VIEWPOINT

Making building performance a selling point, and moving on from the glass tower

By Richard Witt, Executive Principal, Quadrangle & Michelle Xuereb, Director of Innovation, Quadrangle

Sustainable building design is not a new concept. With the development and implementation of LEED in the early 1990s, sustainability became mainstream but has struggled to effect real change in the way we think about building performance, requirements or aesthetics. Economics and sustainable building design are at odds – sustainability is an extra cost, weighed against budget and relative value.

The Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat concluded in their study Downtown High-Rise vs. Suburban Low-Rise Building that recently completed buildings significantly underperform in comparison to their counterparts from 50 years ago. The days of the glass skyscraper are coming to an end. Passive systems direct the way forward, as opposed to compensating for inefficiency with active systems.

Buildings are the key contributor and solution to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

According to the latest inventory release (2017) by The City of Toronto, 52% of GHG emissions in Toronto come from buildings, predominantly from burning natural gas to heat indoor spaces and water. Consequently, buildings must also be a climate change solution. The City of Toronto recognizes this in its Zero Emissions Building Framework, which is why the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) has us on a path to net zero buildings by 2030. What about the code? There is a plan to move Toronto to net zero by 2030, but it is not clear, given the current political climate, whether this proposal will be executed. Passive design solutions increase durability and climate change resilience while lowering energy usage, embodied energy from maintenance, and GHG emissions.

Passive solutions allow us to both mitigate and adapt to changing weather.

Based on the Climate Driver Study completed for the City of Toronto, we know that days are getting hotter, there are more of them and there are more of them strung together in heat waves. We are also experiencing larger storms, with heavier amounts of precipitation falling at once. The main issue we will have with our buildings is overheating and flash flooding – both in combination with power outages. This again reinforces the need for passive design solutions.

These power outages generally happen on our hottest and coldest days as a result of people cranking their AC or heating. The higher the total effective R-value of the building, the better they are able to maintain the indoor air temperature in the case of extreme temperatures without power.

The City of Toronto recommends that people be able to function independently for a minimum of 72 hours without power. In a residential building, maintaining indoor temperature is key to allowing people to shelter in place within their homes.

• At a basic level, a building is meant to shelter people from the weather – to keep people warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Glass is a very poor insulator, leaving residents feeling physically uncomfortable and paying high energy bills.

• As architects, the best thing you can do is reduce the amount of glass and increase the amount of well-insulated walls. We understand that keeping windows to about 40% of the wall area is the single most effective way to reduce the energy footprint of a building. Real walls with windows may seem old fashioned, but they don’t need to be. Our focus is on creating a thoughtful, well-designed building with an aesthetic that lends itself to real walls and windows.

• Unlike glass, insulation slows down the movement of heat. This allows you to hold onto heat during winter, making people more comfortable and more likely to actually use the spaces at the perimeter of their unit.

Charter Telecom Headquarters

Passive House with hybrid construction achieves highest quality environment for employees

By Graeme Verhulst

Founded 25 years ago, Charter Telecom is a high-tech company that builds, maintains and operates secure, high-performance communications networks and data centre infrastructure for large public and private sector clients around the world. In a sector where employee retention is an ongoing challenge, Charter views its workforce as a family. Many of its staff of over 100 have been with the company for two decades or more.

With this corporate philosophy, the company’s primary objective was to create a new headquarters building that would provide its employees with the best possible work environment. To realize this goal, the company was willing to embrace two non-traditional approaches to building design that are still in their infancy in Canada: Passive House and mass wood construction. Both these approaches were made more challenging by the restricted site, which quickly became the main driver of design. 

On the narrow, 20-metre wide lot, the entire width would have been taken up by a conventional surface parking arrangement with a central drive aisle and two rows of cars, while the ramp to an underground garage would have reduced the number of stalls that could have been accommodated. Instead, the decision was made to minimize the ground floor footprint of the building and to bridge the upper three floors over a drive aisle and single row of surface parking. Zoning required a six metre setback on the west leaving a narrow strip on the east side for shear walls to come all the way to the ground. In a high seismic zone, the resulting lateral forces could not be resolved using light wood frame construction, so a hybrid solution was required.

Cost and schedule constraints, together with potential thermal bridging issues with other materials, led to the choice of wood structure above grade. CLT and glulam were used where the structure was doing hard work, with prefabricated light wood framing where forces were less demanding. Using prefabricated mass wood components required a change in design approach. All consultants had to accelerate their detailed design and resolve potential conflicts using a 3-D model, which was also used to coordinate trades. This was the only way to capitalize on the efficiency and speed of CLT construction, enabling custom milling of each piece in the factory and minimizing modifications on site. 

