Tag Archives: Green design

OAA Presents Green Building Strategies with Architecture 2030

(this is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto)

There are plenty of global initiatives in place to encourage the building industry to do its part in eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through sustainable design. The most transformative one by far is the 2030 Challenge, a rigorous plan of action advocating for a carbon-neutral built environment by the year 2030. The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) is bringing this ambitious initiative to Ontario with an educational program to assist the province’s architecture and construction community to achieve the Challenge’s goals in a way that creates environmental, economic and social value.

To do so, the OAA is partnering with AIA+2030 (American Institute of Architects) and offering its members 10 four-hour learning sessions, created to provide specific strategies to becoming ‘carbon-neutral’, which is defined as using no fossil fuel, GHG-emitting energy to operate.

The initiative, dubbed OAA+2030 Professional Series, is adopted and updated from the AIA+2030 Professional Series, a partnership between Architecture 2030 and AIA Seattle. Numerous professional organizations and governments have endorsed The Challenge as part of their commitment to promote sustainable design. The City of Seattle was one of the first cities to sign on, initiating the Seattle 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaborative working to create a groundbreaking high-performance central area where all buildings – new and existing – will be built and renovated to aim for carbon neutral status.

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2030 Challenge Case Study: Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence. Photos by Tom Arban

Sessions run from late January through to the end of October 2014, in both Toronto and Ottawa, and give architects and design professionals the knowledge and leverage to guide decisions that will create sustainable, next-generation buildings. The comprehensive program is the first of its kind in Canada and covers topics like climate-responsive design, lighting strategies and renewable energy opportunities.

In 2002, architect Edward Mazria founded Architecture 2030, a solutions-based non-profit non-partisan organization, in response to global climate change. According to its findings, buildings not only consume much more energy than any other sector but, as the party responsible for nearly half of U.S. annual CO2 emissions*, have been identified as the largest contributor to climate change. Its mission is to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of GHGs to a central part of the solution to the climate and energy crises. At a fundamental level, it involves changing the way communities and infrastructure are planned and built. The foundation of its work lies in the widely adopted 2030 Challenge, which asks the global design community to implement the following targets:

  • All new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be designed to meet a fossil fuel, energy consumption performance standard of 60% below the regional average for that building type.
  • At a minimum, an equal amount of existing building area shall be renovated annually to meet a fossil fuel, energy consumption performance standard of 60% of the regional average for that building type.
  • The fossil fuel reduction standard shall be increased to:
    • 70% in 2015
    • 80% in 2020
    • 90% in 2025
    • Carbon-neutral in 2030

These targets may be accomplished by implementing innovative sustainable design measures, generating on-site renewable power and/or purchasing (20% maximum) renewable energy.

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2030 Challenge Case Study: Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence. Photo by Tom Arban

“The 2030 Challenge is not meant to replace any current green building rating system but rather it challenges all systems to a higher level of sustainable achievement,” says Richard Williams, member of the OAA Sustainable Built Environment Committee and Toronto moderator of the OAA+2030 course. “It sets a progressively higher bar for the design and development community to rise toward.”

And the principles and practices for realizing low-carbon and resilient built environments are increasingly accessible. At Greenbuild last November, Mazria announced the official launch of 2030palette.org, the organization’s latest innovation to drive global implementation of the 2030 Challenge. The website, which provides a wealth of best practices and recommendations as well as links to outside sources, approaches green architecture at every scale, from single building elements to entire regions.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) offers building case studies to examine on its website. Amongst those are the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence, designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and Edward J. Cuhaci and Associates Architects, pictured above.

For more information on the OAA+2030 Professional Education Series, visit: http://www.oaa.on.ca/.

*The Building Sector was responsible for nearly half (44.6%) of U.S. CO2 emissions in 2010. By comparison, transportation accounted for 34.3% of CO2 emissions and industry just 21.1%. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Building Sector consumes nearly half (47.6%) of all energy produced in the United States. Seventy-five percent (74.9%) of all the electricity produced in the U.S. is used just to operate buildings. Globally, these percentages are even greater.

