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Sustainable buildings start at the design stage

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by Korky Koroluk last update:Sep 1, 2006

The designer of a well-known building in Peterborough offered some advice on sustainable design last week, sprinkling nuggets along the way as he took his audience on a photo tour of the engineering sciences building at Fleming College.

OTTAWA

The designer of a well-known building in Peterborough offered some advice on sustainable design last week, sprinkling nuggets along the way as he took his audience on a photo tour of the engineering sciences building at Fleming College.

Sustainable design principles must be introduced at a project’s beginning, Loghman Azar said, and they must encompass “a look at the past, the present and the future,” he said.

To achieve true sustainability, “we must rediscover our forgotten vision.”

It’s a theme mentioned by other speakers during the two-day National Green Building Conference, which sometimes offered as much philosophy as design advice.

Since the building is on a college campus, it is perhaps appropriate that its structure and systems were left exposed.

“That way, students can see and understand them,” Azar said.

Also, exposed systems are easier to repair or replace, or upgrade as new systems and technologies become available. Thus, he said, the building’s roof “is ready to accept new technologies that haven’t yet been developed.”

Azar is a partner in LINE Architect Inc., of Toronto. LINE stands for Living In Natural Environments, and reflects the ideas that lie behind all the work the firm undertakes.

The firm’s buildings use such technologies as solar and wind power, and take advantage of both natural ventilation and daylighting for energy savings. Azar has said that cost savings resulting from reduced energy consumption can encourage investment in new and innovative technologies such as photovoltaics, wind turbines, sunshades, light shelves, wind catchers, thermal chimneys, sunspaces, double envelopes and galleria.

Some of those devices were used in the Peterborough building.

For example, natural ventilation is achieved through the use of three thermal chimneys. These are intake and exhaust devices in towers oriented so the intake faces into the prevailing wind and the exhaust faces downwind.

Heat from the building rises through the chimneys and out into the atmosphere, while prevailing winds force air into the intakes where, being relatively cool, it sinks into the building and is circulated.

To further enhance ventilation, there is at least one operable window in every room.

A dramatic galleria along one side of the building, together with a couple of other large spaces, serve as air chambers.

All together, these elements form a natural ventilation system that includes “not a single pump,” Azar said, and contributes to a saving of half a million dollars in mechanical equipment.

Extensive use of daylighting is possible because of the many windows and skylights, with sunshades as controls.

There are also “light shelves” to allow for greater infiltration of sunlight into the building’s interior.

last update:Sep 1, 2006

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