The resulting structure is unusual. The upper floors are supported on the east side by a row of steel columns, while the west side is supported by the narrow ground floor structure, comprising mechanical and storage rooms, stair and elevator shafts and shipping and receiving areas. The two sides are connected below grade by a series of concrete foundation walls and spanned by glulam beams to support the CLT floor deck, acting as a robust shear diaphragm. Steel columns support the west side, tied together by a steel beam to create a moment frame that takes the “twist” out of the building in a seismic event. The ground floor spaces on the west side are separated by CLT shear walls that rise through the building to the roof.

Graeme Verhulst is a Principal of Waymark Architecture in Victoria, BC.

PROJECT PERFORMANCE

  • Heating Demand: 11 kWh/m²a
  • Cooling and dehumidification Demand: 11 kWh/m²a
  • Primary Energy: 117 kWh/m²a
  • Primary Energy Renewable (PER): 52 kWh/m²a
  • Air leakage: 0.6 ACH50 (Design)

PROJECT CREDITS

  • Owner/Developer: Charter Telecom
  • Architect: Waymark Architecture
  • General Contractor: Road’s End Contracting
  • Landscape Architect: Small & Rossell Landscape Architect
  • Civil Engineer: Westbrook Consulting
  • Mech./Elec. Engineer: Integral Group Consulting
  • Structural Engineer: Blackwell Structural Engineers
  • Energy Modelling: Bernhardt Contracting Ltd.
  • Photos: Leanna Rathkelly

Ventilation is controlled by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling heat recovery ventilators. Euroline 4700 Series THERMOPLUS™ PHC Tilt & Turn windows have solar control film at locations along the west wall.

Designing for Accessibility

The Rick Hansen Foundation

By: the Rick Hansen Foundation

More than 6 million Canadians aged 15 and over identify as having a disability, and this number is growing as our population ages. Are our buildings built in a way to support their needs, now and in the future? Not really. While building codes play an important role, we still have a long way to go to ensure people of all abilities have access to the spaces where we live, work, learn, and play. Here’s why this should matter to you.

The Business Case: No matter the type of project you are designing, making it accessible is good business sense. Building owners and operators want to know they are working with someone who can maximize the number of people who can enter their facility. Designing for accessibility helps you do this, and that advantage helps you stand out from others.

For example, if it’s a residential building, it will appeal to a greater variety of potential tenants or buyers, resulting in fewer vacancies and quicker sales. If it’s an office building there is easier access to a wider pool of qualified employees and applicants. And if it’s a business, more people can access the storefront and spend their money there.

Not only is accessibility a human rights issue, it is an economic imperative. A 2018 report from the Conference Board of Canada shows that the positive impact accessibility can have on the economy should not be ignored:

– people with physical disabilities make up a large and growing consumer group—14.3% of consumer spending, or $164 billion per year.

– Improvements to workplace access would allow 550,000 Canadians with disabilities to work more hours, increasing GDP by $16.8 billion by 2030.

Become a Leader: Prioritizing accessibility in design is a way to establish you and your organization as a leader in both innovation and social responsibility. Universal Design demonstrates a people-first approach, one that is able to meet a variety of needs for years to come.

The thing about Universal Design, says VP Access and Inclusion at the Rick Hansen Foundation Brad McCannell, is that “it’s invisible.” Those who don’t have a disability may not notice that there’s good colour contrast on the floor for navigation with a vision disability, or that the elevator has wide doors to accommodate a wheelchair. Individuals with disabilities, says McCannell, might not notice it either, which is a good thing: it means they didn’t have to overcome a challenge to get from A to B. Imagine knowing that your design positively impacts the way millions of Canadians navigate the built environment.

Even if an individual doesn’t have a disability, they are more likely to live somewhere or support a business if they feel their values are in the right place. Plus, nearly 50% of Canadian adults say they have or have experienced a permanent or temporary disability, or live with someone who has .  If they haven’t yet, chances are they will, and being prepared for the future gives you a leg up over your competition. This helps explain why over 2/3rd of Canadians believe all new buildings should be universally accessible. 

