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DRC Terms of Reference


The continuing development of a modern university campus is no easy challenge. For the University of Toronto, which possesses an extraordinary variety of architectural styles, this challenge is certainly amplified and requires careful attention.

A campus expresses (architecturally) something about the quality of its academic life, as well as its role as a citizen of the community in which it is located. The campus also represents many different things to various groups of people who live, learn, teach or visit there. It plays the role of home, museum, place of employment, social center, park, arena for dissent, and forum for the search for truth. All these functions must be designed not only for today but also for the future [Richard Dober, Campus Architecture, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996].

Given the interest of prospective faculty and student recruits in working, studying, and dreaming in an inspiring and creative physical environment, the University’s commitment to inspirational design must be consistent with (and indeed, a core component of) its highest academic aspirations. It is essential that the University of Toronto, as Canada’s leading research intensive university, and as an institution firmly determined to stand among the top publicly funded research intensive universities in the world, integrates this commitment to excellence into each and every dimension of planning and design related activities. The standards for design excellence should be no less exacting than those that are set in the academic sphere; as campus design has a profound impact on the character and quality of human interactions within the university community.

For all three campuses of the University of Toronto a challenge is to effectively integrate new with existing and heritage properties to achieve interconnectivity and a connected public realm, cognizant of the existing context. New buildings should incorporate design excellence and materials that systematically serve to strengthen the campus experience.  Delivering design excellence from concept through execution is a requirement of all projects. As an institution made possible by public funds and, increasingly, the generous support of donors, the University is also committed to capital projects that are fiscally responsible. The harmonization of design excellence with budgets, constructability and longevity resulting in positive city building, within the envelope of available budgets and schedules, is critical. The University of Toronto is committed to taking decisive action against climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our time, with sustainability at the core of our capital building program.

1. Mandate

The Design Review Committee (“DRC” or “Committee”) advises the President or designate[1] on the development of built form environments, in order to enable the University to implement its commitment to a level of excellence in this area comparable to that established for its academic activities.

The Committee is an advisory body. All parties involved in University development should be committed to excellence in the planning, design and construction of projects. Within this broad mandate, which includes a commitment to excellence in design, University staff, Academic Divisions and other user groups are obligated to focus on maintaining schedules and budgets, and on the delivery of required programs and functions. In this context, the role of the Committee is to highlight key design issues for the University, share expertise with staff and colleagues, and encourage others to act on their advice by clearly articulating strengths, weaknesses, and needed revisions to, designs and plans proposed for the University.

The Committee uses high standards in discharging its duties.  The Committee primarily focuses on capital projects sufficiently large to require approval by Governing Council pursuant to the Policy on Capital Planning and Capital Projects.[2] However, projects of lesser value that have a significant exterior design component or impact on public and open spaces, or historically listed or designated buildings, should also be reviewed by the Committee. All projects are assessed within the context of approved Master Plans, which will also be reviewed from time to time by the DRC.

The Committee’s mandate includes:

1.1   Reviewing and making recommendations on conceptual design for building and landscape projects[3]. Matters under review should include the extent to which overall campus planning and design objectives are met, design excellence is achieved, heritage impacts are addressed, and sustainability goals are achieved. The Committee focuses primarily on the overall integrity of the basic design, rather than on design details[4].

1.2   Advising on campus Master Plans, on the University’s campus planning principles within those plans, and on physical planning and building design.

1.3   Representation on the Architect Selection Committees for the appointment of architects, urban designers and landscape architects for all projects within its terms of reference with an exterior design component, public spaces, renovations or alterations to historically designated or listed buildings, or to University Open Spaces[5].

1.4. Being available for consultation, on an as-needed basis, by administrative officers responsible for campus planning and design.

1.5. Reporting to the Governing Council on its activities, on a basis to be established by the Executive Committee of Governing Council.

The Committee will discharge its functions, at the discretion of its Chairs, either in full committee or in panels.

2. Membership

The Committee will be comprised of up to eighteen (18) members including up to seven (7) ex officio members. The membership of the Committee represents a collection of design experts, university planning, design and construction administrators, and representatives of the three campuses.

  • The Committee shall have two (2) Co-Chairs. One (1) Co-Chair will be appointed by the President from the Appointed Members of the Committee and will have appropriate knowledge of design principles and practices as acquired through a significant body of professional design practice. The Chief of University Planning Design and Construction (“Chief, UPDC”) will serve as the other Co-Chair.
  • The Assistant Vice-President of University Planning will serve as Secretary to the Chairs of the DRC and secretariat services to the Committee will be provided by the Office of University Planning.

Appointed Members:

  • Up to eight (8) persons appointed by the President because of their professional expertise and qualifications in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design and urbanism, engineering, or complementary design fields normally at least four of whom shall be drawn from outside the University community. These members must hold a professional degree in their respective fields.
  • Two members from the Governing Council, its Boards or the wider University community, with particular relevant interest or experience, are to be appointed by the President after consultation with the Chairs of the Academic and Business Boards. At least one of the two members shall be from among the alumni or Lieutenant Governor in Council (LGIC) estates.

