The Nicol Building at Carleton University in Ottawa. Courtesy Hariri Pontarini Architects.

Carleton University, Nicol Building



Thornton Tomasetti provided structural engineering services for the Carleton University Nicol Building, formerly known as the Sprott School of Business. The new 115,000-square-foot gateway building will serve as a front door to the university and a place where students, faculty, staff and alumni engage and share ideas. The program includes public assembly areas, food service, lecture theatres, classrooms, a student resource room, collaborative spaces and administrative areas.

A unique feature is the roof cantilever outrigger and hanger system. Two two-meter-deep steel plate girders on the roof cantilever 12 meters and support five storeys of structure beneath it to create an open gathering space on the ground floor. To maintain the structural stability, the mega cantilever plate girders are supported by two pieces of concrete shear walls at the back span.

To counteract the high seismic forces of the Ottawa region, the structural system combines a concrete frame for the first five storeys and structural steel above. To avoid interrupting the column-free space below level five and to be compatible with the architectural plan layouts for the ground floor, the structural design incorporates a mutistorey transfer system. The loads from the steel columns above level five and from some of the concrete columns on level two are transferred on levels five and three respectively. To further reduce the weight of the building, a bubbled-void concrete slab system is introduced to eliminate the heavy, inefficient portions of the slab and to promote sustainability, allowing one kilogram of recycled plastic to replace 100 kilograms of concrete.

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