A 2019 Angus Reid Institute public opinion poll found:

  • 67% of Canadians are concerned about future mobility challenges
  • 70% say new buildings should be universally accessible
  • 30% (9 million adults) consider accessibility when deciding which business to visit

A Roadmap to Accessibility: We all know accessible design is important, but with such a variety of regulations and opinions, knowing where to start can be a challenge in itself.

The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) program was created for industry to fill the gap between local building codes and the real needs of users. It offers an approach that is used nationally, providing consistent ratings across the country.

The program uses a set of standards for the built environment that takes mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities into consideration. Designated RHFAC Professionals use a rating scale to identify barriers in both designs and buildings on their level of meaningful accessibility.

The rating comes with a scorecard outlining strengths and weaknesses, acting as a roadmap to better accessibility. If a building’s rating achieves a certain level, they may earn either RHF Accessibility Certification or RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.

“Improving the lives of people with disabilities means breaking down barriers and creating an accessible environment with the same opportunities for everyone,” says Chair of the RHFAC Advisory Committee and Executive Vice President of Stantec, Stanis Smith.  “As an architect, I have long been committed to designing accessible spaces that can be enjoyed, appreciated, and utilized by everyone.”

An Accessibility Case Study: Marine Gateway is a mixed-use development in South Vancouver offering transit-oriented retail, office, and residential services and spaces. The development is only three years old, and while it meets building code, property manager Laura Malley wanted to make sure it was able to support a diversity of people for years to come. To determine the strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of accessibility, Malley enlisted the help of an RHFAC Professional, Hans Uli Egger.

Following the rating, Marine Gateway was awarded RHF Accessibility Certified Gold, the highest rating in the program, for its many accessible features such as good vehicular access, escalators and moving walkways, and signage and wayfinding. Equally important to receiving accolades for what was working well, was understanding where improvements could be made.

To learn more about Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™, book a rating, or register for the upcoming RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Fall training, visit RickHansen.com/RHFAC

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EDUCATION ARTICLE – The Ken Soble Tower Transformation

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation

Read this article and take the quiz for Continuing Education Units / LEED Maintenance (go to Continuing Education here)

North America’s First EnerPHit Apartment Tower

By ERA Architects with Entuitive, Transsolar KlimaEngineering, JMV Consulting, Reinbold Engineering, Nemetz (S/A) & Associates.

The Ken Soble Tower Transformation is a ground-breaking project rehabilitating a post-war apartment tower in Hamilton, Ontario to the Passive House EnerPHit retrofit standard – reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 94% and laying the groundwork for the industry-wide repair and renewal projects which are urgently needed to maintain thousands of apartments across Canada.

Built in 1967, the Ken Soble Tower is the oldest high-rise multi-residential building in CityHousing Hamilton’s portfolio. A local landmark with significant community value, the tower had fallen into a state of disrepair, declining occupancy and increasing costs. After considering several options including sale, rebuild, capital repair, and rehabilitation, CityHousing Hamilton opted to engage in a modernization program that would ensure long-term asset viability, and secure housing quality and indoor comfort for resident seniors while reducing the building’s environmental impact.

The Passive House standard was determined to be the best means of achieving these goals, kickstarting a broader program of Passive House development for CityHousing Hamilton’s portfolio at large. While organizations in the EU and Canada’s West Coast have adopted Passive House as a target, CityHousing Hamilton is one of the first large organizations in eastern Canada to do so.

At 18 storeys and more than 80,000 sq.ft., the Ken Soble Tower will be one of the largest EnerPHit certified projects in the world. The rehabilitation project will modernize 146 units of affordable seniors’ housing, while reinvigorating community spaces and outdoor gathering areas, allowing for aging-in-place and barrier-free living, and a changing climate. Slated for completion in 2020, the project will also provide residents with improved comfort and control of their indoor environments and with the ability to withstand extreme climate events into the future.

As one of the most complex EnerPHit projects in the region, the design of this project required the development of a number of new strategies and processes. Lessons were learned across the architectural, structural, building envelope, mechanical and electrical disciplines, which have been identified here in an effort to support the dissemination of the Passive House standard in the Ontario context.

Lead Architect: ERA Architects

For lead architects and retrofit specialists ERA Architects, a highly-integrated design process was required from the outset. To ensure that the holistic goals of Passive House were being met, an extremely high standard of coordination was adopted to the extent that even detailing decisions received inputs from a number of disciplines to ensure dynamic thermal comfort standards were being met. ERA hosted weekly collaborative design sessions, with all disciplines coming to the table to discuss shared impacts of their progress. Design solutions were assessed based on their ability to meet the stringent requirements of Passive House, and their familiarity and constructability in the local trade context.

