An office building so green it actually produces energy

An office building so green it actually produces energy

‘Groundbreaking’ project aims to change the way offices are built

Waterloo Region Record– By Catherine Thompson

Waterloo will soon be home to one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in the country, a building so green it produces more energy than it consumes.

The building, known as Evolv1, is a collaboration between Sustainable Waterloo Region, developer the Cora Group and anchor tenant EY Canada, formerly Ernst and Young. Construction is set to start in April, with tenants moving in later in 2018.

The group has an ambitious goal: to put up a building so innovative, it changes the way offices are built in Canada, and proves the business case for going green.

“We want to disrupt the industry with what we’re going to build,” said Adrian Conrad, chief operating officer at Cora.

“It’s our belief we’re going to be able to demonstrate to the industry that you can develop a net positive energy building without paying a significant premium.”

A net positive energy building generates more than enough energy for heating and cooling, to power the lights, computers, phones and everything else in the building. The excess energy can be sold to the province’s electricity grid, or used for things like powering the building’s 14 electric vehicle charging stations, for example.

That’s a plus for the environment, because the excess energy is replacing dirtier energy such as nuclear power or natural gas, said Tova Davidson, executive director of Sustainable Waterloo Region.

The building at 420 Wes Graham Way, in Waterloo’s David Johnston Research & Technology Park, isn’t intended as a feel-good showpiece, but rather a practical example that sustainable buildings are affordable, Conrad said.

“This is absolutely groundbreaking,” Davidson said. “If we think about a clean economy, this is a game-changer.

“It means that for other building owners, and emerging companies who are looking for a place to call home, there is no reason to say that financially, it’s not possible.”

The three-storey building will cost about $35 million, and offer about 110,000 square feet, enough for 700 workers. It has several systems that allow it to be super-efficient:

•It uses the latest materials and designs for energy efficiency: triple-glazed glass, very high levels of insulation and digitally controlled LED lighting that uses sensors to provide only as much light as is needed.

•It taps into a free and renewable energy source, the warmth that is stored in the Earth. On cold days the building’s geo-exchange system extracts heat from the ground through a system of pipes and uses it to heat the building; on hot days, it cools the building by sending excess heat into the ground.

•An array of about 1.5 acres of solar panels on the roof and carport will generate clean electricity.

The building will also have direct access to the Ion light rail transit system. “That was really important,” Davidson said. Many energy efficient buildings are built in suburbs or industrial parks where there is little access to public transit, so people have to drive to get to them. “Being next to good transit and active transportation means the total impact of the people who work in the building is much lower,” she said.

The group is aiming for LEED Platinum certification, which recognizes the greenest, most sustainable buildings in the country. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

While energy-neutral buildings are becoming more common, net positive ones are still unusual in Canada. Net positive office buildings that are privately owned with multiple tenants are even rarer, Conrad said.

The goal is also to build a better building that people enjoy being in, with access to natural light for every occupant, and a three-storey green wall designed to improve air quality, Conrad said , Twitter: @ThompsonRecord

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