Green Building Goal Within Reach of More Builders and Developers

(this is an article I wrote for UrbanToronto)

We all know that going green is good for the environment, our health, and hopefully our pocketbooks. As much as it’s important for us all as individuals to consider what kind of an environmental impact we make, it can be tough finding ways to make significant changes individually. As a group of people with similar interests—that being the UrbanToronto readership in this case—there may be more opportunities to participate in change if UrbanToronto takes the time to report on what’s happening in this arena.

With 20% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from our buildings, a more fully involved development industry has the potential to effect a significant amount of positive change for our future. In addition to the environmental impacts, the corporate world has a sound financial case to strive for energy efficiency as well, for example reduced operating costs particularly in the face of the inevitable rise of fuel prices, and improved marketability and goodwill when the companies are perceived to be socially and environmentally responsible.

At all levels the government is supporting change as well, driving increasingly stringent building codes, supporting the uptake of energy efficient and renewable technologies, and adopting building performance standards like LEED or Toronto’s Tier One and Tier Two Green Standards as optional construction paths.

Considering the inherent benefits to pursuing improved energy efficiency and environmentally conscious building practices, it makes sense as to why these two groups are active in this area. Knowing this, it may seem counter-intuitive that an energy distributor would be a source of financial incentives supporting builders in this pursuit, but that’s the case. As part of its social responsibility and in support of a demand side management mandate implemented and governed by the Ontario Energy Board, Enbridge Gas Distribution has created a market transformation program it calls Savings by Design (SBD). This green building initiative is promoted to new construction builders and developers, constructing part 3 and part 9 buildings in the Enbridge Gas Distribution franchise area. As we sit squarely in the heart of this territory, the program could be “coming to a building near you”, so we are learning about it and passing on the info, hoping to be a part of the change too.

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Enbridge conducts a Visioning Session to help owners define their sustainability priorities and opportunities.

Launched in January 2012, in collaboration with Sustainable Buildings Canada, the comprehensive Savings By Design program targets four key areas: energy, stormwater, resource use, and engagement. To help make higher-efficiency performance more attainable, Enbridge is providing funding and support during the design, construction and commissioning stages of projects. To qualify, projects must be in the planning or design phase, have a minimum aggregate area of 100,000 sf.

“This is something totally new that Enbridge Gas Distribution has never done before,” we were told by energy advisor Mary Sye, who developed the program in collaboration with manager Shannon Bertuzzi, several key stakeholders and business partners. It brings together owners and green building experts at the earliest phase of a project to explore a wide range of strategies, from resource conservation to renewable energy generation, and identifies the mix of technologies that can be incorporated into the design to maximize the building’s environmental performance.

The building is then modeled to estimate the potential natural gas and electricity savings, and a report is created. According to energy advisor and colleague, Carmine Faiella “At the end of the day, applicants have a picture of how much more efficient than the Ontario Building Code their proposed project is going to be.”

There’s a lot to know about the program, and as UrbanToronto likes to get technical, we will be looking at various aspects of it over the next while, hoping to explain how this program should improve the buildings in which you will live and work in the future by looking at some of SBD’s early adopters. For our initial installment, we were pointed in the direction of DCL Healthcare Properties Inc., the first company to take part in SBD.

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Aerial view of DCL Niagara Medical Centre proposal, image courtesy of DCL Healthcare

Healthcare buildings are energy-intensive, making it a sector ripe for more initiatives that promote green thinking. DCL is trying to do just that. Its CEO, Frank Deluca, toured medical clinics in Romania, marveling that not only were they highly sustainable—certified to BREEAM Excellence, the world’s leading design and assessment method for sustainable buildings—but they were built at one-third the cost of similar facilities in North America.