This process required more work up front, but was rewarding and established strong teamwork from the start. With Passive House’s relative infancy in North America, ERA was also challenged in sourcing appropriate products not readily available in Canada for high-rise applications. HVAC equipment, Passive House-certified windows, and appropriate insulation to meet the effective R38 envelope requirements were some of the primary sourcing challenges. This process revealed market gaps which will likely begin to be filled as Passive House construction becomes more standard in the Canadian market. 

Working with an existing building to meet the EnerPHit standard is different from designing a Passive House new-build. There were many advantages of working with the existing building, which included a large thermal mass, a solid structure to which to attach insulation, a simple shape, and low glazing-to-opaque wall ratio. Conversely, a disadvantage was its solar orientation not being ideal from the perspective of solar gain. Existing windows were primarily east and west facing, which was poor for both passive solar gain in winter and overheating in summer.

This challenge was mitigated through active heating and a multi-stage cooling strategy. Likewise, the existing building had an uninsulated slab-on-grade ground floor that contributed to a significant portion of the building’s heat loss. This challenge was addressed through deep perimeter insulation.

The adaptation of the German Passive House standard to a North American context resulted in a number of lessons learned. First, the PHPP modelling software was originally designed for a single-family home in a relatively mild European climate with minimal risk of overheating. To adapt this modelling to suit a multi-unit residential high-rise with colder winters and hotter summers, TRNSYS was used to run dynamic thermal simulations for both heating and cooling periods. This helped to refine the design to suit the most extreme conditions within the building and throughout the year. THERM and FLIXO were also used to understand the thermal bridges and surface temperatures to make sure the windows all met the criterion set out.

A number of  technologies that are standard and affordable in Germany are not yet widely available in the Canadian market, requiring alternative approaches to achieving the targets. These included: integrated facade shade systems, high-efficiency elevators and appliances, standard thick external insulation systems, high-performance Passive House certified high-rise windows, decentralized ventilation units, and decentralized hydronic heating and cooling units.

As a result, a more North American approach was taken in the centralized ventilation, heating, cooling and hot water systems, and by incorporating heat losses from North American building components, such as code-required back-up generator block heaters, garbage chutes, and standard elevator machines.

Mechanical Engineers: Reinbold Engineering

Mechanical engineers Reinbold Engineering also played  a key role in meeting the Passive House standard, designing a non-traditional mechanical system to deliver a fraction of the heat and cooling of a typical system. This demanded a creative and integrated design approach, with Reinbold undersizing the mechanical systems (relative to the existing building conditions) in response to the ultra high-performance envelope.

Designed in Europe, the Passive House standard can at times be at odds with Ontario’s humid climate and local building code. Most of Europe does not experience the humidity of the east coast of North America  – peak wet-bulb temperatures are typically under 24°C in Europe, but 30°C or higher in Ontario – and therefore the standard does not necessarily take into account the negative health and comfort impacts of humidity. While the Passive House standard relies on ventilation without additional cooling systems, the design team identified a high risk of overheating due to high relative humidity in the regional climate zone. As such, a centralized air conditioning system was integrated into the design, with resulting impacts on the Passive House energy budget.

Meeting the Passive House standard requires that areas of heat loss are reduced or eliminated entirely. This created challenges in meeting local building code requirements for both the HVAC and plumbing systems. In both cases, ventilation was the concern.

For instance, the waste water venting on the plumbing system is considered by the Passive House standard to be a vertical thermal bridge through the building.

Passive House high-rise buildings can be prone to overheating, in humid climate zones, and particularly in shoulder seasons. The design team was tasked with mitigating overheating risk, which can be a cause of death in vulnerable populations. To avoid overheating in the units without installing external operable shading, a five-stage cooling strategy was designed. It included:

Glazing with a low Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC);

Low emissivity interior shades;

Ceiling fans to circulate air within units;

Lightly tempered air delivered through a centralized ventilation system

Decentralized cooling ‘boost’ through a Variable Air Volume Unit activated by in-suite controls.

Detailed dynamic simulations for both present day and future 2050 Toronto climate zones were used to inform the design, securing resilience to temperatures which are projected to rise significantly over the next 30 years.

Building Envelope Engineers (Entuitive)

As building envelope engineers, Entuitive had a critical role in the design of the project. A key contributor to overall energy performance, the building envelope renewal had two goals: improve thermal resistance (R-38 effective) to the level required by EnerPHIT, and ensure airtightness to allow for the significant downscaling of mechanical systems.

