Although long praised for its commitment to patient care, Humber River Hospital embarked on an important transition: one that would take it from a hospital constrained by the limitations of aging technology and building infrastructure to North America’s first fully digital hospital. The new Humber River Hospital, which opened in October 2015, uses the most current technologies possible to enhance all aspects of quality patient care delivery, improving efficiency, accuracy, reliability and safety. Serving more than 850,000 people in northwest Toronto, the new hospital, at 1.8 million square feet of space, is now the largest acute care hospital in the Greater Toronto Area.

One of the more striking design features of the hospital are the gigantic art installations on the north and south facades. Titled “Aspen Grove,” these glass murals recall a colourful woodland scene, representing the harmonization of the hospital with the local community. The mural design speaks to the diverse community served by Humber River Hospital. An aspen grove—though it has different colours, different shapes, and different sizes—actually come from a single root system. The hospital’s south terraced plaza supports community gathering and features outdoor seating and curved amphitheatre-like retaining walls.

A Portals of Care concept assigns each clinic its own distinct space and entrance. The clinics act as individual neighborhoods, preventing patients and visitors from walking through endless corridors to reach a destination. Clinical adjacencies strategically consolidate services, optimize clinical functionality and improve flow. Patient arrivals are interactive with maps and wayfinding that represents 17 cultures and uses pictures instead of words.

Green design is realized by adhering to the guidelines of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, with a goal of achieving LEED Silver certification. Green roofs help
manage storm water, reduce the heat island effect, improve air quality and beautify the views from inpatient rooms.

Digital design permeates every aspect of the new hospital. Digital innovations include smart bed technology; robotic technology for certain surgical procedures; automated laboratory processing; automated guided vehicles that deliver medical supplies; and bedside computer screens that allow patients to control their environments.

HDR provided full architectural and healthcare consulting services as part of the Plenary Healthcare Partnerships team which included Plenary Health and HCP Social Infrastructure (developer), PCL Constructors (construction), HDR (architecture),  Johnson Controls (facilities management), and RBC Capital Markets (financial advisor).

Project Cost



1,800,000 sq ft


March 2015

Sustainable Features

  • LEED Silver
  • Design elements that respond to climate conditions, including prevailing winds, site orientation, seasonal sun paths and precipitation, surface water drainage and solar gain.
  • Integrated, sustainable landscape elements such as pastoral gardens, patios and a piazza, all featuring native and drought resistant plants.
  • Enhanced lighting strategies, improved outdoor views and maximized day lighting capture for interior spaces.
  • A traffic demand management strategy, in partnership with Smart Commute Toronto, to promote alternative means of access to the site: bike lockers; enhanced public transportation access; car pooling and ride sharing etc.
  • Greenroofs (50% of roofs will be green) to help manage storm water, reduce the heat island effect, improve air quality and beautify the views from inpatient rooms. Roofs without gardens will be painted white to help reduce building heat gains.
  • Highly efficient plumbing fixtures, including low-flow toilets, faucets and showers. The fixtures will decrease indoor water use by 35%.
  • Diverting 75% of construction waste from the landfill.
  • Low-emission materials for adhesives and sealants, paints and coatings, and carpets.


2016 Gold Award

Modern Healthcare Design Awards

2016 Winner, Health Care Category Engineering News-Record

Global Best Projects Competition

2015 Gold Award, Infrastructure category

Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) Awards for Innovation and Excellence

2015 Winner, Large Project Category

Toronto Construction Association (TCA) Project Achievement Awards


Ontario Infrastructure


Toronto, ON