Queen’s Centre LEEDing the way

Complex will be first on campus to be certified green

Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne says there are no plans to LEED certify any existing buildings on campus.
Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne says there are no plans to LEED certify any existing buildings on campus.

If all goes according to plan, the Queen’s Centre will contain the first buildings on campus to be certified environmentally friendly.

The four buildings making up the Queen’s Centre—the Varsity Building, Arena Building, Natatorium Building that house the pool and the Student Union Building—and the School of Physical and Health Education are being constructed under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating system. LEED is a guide for large construction projects made by the Canada Green Building Council.

The LEED rating structure is based on four levels—certified, silver, gold and platinum. A construction project must accumulate a certain number of points under a rating system to be certified at each level. Certified requires a minimum of 26 points, silver requires 33, gold requires 39 and platinum requires 52.

The School of Physical and Health Education will be LEED silver. The Queen’s Centre buildings will be LEED certified.

In 2005, Queen’s hired Ottawa-based firm Arborus Consulting to advise on the LEED-related aspects of the construction.

“Our role on the Queen’s Centre project is as a sustainability consultant, and more directly, we’re referred to as the LEED facilitators,” said Robin Hutchinson, Arborus Consulting president.

“It comes down to quantifying many aspects of the building’s design, from selecting the site to the energy performance, the indoor environmental quality, materials, commissioning of the building to make sure the building is verified to perform the way it’s designed.” Hutchinson said one aspect Arborus will be consulting on is energy modelling—estimating a building’s energy consumption in terms of heating water, heating and cooling the building and how much energy the building is consuming.

“It means that you are estimating the energy that the building will use. It will model all of the building parameters—the walls, the roof, and the windows,” he said. One of LEED’s requirements is that the building perform 25 per cent better than the minimum stipulated by the national energy code.

Hutchinson said Arborus has been working throughout the design process to identify building strategies to ensure the Queen’s Centre can get LEED certification.

“We do the documentation process, consult with the team on how to apply the strategies, and do the documentation that says that we’re using the low volatile organic compound materials,” he said, referring to potentially harmful chemicals in building materials such as paint, furniture and plastics.

“All that documentation goes into the application for the certification to the Canada Green Building Council.” Although constructing any type of new building has environmental implications, Hutchinson said the larger square footage of the Queen’s Centre is a response to the needs of Queen’s as it grows and enrollment expands.

“It’s one thing to say we’re replacing the old arena and building new facilities, but the university needs them to be a world-class university,” he said. “They’re in competition for students. Are you going to want to go to a university that has the latest facility, or one that hasn’t done any upgrades in 30 years?”

Along with Arborus, Queen’s has two Physical Plant Services (PPS) engineers consulting on the Queen’s Centre project.

Eric Neuman, mechanical engineer, and David Burns, electrical engineer, have been named LEED-accredited professionals, which means they’re certified to have the knowledge and skills to design the project from a sustainability point of view, Neuman said.

Neuman and Burns will review the LEED consultants’ work and will provide engineering- and LEED-related advice.

Neuman said although it will be more energy-efficient, the new Queen’s Centre will still use more energy per square foot than the JDUC. Queen’s is reducing the Centre’s impact by constructing the Queen’s Centre to LEED specifications, however.

“The best thing for the planet would be to not build anything at all, but we’re working for the greater good, we assume,” he said. “We’re meeting economic growth but doing it in a sustainable way … Compared to how these would be done even five or 10 years ago, we’re doing it better.”

Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne said the LEED rating system hasn’t been around long enough to show the long-term effects of a LEED-certified building on the environment, but she said the feel-good factor is there.

“For me, it’s also the awareness factor that’s really important, because people are aware that Queen’s is doing something,” she said. “If you put together all the items that we’re doing, how can it not?” Browne said Queen’s is doing several things to make the Queen’s Centre environmentally friendly.

“We’re using flooring that’s going to be there for years, so we’re not ripping things up in years and putting it in the landfill, we’re using energy-efficient lights, we’re using different systems that are energy efficient, and we’re using roofs that will last a very long time,” she said.

Browne said Queen’s doesn’t plan to LEED certify any existing campus buildings.

“To LEED certify an existing building is very difficult and very expensive,” she said. “However, we do about 16 to 18 things without trying, just through the normal things Physical Plant Services does.”

Some of these things include operable windows, storage and collection of recyclables, bicycle racks, and toner cartridge recycling.

Browne said LEED isn’t always the most viable option when constructing or upgrading a building.

The use of air conditioning in a building is one example. A building doesn’t earn LEED points for eliminating air conditioning and reducing mechanical equipment or the use of refrigerants.

“What happens is you’ve got to get your 26 points to be LEED-certified, but maybe you could have done something else that could’ve been better, but you won’t get all your points,” she said. “We really have to weigh it.”

Browne said there’s always room for improvement when it comes to the design process. “I think we can always improve, and that’s something I push for,” she said. “We can always do better, we can always be researching, and we can always be looking at new ways.”

Point system

A construction project needs to obtain at least 26 points within these five categories in order to be LEED-certified.

• Sustainable Sites: Encourage site selection, planning, landscaping and design strategies that use land more effectively and minimize construction and operational impacts (14 points available).

• Water Efficiency: Encourage strategies that reduce the amount of drinkable water used for landscape irrigation and building operations (5 points available).

• Energy and Atmosphere: Reduce depletion of non-renewable energy resources, reduce related environmental impacts—particularly emissions of local, regional and global air pollutants and encourage use of renewable energy sources with low environmental impacts (17 points available)

• Materials and Resources: Encourage design strategies that reduce and reuse material resources and reduce construction waste. Encourage the selection of building materials that are environmentally friendly (14 points available).

• Indoor Environmental Quality: Enhance indoor environmental quality through early design integration, sensible construction sequencing, careful construction practices and thoughtful selection of materials (15 points available).

An additional category of Innovation and Design Process addresses expertise in green design and construction. The purpose is to recognize projects with innovative building features and sustainable building knowledge not covered in the other categories (5 points available).

Source: Physical Plant Services

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