Ex Officio Members:

  • The Dean of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design (or designate)
  • Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships (or designate)
  • Chief, UPDC
  • The Assistant Vice-President, University Planning, UPDC
  • The Director of Project Development, UPDC
  • The Executive Director of Capital Projects, UPDC

Ex Officio Members for UTSC and UTM projects:

  • The Vice-President and Principal of University of Toronto Mississauga (or designate) for projects at Mississauga campus
  • The Vice-President and Principal of University of Toronto Scarborough (or designate) for projects at Scarborough campus

Following consultation with UTM/UTSC Vice-President and Principal, additional individuals with relevant expertise will be co-opted, as needed, to further strengthen particular campus representation when campus-specific capital projects are tabled for review. Such members may include the Chair of the relevant Project Committee and other Project Committee members, as appropriate, when individual projects are discussed.

Additional advisors may be appointed by the President to the Committee because of their expertise in complementary design fields including, but not limited to, engineering, or indigenous design. Such advisory members will be requested to participate on select project reviews of the Committee, upon the recommendation of the Secretary and approval by the Co-chairs, based on project specific considerations including project scope, complexity and location

The Committee’s appointed members and advisors, other than the ex officio members or their designates, will normally be expected to serve for terms of up to three years, renewable up to a total of 6 years consecutive service. Notwithstanding the foregoing, appointed members from the Governing Council, its Boards or from among the LGIC estates, will be eligible to serve on the DRC only during their term as Governor or Board member as the case may be.  The appointed Co-Chair will normally be expected to serve a term of two years as Co-Chair, renewable up to a total of 6 years consecutive.

Appointments should be staggered to ensure continuity. Appointments are served on a voluntary basis.  Members appointed from outside the University community will receive an honorarium for their time. Activities are funded by the University of Toronto, including administrative costs associated with renting meeting space, equipment, administrative activities associated with writing meeting minutes, reports, letters, etc.

On a regular schedule the DRC will update members of Simcoe Hall Vice-Presidents Group/Tri Campus Vice-Presidents Group (SVP/TVP).


1. Method of Operation

The Committee will meet on a monthly basis or as required, either in person or virtually. To accommodate campus specific reviews of capital plans, meetings will be held, where possible, on the particular campus which corresponds to the agenda items under review. This will also allow the DRC to be fully informed of the site-specific conditions as these relate to the project. An important role of the ex officio members, particularly for the UTM and UTSC representatives, is to assist in the coordination of the DRC meetings held at the Scarborough and Mississauga campuses and ensure the appropriate campus representation at these meetings.

The members of the Committee will need to make themselves available beyond the academic year to accommodate the critical timelines involved in the design of capital projects.

It is also necessary to ensure that meetings and minutes of Committee meetings are timely.

2. Architect Selection Panel

The Architect Selection Panel is to be composed of:

  • Chair, the VPOREP or the Chief, UPDC
  • Chair (or designate) of the relevant Project Planning Committee
  • An additional member of the Project Planning Committee
  • One member of the Committee (or designate)
  • An architect and/or landscape architect recommended by the Dean of Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design
  • Assistant Vice-President of University Planning
  • Director of Project Development
  • Executive Director of Capital Projects

For capital projects at UTM or UTSC, the Principal of UTM or the Principal at UTSC (or their designate) as applicable, will be included on the Architect Selection Panel.

University Planning lead Planner responsible for the project is to be a non-voting member on the Panel.

For clarity, the project client will have two representatives in the Architect Selection Panel and in the case of UTSC and UTM, there will be three representatives.

3. Design Review Presentations

Presentations are normally made to the Committee three (3) times for each project as described below. Additional meetings may be required as determined by the Co-Chairs.

In order for the Committee to become familiarized with the project, briefing materials are required in advance of meetings for inclusion in a briefing package provided to the Committee by the Secretary at least five (5) working days in advance of the meeting. Briefing materials are to include a brief project summary outlining key project information, and the presentation material, prepared by the consultant team, to be presented to the Committee at the meeting. At the meeting, supplementary presentation material may be introduced such as poster boards, physical models and/or digital 3d models, which are encouraged, to explain the scheme.

The Committee may choose to continue discussion of a project after completion of the presentation, and in the absence of the consultants, in order to clarify comments that are to be provided in the minutes of the meeting. The comments, as set out in the Minutes of the Committee, are forwarded to the consultants within ten (10) working days for consideration. The comments should represent the findings of the Committee without attributing comments to individual members, offer a summary setting out in detail the panel’s conclusions on a scheme; point out where the strengths and weaknesses lie; contain a proper grasp of design issues; and be frank about the design quality and constructive in the concluding advice.

The comments of the Committee should give clear direction as to what elements of the project require further consideration by the consultants. Where members of DRC have expressed differing perspectives, the Co-Chairs will make every effort to resolve inconsistencies and provide clear direction to the consultants.  While issues arising from different or conflicting views are expected to be resolved at the Committee level, the President, will, if needed, resolve any outstanding issues.