The retrofit addresses several challenges posed by the existing 1960s structure, including thermal bridges and composite masonry walls with limited interior insulation and vapour control layers. The proposed cladding upgrade also had to minimize intervention to the existing masonry for thermal and structural reasons. Additionally, to limit combustibility and embodied carbon concerns, a mineral wool-based insulation system was selected. The resulting cladding design includes a 150mm thick mineral wool EIFS system, not widely used in the local market, complete with an integrated drainage layer and new fluid-applied air barrier membrane.

In terms of air tightness, to meet the strict air leakage criteria (targeting 0.6 ACH at 50Pa), a multi-phased approach to field testing was implemented. This included the required Whole Building Air Leakage test, supplemented by targeted mockups and “guarded” floor-by-floor testing to provide assurance as construction progresses. An appointed “air boss” will also be responsible for managing and limiting breaches through the air barrier system during construction.

Passive House-certified windows suitable for high-rise buildings are not widely available in the North American market. An Alternative Solution was submitted to the local building authority to permit the use of fibreglass-framed windows, typically prohibited in non-combustible, high-rise applications. The successful submission, which references the upcoming changes to the National Building Code, will allow their use in this application for one of the first times in Ontario. The existing concrete balconies will also be removed to improve thermal continuity, replaced with Juliette balconies, featuring similar fibreglass-framed doors.

Passive House Consultants: Transsolar KlimaEngineering and JMV Consulting

Collaborating with all disciplines, Passive House consultants Transsolar KlimaEngineering and JMV Consulting were essential in ensuring that all designs would meet Passive House standards. Key challenges included preventing overheating, sourcing insulation material, working with the existing building and adapting local design practices to Passive House design methodology, modelling and technology.

Achieving the EnerPHit certification required the combined knowledge and collaboration of the entire design team. This meant finding new building envelope and mechanical solutions, and designing unique specifications around installation quality and air tightness. Time was spent ensuring that products were readily available in Ontario that would meet the stringent targets.

Working with an existing building to meet the EnerPHit standard is different from designing a Passive House new-build. There were many advantages of working with the existing building, which included a large thermal mass, a solid structure to which to attach insulation, a simple shape, and low glazing-to-opaque wall ratio. Conversely, a disadvantage was its solar orientation not being ideal from the perspective of solar gain. Existing windows were primarily east and west facing, which was poor for both passive solar gain in winter and overheating in summer.

This challenge was mitigated through active heating and a multi-stage cooling strategy. Likewise, the existing building had an uninsulated slab-on-grade ground floor that contributed to a significant portion of the building’s heat loss. This challenge was addressed through deep perimeter insulation.

The adaptation of the German Passive House standard to a North American context resulted in a number of lessons learned. First, the PHPP modelling software was originally designed for a single-family home in a relatively mild European climate with minimal risk of overheating. To adapt this modelling to suit a multi-unit residential high-rise with colder winters and hotter summers, TRNSYS was used to run dynamic thermal simulations for both heating and cooling periods. This helped to refine the design to suit the most extreme conditions within the building and throughout the year. THERM and FLIXO were also used to understand the thermal bridges and surface temperatures to make sure the windows all met the criterion set out.

A number of  technologies that are standard and affordable in Germany are not yet widely available in the Canadian market, requiring alternative approaches to achieving the targets. These included: integrated facade shade systems, high-efficiency elevators and appliances, standard thick external insulation systems, high-performance Passive House certified high-rise windows, decentralized ventilation units, and decentralized hydronic heating and cooling units.

As a result, a more North American approach was taken in the centralized ventilation, heating, cooling and hot water systems, and by incorporating heat losses from North American building components, such as code-required back-up generator block heaters, garbage chutes, and standard elevator machines.

Mechanical Engineers: Reinbold Engineering

Mechanical engineers Reinbold Engineering also played  a key role in meeting the Passive House standard, designing a non-traditional mechanical system to deliver a fraction of the heat and cooling of a typical system. This demanded a creative and integrated design approach, with Reinbold undersizing the mechanical systems (relative to the existing building conditions) in response to the ultra high-performance envelope.