A visit to his own doctor’s uninspiring office in Ontario left Deluca with nothing to marvel about. He points to outdated and inefficient medical facilities, strained by the growing demands of an aging population. So, Deluca seized the opportunity presented by the SBD program to partner with municipalities in constructing clinics to take the burden off regional hospitals and, at the same time, showcase what is possible in green healthcare building design.

Now, DCL is developing one of the most highly performing, privately owned healthcare projects in North America. The project is aiming to achieve a number of industry firsts, including North America’s first proposed BREEAM certified green medical office building. With over 250,000 green buildings certified to BREEAM globally and over a million registered for assessment, DCL could be set to lead a new charge in green building design for Canada.

DCL’s business model is based on replicating an energy efficient standardized design in targeted growth communities across Ontario. Niagara Falls, deemed “prime for the Boomer Urban Exodus,” was selected as the site for the first DCL Medical Centre. Other locations being considered include Ajax, Oshawa, Ottawa, Stouffville, and a dozen more. Each clinic will be a “community healthcare hub,” occupied exclusively by medical service providers; general practitioners, dentists, opticians, pharmacy, laboratory and ultrasound facilities. “If we cluster functions within one location,” notes Deluca, “we already have a positive impact on the environment.”

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Exterior rendering of DCL Niagara Medical Centre, image courtesy of DCL Healthcare

The core configuration is a 4-storey, 50,000 sq ft structure that can be scaled up or down by adding or removing floors, depending on the needs of the local community. Integrated ‘smart’ building technologies will allow tenants to regulate temperature, lighting, communications, and security. For improved indoor air quality, it features operable windows for natural ventilation, low VOC interior finishes and UV technology for air scrubbing. “Tenants will immediately see the benefits,” adds Deluca. “But it goes beyond that because, as an owner, I am also interested in energy efficiency. Making the interior and exterior lighting system 100% LED has a huge advantage for us from an energy savings standpoint.” Other sustainable measures include geothermal heating and cooling, daylight harvesting (the building is 60% glazing), light shelves and Hempcrete walls.

DCL’s interests run deep because not only will it build the facility, but the firm will also own and manage its operations long-term. “Because I envision a 10 to 20 year holding period, I am very concerned about what I select to put in that building,” says Deluca. “As the owner, there is a real motivation to make sure it is running at a high performance level.”

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Exterior rendering of DCL Niagara Medical Centre, image courtesy of DCL Healthcare

Enbridge facilitated an intensive brainstorming session called an Integrated Design Process charrette where a multidisciplinary team of industry experts evaluated the building proposal through the analysis of its form, materials, context and technical systems and then created a baseline model to illustrate its potential performance. They helped identify optimal solutions for improving energy efficiency, occupant health and comfort, as well as ecological benefits.

Deluca remarked on the success of the session, “You need an integrated team. Everybody has to be thinking together at the same level – ‘What’s our goal?’” Design improvements that resulted were numerous, including the shaping of the atrium in order to minimize heat build-up, strategically locating high performance glass, and, with Deluca’s encouragement, the decision to run an energy-saving variable refrigerant flow system on two of the four floors, instead of forced air. That type of HVAC technology is not typically used in healthcare buildings in Ontario. “We’ll use our facility as a giant test lab,” added Deluca.

When Deluca first heard about the SBD program, he was surprised. “Why would Enbridge give me the tools to figure out how to be that energy efficient? I commend them. I quickly learned there are a lot of smart, passionate people within that program who are trying to push the sustainable and high performance benchmark. I support it because it is a fantastic opportunity to have them on board, helping with this initiative, and I got to build a great team through the design process. Why not take advantage of all that available intellectual capital?”

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Site plan for proposed DCL Niagara Medical Centre, image courtesy of DCL Healthcare

The Niagara project is moving ahead quickly. With site plan approval and discussions with practitioners well underway, DCL is hoping to break ground by June, 2014. Other sites may not be far behind. The new medical facility not only advances sustainable building practices in healthcare but also seeks to far exceed targets and establish a new standard for ‘green’.

For more information on the Savings by Design program, visit the website http://www.savingsbydesign.ca/