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McIntosh Perry

McIntosh Perry Works with Team Ontario to Design International Solar Decathlon Entry

Team Ontario recently competed in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in October 2013 - McIntosh Perry kept a close eye on the results. That’s because the firm recently helped Team Ontario design a portion of its entry for the prestigious competition. Team Ontario is comprised of students from Algonquin College Perth Campus, Carleton University and Queens University. Tasked with creating an ecological home for the elite international competition and setting the standard for sustainable living, McIntosh Perry was brought on board to design and review a timber structure to support the team’s solar panels for its home.

Mohamad Zeitoun, a structural engineer at McIntosh Perry, said it was the first time the firm had undertaken such a project. He said although McIntosh Perry has previously completed numerous timber structures, this was the inaugural time for this specific type. “This was the first one we designed where the timber frame itself was designed to be completely self-supporting for seismic loads in Ontario and California.” he said.

The structure was involved in competition this fall when the U.S. Department of Energy hosts 19 post-secondary teams in Irvine, California. According to Team Ontario’s website, the event sees teams compete from all reaches of the globe, striving to have the best design, build and operation of solar-powered houses that are cost-effective,energy-efficient and attractive. The end goal of the competition is demonstrating to the public that net-zero, solar homes are feasible, affordable and desirable – while also developing the next generation of building professionals.

That’s where McIntosh Perry comes in. The multi-disciplinary engineering and related professional services firm worked with students on Team Ontario in early February to design and review the timber structure supporting the team’s solar panels. Students from the Algonquin College Advanced Housing Construction Program are building it, but McIntosh Perry had numerous, specialized aspects to consider when designing the structure to hold the panels.

“The timber-frame structure is completely self-supporting,” said Zeitoun. “That was a unique aspect to this project - these timber structures are usually restrained laterally with shear walls or other structures, but it had to be self-supporting.” To that end, the MP team came up with the idea of using fasteners – and then hiding them in the timber frame for aesthetic purposes.

Another aspect the McIntosh Perry team considered was making the structure easy to assemble, take down and re-assemble again. The Algonquin College Advanced Housing Construction students are building what McIntosh Perry designed, then dismantling it, building it again in California, deconstructing it again and moving it back to Ontario.

“The structure had to be designed in such a way that it could be built and disassembled numerous times,” Zeitoun said, noting the connections had to be structured accordingly, to allow for rapid assembly and take down.

In addition, the structure had to adhere to the building code in Irvine, California, where the competition is being staged, as well as the Ontario building code. Once the competition is over, the structure is being brought back to this province and re-built for use here. Members of the structural engineering team at McIntosh Perry put their heads together to get the project done – under serious time constraints. The turn-around time on the project from initial consultation to completion was only one week.

Key Team members from McIntosh Perry included Scott Shillinglaw, Mohamad Zeitoun and David Whynot.

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The timber-frame structure is completely self-supporting. That was a unique aspect to this project...