Taking the Leed

If you develop a thirst at Berry Architecture and Associates, don’t count on Dasani, Aquafina or Evian for relief. “We don’t let people come in with bottled water,” explained George Berry, who operates the firm with his business partner Susanne Widdecke. Instead, staff and guests are encouraged to drink old-fashioned — and environmentally friendly — tap water.

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff

If you develop a thirst at Berry Architecture and Associates, don’t count on Dasani, Aquafina or Evian for relief.

“We don’t let people come in with bottled water,” explained George Berry, who operates the firm with his business partner Susanne Widdecke.

Instead, staff and guests are encouraged to drink old-fashioned — and environmentally friendly — tap water.

Berry Architecture also uses solar-heated water, and has motion-sensor-controlled lights, triple-pane windows and extra-heavy insulation in its two storey building, which it owns with accounting firm and ground-floor occupant Downey Roth Hrywkiw Fidek LLP.

A high-efficiency variable air volume system heats and cools 42 distinct zones inside, with unoccupied areas reverting to their ambient temperature, and natural light illuminates much of the interior.

“Our electrical load is about half of what we had in our old space,” said Berry, referring to the similar-sized property his firm occupied prior to last year.

And the power it does use comes from renewable sources.

On top of the 5218 Gaetz Ave. building is a green roof with drought-resistant plants and grass, large vegetable planters, a dry creek bed and a flowing stream. There are also habitat structures, like vertical snags for insects, nesting boxes for birds and a hibernaculum for butterflies.

“We have a lot of insects up here already,” said Cynthia Pohl, whose business Living Lands Landscape & Design was responsible for the rooftop layout. She added that at least four species of aquatic organisms have taken up residence in the rainwater-charged stream.

Rainwater also supplies the needs of the building’s dual-flush toilets. And virtually everything inside that can be recycled, is — including the structure’s steel skeleton, which was inherited from the former Red Deer Bowladrome that previously stood on the site.

“It would have probably been easier just to knock it down,” acknowledged Berry. “But that would have been completely against the philosophy that we were going with.”

That philosophy is one shared by the Canada Green Building Council, a not-for-profit organization that promotes LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building practices. Under LEED, building projects are evaluated on the basis of sustainable site development, water and energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality — and can be certified to a basic, silver, gold or platinum standard.

“We’ve got over 3,600 projects in Canada,” said Mark Hutchinson, director of green building programs with the Canada Green Building Council. “Over 600 are certified.”

The Berry Architecture and Downey Roth Hrywkiw Fidek building is among those currently being evaluated for LEED certification. Nine other Red Deer buildings are registered in the program, with two already certified.

Most contain features like extra-thick insulation, high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, motion-sensor controlled lighting, water-conserving plumbing fixtures, recycled building materials, products with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), bike storage facilities and drought-resistant landscaping.

One of the buildings already certified is an Inglewood house built by Avalon Central Alberta in 2008. It was the first home in Canada to earn a LEED platinum rating, said Tanya Doran, executive director for the Alberta Chapter of the Canada Green Building Council.

“I use them as an example all the time.”

Trevor Gamelin, a partner with Avalon Central Alberta, described how the house — called Discovery 3 — has no natural gas connections and was designed to produce as much electricity as it uses.

It accomplished this with considerable help from the sun: a photovoltaic power generator and a solar system that heats water.

Its walls have an R72 insulation rating, said Gamelin, while the ceiling is R85, the floor R60 and the windows triple-glazed with two layers of krypton gas.

Another LEED-certified house is planned for Southbrook, where Platinum Homes is building an environmentally-sustainable residence for Gareth and Estelle Begley.

Platinum owner Terry Loewen described how motorized windows will automatically open and close to control heat gain and loss.

“We had to have the house at the perfect angle for solar gain,” he added.

“It gets very technical.”

The house will even have a system to remove radioactive radon gas from beneath it, said Loewen.

Another LEED-certified building in Red Deer is the Recreation Centre, which earned a silver rating for renovations completed in 2007.

Jerry Hedlund, the city’s project superintendent, said the building’s envelope was “tightened” to reduce heat loss, with thermal imaging used to locate problem areas. A heat reclamation system was added.

“What we do is we recover heat from the hot indoor pool area, and that is used to preheat incoming cold air.”

Solar panels were supposed to heat the outdoor pool, but that energy is instead used to help heat domestic water in the building.

“It works beyond belief,” said Hedlund.

“We’re probably going to extend the life of the (natural gas-fired) boilers by five to 10 years by doing what we’re doing.”

The city is also awaiting confirmation of LEED certification for three of its new civic yards buildings: the administration building, the transit garage and a wash bay. All three have solar panels for heating water, and the admin building and wash bay also have photovoltaic panels for power production.

“There are occasions where we’ll generate power in excess of our need and . . . actually return power to the grid,” said Public Works manager Greg Sikora.

Jeff Hoglund, a facilities management supervisor with the city, described how shades and windows are automatically adjusted, based on temperature and occupancy.

“So at 5 o’clock it’s going to dial back how we actually heat the building.”

Raised ceilings in strategic areas allow warm air to rise, where it can be vented out or forced back down, depending on the temperature, said Sikora.

The buildings’ design also maximize the benefits of natural light, added Development Services director Paul Goranson. Interiors are open and offices on the perimeter have glass walls so sunlight can shine through.

In the transit barn, sensors monitor exhaust levels and activate fans when ventilation is required, said Hoglund. And the vehicle wash uses rainwater and recycled wash water.

Red Deer College is also awaiting LEED certification for its new centres for trades and technology, innovation in manufacturing, health education and continuing education.

Doug Sharp, the college’s director of facilities, explained how an underfloor duct system allows fresh air to rise rather than being forced downward.

“We pursued, as much as possible, natural light,” he said, with the emphasis on light from the north — which is less intense.

Rainwater is used in the toilets, and excess precipitation flows through a bioswale and retention pond to help remove contaminants.

Red Deer’s new RCMP building is also seeking LEED certification.

Trish Bolen of Edmonton’s ACI Architecture Inc., the prime consultant on the project, said a variety of features are expected to reduce the building’s energy costs to about half of what they otherwise would be.

“With water, we targeted a 30 per cent reduction,” she added.

More than a quarter of the materials used for the building were recycled, and waste was kept to a minimum.

“We diverted 84 per cent of the waste from our building from the landfill,” said Bolen.

When Stantec Inc. performed its tenant improvements on the seventh to 12th floors of Executive Place, it did so with an eye to LEED.

Heather Bretz, the company’s managing leader for buildings in Red Deer, said outside offices were built with glass walls, and furniture and partitions were kept low so natural light could penetrate the space.

“We looked for the highest standard we could possibly get for recycled content,” she added, pointing out that 95 per cent of the construction waste was diverted from the landfill.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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