Measuring the Queen’s Centre carbon footprint

‘Tracking the carbon trail is difficult’ says Director for Campus Planning and Development

Although environmentally-friendly measures are being implemented into the Queen’s Centre’s design and construction, the administration currently has no way to calculate for the carbon footprint it will leave behind.

Director for Campus Planning and Development Audrey Kaplan said finding out the carbon footprint of the Queen’s Centre is difficult.

“The whole carbon footprint is that there are six gases that retain the sun’s energy. Carbon is one unit of heat retention. The other five have a weighting—sulphur hexafluoride is the worst offender.”

Kaplan said the interconnectedness of industries means accounting for carbon emissions is a complex process.

“These warming potential gases come in through the transportation et cetera,” she said. “If we’re tracking [carbon emissions] in the Queen’s centre then we’re taking another hit because it’s accounted for in another industry. It’s so multifaceted."

Kaplan said there are two aspects included in the carbon footprint.

“There’s the product footprint—all the energy consumed in total production,” she said. “Then there’s the organizational footprint—the fuel we burn to do our business. [The Queen’s Centre] will have a different kind of a footprint when it’s built.”

The measurement has only become popular in the last decade, she said.

"Asking the carbon equivalent of something is relatively new," she said. "It's a currency that people are interested in, so we're wading into the area to see what it looks like.

“Tracking the carbon trail is difficult. It only really reflects one cost of the environmental impact of construction. It can be misleading. It’s fraught with error and interpretation. You can always make a number but what insight will that number give you. The more complex a system, the more room for errors.”

Queen's Construction Director Jacques Sauve said he thinks calculating the Queen’s Centre overall carbon footprint is unnecessary.

“What would you compare it to? Are there standards out there? Start off with good design practices and design with LEED certification—certain parameters that fall in place right off the bat.”

Sauve said the design team of the Queen’s Centre is implementing environmentally friendly measures.

“We are designing the Queen’s Centre to a LEED certified level. The mechanical system, construction methods … there are certain standards in mind.”

“We’re still pretty much on schedule and we’re going to be open the building on time,” he said. “It’s being built to a very good internationally recognized level of design and construction. The federal government across this country doesn’t design its buildings to the top level. They design to the LEED silver standard. We design to a certified LEED standard.”

The Queen's Centre will not be certified officially in order to save money. Certification would cost approximately $400,000.

A consultant is responsible for ensuring the LEED certification standards, Sauve said.

“We have a consultant on board who provides us with direction on every aspect of design for the entire project—that extends to the selection of materials.”

After the building is completed, the environment will remain a priority, Sauve said.

“We’re looking further down the road. The cleaning operations inside the building will be using environmentally friendly products.”

This means the products will be low in volatile organic compounds, such as carcinogens, and products will be water-based.

Sauve said when building the School of Kinesiology, an on-site rock crusher was used. Rock taken from the excavation site was used in the construction of the building.

“Some of it can be sold off to local companies who use it to fabricate concrete or it can go back in around the building,” he said.

Sauve said during the winter months, construction inevitably results in more carbon emissions than in summer.

“One of the focuses this past winter was to keep the building enclosed. As soon as you’re open to the elements such as last winter—we had days and weeks where a lot of our energy was spent cleaning up the sight,” he said. “We try and time the construction of our project to get as much time in the summertime, to get the structure up and get the exterior wall up. Most of the exterior skin did go up during the fall and early winter. In areas where it did not go up, tarps were put up to heat the inside of building so production could continue.”

The glazing used on the windows likewise will reduce carbon emissions, Sauve said. Double-glazed units allows for light to penetrate the building in the wintertime while reducing solar heat gain in the summertime.

Glues and paints being used in the construction process are water-based instead of solvent-base for health reasons as well as environmental.

“Those are always the things that affect people in a newly constructed building.”

Sauve said adjustments to the Queen’s Centre systems is essential to reducing energy consumption.

“[A consultant’s] role is to oversee the start-up and the adjustment of all the buildings systems—air units, exhaust fans, pumps, electrical systems. These systems are designed to make them energy efficient. This commission process … started two or three months ago,” he said. “He witnesses the actual start-up of those major systems. Adjustments and fine-tuning—that directly impacts energy consumption.”

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