New Halifax market aims to be one of most sustainable

The scent of Bavarian sausages mixes with that of pine boughs and freshly pressed cider as people snake through the year-round Halifax Farmers’ Market one typical Saturday morning.

Joan Lowther arranges produce at the family stand at the Halifax Farmers' Market in Halifax on Saturday Nov. 28

HALIFAX — The scent of Bavarian sausages mixes with that of pine boughs and freshly pressed cider as people snake through the year-round Halifax Farmers’ Market one typical Saturday morning.

Customers wait in lines or steer their way around bottlenecks that have become an endearing — to some, annoying — trademark of the venerable old haunt. The low din of casual greetings and the invariable “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” fill the brick-walled rooms as shoppers negotiate their way down the lanes.

But the lineups that clog the warren of alcoves and nooks are likely to become a thing of the past when the market leaves its home next year and settles into an ecologically state-of-the-art facility on Halifax’s waterfront.

J Carruth, who has gone to the market every Saturday for the last dozen years, is excited about the new building but will miss the old one.

“I understand why they’re doing it, but there’s something about this old warren and bumping into everyone,” he said, holding a basket full of carrots and cheese.

“I’m going to miss the character.”

“Everyone has a sense of the market — the stone arches, the old charm and none of that will be there,” said Fred Kilcup, manager of the market.

With the charm, however, goes overcrowding and inefficient use of energy.

“The new building is getting attention worldwide . . . it’s certainly at the forefront of construction issues.”

The new Seaport Market is being built near the Pier 21 historic site. It plans to open next summer, after a series of delays while organizers arranged financing.

The building — a massive 4,050 square metres, almost double the current space — is designed to provide most of its own energy through wind, solar and geothermal.

Keith Tufts, the project’s Halifax-based designer, said four turbines on the structure’s “green” roof will harness the wind that blows in through the mouth of the harbour to generate the bulk of the building’s electricity. Solar thermal and geothermal energy will heat hot water and the building.

“All those things are creating 75 per cent less energy use and 75 per cent less CO2 emissions than a model national energy code,” Tufts said.

“It’s going to end up being one of the most sustainable buildings in North America.”

Rainwater will be collected on the roof to irrigate gardens, wash the floors and flush the building’s toilets. The green roof, covered in drought-tolerant plants, will shed heat in the summer, eliminating the need for air conditioning, Tufts said.

Four solar lanterns or light towers on the front of the building will bring in light and heat year-round.

Most of the materials are recycled and locally sourced, with anything imported being delivered by rail. Much of the wood is Eastern White Cedar from New Brunswick and every touchable piece of wood, such as handrails and steps, is reclaimed from trees that were felled during hurricane Juan.

“The building is as sustainable as it can be,” Tufts said.

The building’s base construction cost is pegged at $11.5 million, with all three levels of government kicking in.

It’s a far cry from the hodgepodge of stalls that make up the current market. It has had many locations over the years but has been around in one form or another since 1750 and bills itself as the oldest farmers’ market in North America.

Once based in the city’s old police headquarters, it was cut adrift decades ago when developers put up a mall downtown. After moving every few years, it finally settled in the old Keith’s Brewery building on the waterfront.

There were fewer than 100 vendors then, with only a handful staying on through the year.

If you go

Address: Keith’s Brewery Building, 1496 Lower Water Street, Halifax.

Time: Saturday mornings year-round, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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