Designed in Europe, the Passive House standard can at times be at odds with Ontario’s humid climate and local building code. Most of Europe does not experience the humidity of the east coast of North America  – peak wet-bulb temperatures are typically under 24°C in Europe, but 30°C or higher in Ontario – and therefore the standard does not necessarily take into account the negative health and comfort impacts of humidity. While the Passive House standard relies on ventilation without additional cooling systems, the design team identified a high risk of overheating due to high relative humidity in the regional climate zone. As such, a centralized air conditioning system was integrated into the design, with resulting impacts on the Passive House energy budget.

Meeting the Passive House standard requires that areas of heat loss are reduced or eliminated entirely. This created challenges in meeting local building code requirements for both the HVAC and plumbing systems. In both cases, ventilation was the concern.

For instance, the waste water venting on the plumbing system is considered by the Passive House standard to be a vertical thermal bridge through the building.

To mitigate the impact of this loss, an Alternative Solution to the local building code was developed which included a positive air attenuator, an air admittance valve and a bladder of air at the bottom of the building. Typically, air admittance valves are only permitted when it is not possible to vent through the roof.

Electrical Engineers: Nemetz (S/A) & Associates Ltd.

For electrical engineers Nemetz SA & Associates, the primary challenges were tied with both meeting Passive House standards and working within the constraints of an existing building.

An example of a small but consequential Passive House challenge was that local regulations require that emergency generators have a continuously running block heater installed to allow the generator to start up within 15 seconds of a power failure. The intended block heater alone initially took up 7% of the overall project’s primary energy budget. However, increased insulation at the generator room and other modifications to the envelope mitigated this issue.

In a scenario not uncommon in retrofits, it was a challenge to work with the existing electrical service and transformer. Like most older apartment towers, the Ken Soble tower did not previously have a cooling system or sophisticated HVAC system, so the introduction of these new systems required the capacity of the transformer to be closely monitored.

Though the electrical engineer’s design is less affected by Passive House considerations than other disciplines, Nemetz was called upon to collaborate closely with mechanical engineers Reinbold in ensuring the electrical requirements of Passive House certified HVAC equipment could be integrated into the design within the constraints of the existing building’s capacity.

Scaling Large Passive House Projects in Ontario

Since the Ontario Passive House market is still in its nascency, the approach and considerations required for large-scale projects are still relatively unfamiliar within the architecture and engineering fields. The challenges and considerations described here attempt to share lessons learned with others in the field to narrow this gap.

However, there are a host of other market gaps that will also need to be filled in order to scale large Passive House projects in Ontario. Trades training within the construction industry will be particularly crucial: by familiarizing the construction industry with the unique requirements of Passive House buildings on site, it will be possible to execute projects successfully in an increasingly affordable, efficient, and low-risk manner. In part, this will require the ‘demystification’ of the standard, which is deliberately low-tech and largely relies on standard construction methods.

New capacity is already being built through early adopters and sophisticated constructors, and in parallel, increasingly stringent local performance requirements which are driving others to follow suit. And indeed, a number of high-performance Ontario retrofits are already gathering the critical mass needed to catalyze this industry growth, paving the way for the widespread renewal of our aging housing supply — and in so doing, securing a healthy, resilient future for thousands of Canadians.

ERA Architects is a Toronto-based architectural practice specializing in the retrofit of existing buildings. http://www.eraarch.ca

Valleyview town hall

New municipal building aims for Passive House Plus

By Oscar Flechas

The new Valleyview Town Hall is an 800 m² two-storey plus basement building located in Valleyview, 350Km north of Edmonton in the heart of Alberta’s oil country. Despite the large seasonal fluctuations in temperature and sunlight levels at this latitude, Valleyview Town Hall is aiming to be the first Passive House certified commercial building in Alberta and the first Passive House Plus in North America. This means that on-site renewables meet 100% of the building’s energy demand on an annual basis, a giant leap forward for a town with fewer than 2,000 residents.

The building reuses the footprint of a previous structure, minimizing site disturbance, preserving adjacent community park space and capitalizing on solar orientation. With the latter being a vital strategy in this extreme climate, the program is organized with high-traffic working areas towards the long, naturally-lit south side to ensure energy balancing. In the warmer months, heat gains are controlled with fixed shades that cut out the high angle sun.

In addition to its aggressive energy targets, the Passive House Standard requires excellent indoor air quality through carefully calibrated mechanical ventilation and air recirculation systems. To maintain steady temperatures over all three levels of the building, ventilation specifications included a mix of outdoor variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system for cooling and heating, and a high-efficiency energy recovery ventilator.