Comments and recommendations of the Committee are to be given utmost consideration and should be incorporated where possible into projects. If, on consideration the consultants cannot satisfactorily address the concerns of the Committee, the Co-Chairs of the Committee can decide to advance the issue to the President or designate. The need to further any issue in a timely manner is critical where schedule and/or budget are at risk as a result of the deliberations of the Committee.

a. Initial Presentation/Schematic Design Review

The initial presentation is the opportunity to address the overall concept of the project including relevant background and context and should be timed to ensure that the development of the scheme does not progress to a point where necessary revisions would cause scheduling or budgeting difficulties to the project and thus should be made prior to the finalization of schematic plans, or in the case of Design Build projects, immediately after the selection of the Design Build team.

The brief project summary should outline:

  • Uses and building program
  • Location, including context plan
  • Building Gross floor area (“GFA”), including GFA breakdown by floor
  • Overall building height
  • Identification of anticipated municipal development applications required (ie. Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-Law Amendment, Minor Variance etc.)
  • Summary of contextual relationships including relationships to policies and guidelines, and University of Toronto Master Plans, as applicable
  • Sustainable design ambitions of the project
  • Project delivery method

The presentation of the proposal to the Committee should include:

  • Context Plan, outlining how the project fits within and contributes to its context, specific to the campus, as applicable, to be illustrated through massing studies, rendered area plans, or equivalent; urban design features are to be highlighted in addition to how the project represents the most appropriate design approach for the site
  • Site Plan, including ground floor plan and proposed uses, adjacent properties and context, and proposed public realm and landscape approach addressing topography; and, building access, loading and parking considerations
  • Photographs of site conditions and surrounding context
  • Alternative studies for site layout and massing, as considered
  • Floor plans, sections and elevations showing sufficient neighbouring context
  • Sustainable design ambitions of the project, with specific reference to University targets, including but not limited to energy, building massing and envelope efficiency, and storm water management strategies, and project targets in relation to municipal performance standards and other certifications (ie. LEED, WELL, Passive House etc.)
  • Approach to heritage conservation, if applicable
  • Shadow studies, as per municipal development application requirements

b. Second Presentation/Detailed Design Review

The consultants will make a second presentation demonstrating how their proposal responds to the comments of the Committee at the initial presentation and how the project has developed into detailed design. The brief project summary should be updated to reflect project information that has changed since the initial review.

The presentation of the proposal to the Committee should include sufficient material to facilitate an in-depth and comprehensive review of the project, at minimum to include:

  • A concise introductory summary of responses to comments from the initial review
  • Context Plan
  • Site Plan
  • Detailed drawings, including floor plans, elevations, sections
  • Landscape plan, including grading plan if relevant
  • Site and/or massing model
  • Perspective drawings, interior and exterior, with a focus on the public realm
  • Sustainable design approach, with specific reference to University targets, including but not limited to energy, building massing and envelope efficiency, and storm water management strategies and project targets in relation to municipal performance standards and other certifications (ie. LEED, WELL, Passive House etc.)
  • Approach to heritage conservation, if applicable
  • Shadow studies

c. Third Presentation/Detailed Design Review

The final presentation occurs during the design development stage where the details of the project have been further developed.

The project as presented to the Committee, including the materials and landscaping, must fall within the project budget. Any vulnerable areas that are at the greatest risk of resulting in budget overage are expected to be identified with proposed alternates. The brief project summary should be updated to reflect project information that has changed since the previous review.

The presentation should include the information listed above for the Second Presentation/Detailed Design Review, and should also include:

  • Samples of the material palette, building and landscape
  • Detailed landscape plan, to clearly illustrate the articulation of the open space within the site and any impacts to adjacent areas
  • Planting list, including reference photos


[1] Normally the Vice-President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships or equivalent, as designated from time to time.

[2] Under the Policy on Capital Planning and Capital Projects, under consideration for approval by the Governing Council on October 31, 2021, this is for Level 2 projects with total cost of $10 million or more.

[3] Such reviews are normally required at the following stages: (a) prior to finalization of schematic plans, in order to ensure timely and effective oversight of the basic approach being taken to individual projects, (b) during design development, to review, in particular, landscape and material and palette proposals, (c) for Design Build projects, an initial review should occur immediately after the selection of the Design Build team to review the schematic design prepared during the selection process – and (d) at any other time during project development when the Co-Chairs of DRC consider it advisable to review the fundamental design aspects of a project.

[4] The reviews are intended to be sufficiently rigorous that the overall conformity of the proposal to the high standards expected of it can be assessed, both with respect to design and in terms of its integration with other elements of the University’s built form environment.

[5] The University’s typical approach to the design of major capital projects is to select a consultant team who will then work with users and other stakeholders to develop the project design. However, other delivery approaches may also be considered (such as Design-Build, Integrated Project Delivery and Joint-Venture Development partnerships). It may also be advisable on occasion to choose consultants (architects) for a specific project on the basis of a design competition, instead of via a selection process. Such competitions are established at the discretion of the Vice President, Operations and Real Estate Partnerships after consultation with the Chief of University Planning, Design and Construction and the DRC.