Nature and high-tech coexist in UQTR’s new manufacturing hub

The new Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières (UQTR) building is a centre devoted to digital manufacturing, embracing the wooded settings to create a bright, inspiring exterior and interior space to foster the development of new ideas.

The Centre national intégré du manufacturier intelligent (CNIMI—integrated national center for intelligent manufacturing), serves as an expansion of the UQTR Drummondville campus. The CNIMI building spans across 6,000 m2 (64,583 sf). It connects through a tunnel to a neighbouring building on a wooded site on the UQTR Drummondville campus.

Inaugurated in 2022, the CNIMI now accommodates students from two institutions: Cégep de Drummondville and UQTR. It also supports manufacturing companies wanting to make the digital shift by integrating new technologies into their production, such as industrial robots.

Designed by NFOE Inc., the final concept, both simple and thoughtfully planned, combines the centre’s innovative and technological vision with the wooded environment that surrounds it—a feat echoed in the building in multiple ways.

A large opening spans the building from one facade to the other, allowing natural light to reach where the public spaces and double-height plant laboratory are located. CNIMI’s side facades are covered with mirror-polished aluminum, reflecting the trees, and visually enhancing the density of the wooded area. At both ends of the central space, glass facades open onto the neighbouring forest, which becomes an integral part of the interior decor.

Relatively square in shape, the new pavilion offers a simple, compact solution that maximizes floor space and enhances the surrounding woodland. To reinforce the notion of a campus, the facade of the new building includes a concave angle that leads toward the entrance.

The laboratory plant is located at the heart of the building, in the large through passage. It is flanked on one side by classrooms, and on the other by offices. This layout creates distinct sections within the space and ensures that classrooms and offices are soundproofed against noise from industrial equipment, while preserving visual transparency between the factory and the rest of the building. The space enjoys a high degree of layout flexibility due to a system of channels in the concrete floor slab that contains distribution of power and telecom cables, as well as compressed air ducts.

For a seamless effect between interior and exterior, a wooden volume appears to float in the double-height houses, the technicians’ area, and the creative carrefour. Inside, white dominates all surfaces, except for the windows and curtain walls, which are black to avoid a strong backlighting effect and to accentuate the surrounding woodland.

Numerous measures have been planned from the implementation stage to ensure energy efficiency. The building’s compact shape limits the exterior walls and roofs areas, reducing the thermal energy demand intensity (TEDI). The construction materials chosen are adapted, resistant, sustainable, and regional.

Energy efficiency is ensured by a combination of the high-performance building envelope, the bioclimatic design of the fenestration, and heat recovery from exhaust air. Finally, the building allows for responsible waste management, with areas dedicated to waste sorting, recycling, and composting.

The following served as collaborators on the project: Planigram as project manager; civil and structural engineer, Pluritec; mechanical and electrical engineer, Stantec; and contractor, Beauvais-Verre.

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