To further enhance indoor environmental quality, all interior finishes, paints, adhesives, flooring and composite wood products are specified to contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and be free of other toxins. Beyond the physiological health of its employees, however, the municipality is also concerned for their psychological wellbeing. Accordingly, all workspaces and other frequently used areas are adjacent to operable windows that connect visually to the park, while a balcony and designated outdoor sitting area ensure that the connection with nature is not only visual but also physical.

Another Passive House requirement is for durability of materials and assemblies. The materials chosen, including glass fibre reinforced concrete (GRC), and high pressure laminate siding and metal siding which are both resilient and long lasting. The highly energy efficient envelope includes Passive House certified windows within  a rainscreen system that promotes drying of any moisture that gets behind the cladding. Together with the airtight and vapour open construction this ensures there is no unwanted condensation within the wall assembly and extends the life of the envelope components.

In anticipation of changing needs over the life of the building, an area for future physical expansion is included within the existing Passive House envelope. Accommodating future expansion and reconfiguration meant that the size and spacing of the windows had to be carefully considered to accommodate potential changes to the functional layout.

PROJECT CREDITS

  • Owner/Developer  Town of Valleyview
  • Architect  Flechas Architecture Inc.
  • Indicative Design  Kobayashi + Zedda Architects Ltd., ReNu Building Science and Williams Engineering
  • General Contractor  Scott Builders Inc.
  • Landscape Architect  Kinnikinnick Studio Inc.
  • Civil Engineer  HELiX Engineering Ltd.
  • Electrical/Mechanical Engineer  Integral Group
  • Structural Engineer  Laviolette Engineering Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent  Bair Balancing
  • Energy Modelling  Marken Design+Consult
  • Photos  Flechas Architecture Inc.

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  • The highly energy efficient envelope uses Euroline 4700 Series THERMOPLUS™ PHC Tilt & Turn windows in a rainscreen system that allows drying of any moisture that gets behind the cladding. Tech-Crete CFI® pre-finished exterior insulating wall panels are used on the foundation.
  • The building reuses the footprint of a previous structure, minimizing site disturbance, preserving adjacent community park space and capitalizing on solar orientation. The foundation of Quad-Lock® Insulated Concrete Forms was supplied by Airfoam Insulation products which offers Insulation Boards, Insulated Metal Panels, Geofoam and Void-Fill for wall, roof and below-grade applications. www.airfoam.com
  • The hallway leading to workspaces which have operable windows that connect visually to the park. The project uses a Tempeff North America ERV system with Dual-Core technology to recover both heat and humidity in winter for continuous fresh air supply and a frost-free operation in extremely cold conditions.
  • All interior finishes, paints, adhesives, flooring and composite wood products are specified to contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds. To maintain steady temperatures over all three levels of the building, ventilation specifications included an outdoor variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling for cooling and heating, and a high-efficiency energy recovery ventilator.
  • Ōko skin extruded concrete slats by Rieder are made up of glassfibre reinforced concrete, 100% non-combustible, available in a range of colours, requires no maintenance and individual elements can be replaced easily.

Living Libations headquarters

Passive House in the realms of human wellbeing and ecological responsibility

By Jim Taggart

Set on a south-facing slope amid the forested hills of Haliburton, Ontario, the design of the new Living Libations Headquarters reflects a corporate philosophy that places the highest value on nature, beauty and being. In building terms, this philosophy naturally led to the choice of a highly durable, low-energy form of construction, with a strong emphasis on indoor environmental quality and attractive common spaces that would have the minimum environmental impact over an extended life cycle. These criteria led in turn to the choice of a Passive House structure.

A manufacturer of organic beauty care products, Living Libations has a staff of 50 who, on completion of this project, now work in a production laboratory building with an exposed heavy timber structure and natural finishes that create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The interior hardwood plywood finish is  bonded with a food-grade soy-based adhesive, rather than urea formaldehyde (UF), which  does not emit toxic air contaminants.

The other program spaces include (on the uppermost floor), a professional kitchen, a south-facing dining room that opens onto a 450m² outdoor terrace, a yoga room with adjoining meditation, and a light therapy solarium which opens onto a large rooftop terrace that has a panoramic view of the surrounding forest and beautiful sunsets.

The design approach was to let the geography of the site shape and locate all built form in order to minimize the ecological impact on the site. Compasses and a solar pathfinder were used to ensure the building was oriented for maximum cold season solar heat gains. The steep south-facing slope made it possible to capture solar heat by locating the majority of windows on the south side while the concrete construction of the ground floor, earth-sheltered by the slope, created a thermal flywheel to modulate diurnal temperature fluctuations.

