Summer Sights: Fathom Five Visitor Centre


Fathom Five National Park in Tobermory, Ontario is under water and accessible only to glass bottomed boats and scuba divers with very thick neoprene suits- this ain't Ras Mohammed., so a very small proportion of visitors actually see the park. However it is a beautiful spot and the start of the Bruce Trail and a big tourist attraction. The new Fathom Five Visitor Centre provides an overview of the park's natural history but also is a "showcase of sustainable design strategies and environmental stewardship."


Designed by Andrew Frontini of Shore Tilbe Irwin and Partners, the project has an observation tower and an exhibition building built on a steep, rocky site, but uses the slope to minimize its footprint by exposing the lower level.

It is full of technologies: a computer-operated ventilation system operates motorized awning windows and dormer windows to capture the prevailing breezes, automatically shifting the building between natural ventilation, air conditioning and heating. Different architectural micro-climates are created by the south-facing glazing, but the sophisticated controls and zoning adjusts for this and reduces overall heating.


It would have been expensive and destructive to bring water and sewer to this rocky and steep site, so the building is designed to be self-sufficient. Water is sourced from a local well, collected in a cistern sized for fire-fighting, heated in a solar array, and treated in peat moss eco-flo array to meet "Parks Canada's stringent standards for this sensitive ecosystem."


To top it all off, materials include reclaimed timber decking from a local 19th century mill and local limestone. ::Fathom Five Visitor Centre by [flash warning, excruciatingly slow site] ::Shore Tilbe Irwin and Partners via ::Sustainable Architecture and Building Magazine

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