green Construction through Wood (2020)
$3.94 Million Grant | Mass timber construction and research
Natural Resources Canada
Finalist (2020)
Architecture +Models & Rendering Category, A+ Awards