In combination with an unbroken R50 thermal separation, this strategy perfectly offsets peak heating and cooling demand. Wall and roof system designs were modelled for possible interior dew points in “U-WERT” software that proved the benefit of using a smart air-vapour control layer inside the building. “THERM” software was used to guide the design of thermally efficient structural connections.

The design team optimized the building layout, equipment selection, and operation schedule to minimize energy demand. Six air-to-air heat-pumps easily maintain comfortable conditions through -30C winter nights and +30C summer days. Evacuated solar tubes on the roof provide domestic hot water in the spring, summer, and fall, and even pre-warmed water in winter months. A propane back-up boiler system for make-up heat was required by the authority having jurisdiction, but to date it has not been needed.

Jim Taggart, FRAIC is the editor of SABMag.

PROJECT PERFORMANCE

  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) = 59.7kwhr/m²/year
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 0 litres/occupant/year
  • Recycled material content by value = 5%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 54%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 20%
  •  

PRJECT CREDITS

  • OWNER/DEVELOPER: Nadine & Ron Artemis / Living Libations
  • BUILDING DESIGN: G West Building Services in
  • collaboration with Steenhof Building Services Group & CHORNY Associates Architect Inc.
  • PROJECT MANAGEMENT: G West Building Services
  • CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTOR: CDH Carpentry in
  • collaboration with many other trades.
  • LANDSCAPE: Kevin Forbes
  • CIVIL ENGINEER: Greenview Environmental
  • ELECTRICAL AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Steenhof Building Services Group
  • MECHANICAL ENGINEER: Brumar Engineering Services Ltd.
  • PASSIVE HOUSE DESIGN CONSULTANT: Peel Passive House Consulting
  • INTERIOR DESIGN & FURNISHINGS:  Nadine Artemis & Jamie Lee Mason
  • PHOTOS: Greg West., John Lehmann Photography 

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  • Innovative and customizable Boxx panels from Element5 efficiently span long distances between supporting structural members and are well suited for floor and roof applications in multi-storey buildings. The interior hardwood plywood finish is bonded with a food-grade soy-based adhesive, rather than urea formaldehyde, which does not emit toxic air contaminants.
  • Six Tempeff North America RGSP Series Dual-Core energy recovery ventilators recover both heat and humidity in winter allowing for continuous fresh air supply and a frost-free operation in extremely cold conditions without need for preheat or defrost.
  • Six Air-to-Air heat pumps by Mitsubishi Electric Heating & Cooling, which can work efficiently below -25C°, provide cooling and heating.
  • The Katana™ by Moso® bamboo decking is a sustainable, long lasting, class A fire rated natural alternative to other decking products, and very stable in all weather conditions.
  • Aluminum railing profiles by Dekrail are designed for both optimal strength and visual aesthetics.
  • Steenhof Building Services Group was proud to be the prime consultants for all disciplines of Engineering including Mechanical, Electrical & Architectural (Chorny Associates Architects Inc.)

Emission Omissions: Carbon accounting gaps in the built environment

New study discovers important gaps in life-cycle approach used to account for GHGs in buildings

By Philip Gass, Senior Policy Advisor, International Institute for Sustainable Development

In Canada, there is rising interest in how building materials may affect greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and whether innovations and choices in these materials can help the country meet its emission reduction targets. The fact that over 30 per cent of GHGs come from the communities and structures we build for ourselves underscores the need for us to get this right.

To date, evidence for optimizing the choice of building materials has largely been drawn from life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies that consider the GHG (and other) impacts of building products at each phase of their “cradle-to-grave” lifespan (i.e., production, use and end of life).

While LCA is the best-available approach for evaluating GHG performance of alternative building products and designs, policy-makers and building designers should be aware there are also limitations, challenges and uncertainties that need to be considered when looking to decarbonize our buildings. We should exercise caution when making decisions that advocate for one building material over another.

Recent research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has identified serious gaps in how emissions from building materials and products are being measured and accounted for. Failure to account for all carbon emissions may undercut today’s climate change efforts and shortchange future emission reduction opportunities.

News Release: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/tool-for-tracking-ghgs-in-canada-s-buildings-has-built-in-errors-study-875617021.html

Backgrounder: www.iisd.org/library/emission-omissions

Full Report: https://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/publications/emission-omissions-en.pdf

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