In today’s increasingly competitive job market, some have argued for a return to vocational training. By the end of the last century, these programs were often thought of as an educational dead end, but, given the declining return on investment associated with a standard university education, many schools are now ramping up trade programs. One of these is Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario. Following a mandate to focus on the development and growth of specialized construction training, the school opened the new 87,000-square-foot Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre (KTTC) in September 2014 at a cost of $42 million.

Located on the main campus, the new facility replaces an outdated industrial building on a remote satellite site. With a large portfolio of educational, sports, and recreational facilities, Perkins+Will Canada was a natural choice to architecturally redefine a new kind of skilled-trades education. Flooded with daylight and featuring generously scaled, flexible, and open spaces, the KTTC welcomes students who can explore a range of programs including carpentry, electrical, plumbing, welding, heating, and refrigeration.

The timing of the KTTC project neatly dovetailed with the development of a new master plan of the campus, ensuring a well-considered siting strategy. From a choice of several locations, Perkins+Will selected one next to the student commons, creating a new gateway to the campus in the process. According to design principal Duff Balmer, “Our decision was driven by the sloping topography and woodlot edge; we wanted to integrate building and landscape as best we could, much in the same way that Ron Thom did with the original campus building in the 1970s.”

Referencing its industrial lineage, the building’s neutrally toned material palette of Cor-Ten steel, concrete, and wood merges seamlessly with its natural and built context. Richly hued cedar sheathes the soffit of the extensive cantilevered roof in the entry plaza. The amply glazed building includes skylights and clerestory windows, bringing abundant light to the interior spaces.

In plan, the building is comprised of two superimposed orthogonal shedlike volumes that nestle into the slope. Academic and administrative functions are located on the upper level, while the lower level accommodates utilitarian workshop spaces. Direct access to loading and staging areas was an important consideration, as was the provision of an adjacent courtyard carved into the landscape that extends project space to the outdoors, maximizing the enjoyment of daylight and fresh air.

An enormous warehouse-like “learning factory” contains a four-story “teaching cube” of open platforms, a unique feature that simulates a real-world, multilevel construction site in which various trades work together collaboratively. This interdisciplinary approach enables students to prepare for the complex building sites they may experience after graduation.

The architects have made visibility a priority: views from the common area on the upper level overlook the busy hive of activity in the learning factory, enabling “theoretical and applied teaching to work in tandem,” according to Balmer. And by drawing students from sequestered classrooms to Wi-Fi–enabled common spaces, the design fosters social interaction and the sharing of ideas. In fulfilling the mandate of creating a more immersive teaching environment, the building’s didactic purpose is expressed by the mechanisms and systems that were intentionally left exposed to demonstrate best practices in construction and sustainability. The project is on track for LEED Gold certification.

In its desire to provide alternative pathways to learning, the KTTC has established a strong affiliation between training and employment through partnerships with private industry, which in turn has stimulated job growth in the region. Since the facility’s completion, enrollment has increased by 13 percent—most notably among women. It has “quickly become a tremendous asset for the college and the broader community,” according to Maxine Mann, dean of the School of Trades and Technology. The KTTC even attracts other Fleming College students and visitors, who just enjoy spending time in the building. Ultimately, says Balmer, “the project has caused a perceptual shift with respect to what skilled-trades training looks like.”  

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Perkins+Will Canada Inc.
672 Dupont Street, Suite 500
Toronto, ON
Canada, M6G 1Z6
T: 416.971.6060
F: 416.971.6765

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Managing Principal: D’Arcy Arthurs
Design Principal: Duff Balmer
Project Architect: Jan-Willem Gritters

Design Team: Dave Mitchell, Steve Ploeger, Tony Diodati, Ashley McKay, Tamara Schmidt

Engineers: Structural: Stephenson Engineering Limited
Mechanical and Electrical: MCW Consultants Ltd.
Civil: D.M. Wills Associates Ltd.


Landscape: Fleisher Ridout Partnership Inc.
Life Safety / Code Consultant: Jensen Hughes Inc.
Cost: A.W. Hooker Associates Ltd.
LEED: Provident Energy Management
Racking: Johnson Equipment
Specifications: DGS Consulting Services

General contractor:

Photographer: Tom Arban, (images 1, 2, 8, 9, 13, 14); Scott Norsworthy, (images 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12)


Sir Sandford Fleming College


87,000 square feet


$42 million

Completion date:

September 2014




Structural System

Paramount Steel
Shear Metal Products (steel roof & floor decking)

Exterior Cladding

Masonry: G.A. Masonry

Metal panels: Pollard

Metal/glass curtain wall: Barrie Metro Glass (curtainwall and interior screens)
All Metal (miscellaneous metals - steel railings)

Precast concrete: Phoenix Drywall (fibreC glassfibre concrete panels)

Wood: Mallet Millwork

EIFS, ACM, or other: KWC

Moisture barrier: AccuCut

Curtain wall: Barrie Metro Glass

Other cladding unique to this project: Phoenix Drywall (FibreC panels)


Built-up roofing: Pollard Enterprises

Metal: Pollard Enterprises (metal flashing)

Tile/shingles: Pollard Enterprises


Wood frame: Select Door & Frame

Metal frame: Select Door & Frame


Glass: Barrie Metro Glass


Entrances: Assa Abloy

Metal doors: Barrie Metro Glass

Wood doors: Select Door & Frame

Sliding doors: BNM Commercial Doors

Fire-control doors, security grilles: Mutual Mechanical

Special doors: BNM Commercial Doors


Locksets: Rivett

Closers: Rivett

Exit devices: Cremer Brothers Electric

Pulls: Cremer Brothers Electric

Security devices: Cremer Brothers Electric

Interior Finishes

Acoustical ceilings: KWC

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Mallet Millwork

Paints and stains: Painting Services of Canada

Wall coverings: Painting Services of Canada

Floor and wall tile: HSW Floors

Carpet: HSW Floors


Interior ambient lighting: Cremer Brothers Electric

Exterior: Cremer Brothers Electric

Dimming system or other lighting controls: Cremer Brothers Electric


Elevators/escalators:KONE Elevators & Escalators