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Okanagan trades training centre in Penticton, British Columbia to be part of green showcase in Helsinki

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by Richard Gilbert

The trades training building for Okanagan College in Penticton, B.C. is one of two Canadian projects that have been selected for comprehensive evaluation and presentation at the World Sustainable Building Conference later this year.
Okanagan College in Penticton, British Columbia
Okanagan College in Penticton, British Columbia


The trades training building for Okanagan College in Penticton, B.C. is one of two Canadian projects that have been selected for comprehensive evaluation and presentation at the World Sustainable Building Conference later this year.

“The Canadian team of the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment put out a call for projects and we responded,” said Tim McLennan, principal with CEI Architecture.

“We have been selected to go to Helsinki. The project is highly sustainable, but the altruistic goals around it make it really special.”

The new 7,300-square-metre building will be evaluated at the Seventh World Sustainable Building Conference, being held in Helsinki, Finland Oct.18-21.

The second project is a new 2,150-square-metre office building for Enermodal Engineering in Kitchener, Ont.

A key part of this event is the Sustainable Building Challenge.

This is an international co-operative process that promotes innovative sustainable building design and the improvement of building performance assessment tools. One of the reasons the $28-million project was selected for this international event is that Okanagan College had a vision for the building as a centre of excellence for the building trades.

“The building will not only be a place to teach,” said McLennan. “The building will be used as a teaching tool and part of the educational process. The college is going to teach courses that integrate how the building was designed and constructed. The whole process of designing and building the structure will lead into what will happen inside the completed building.”

The facility will support a program with a focus on sustainable building technologies and processes, as well as research and development of alternative and renewable sources of energy.

“This will not be a traditional building,” said Gary McEwan, PCL Construction Special Projects manager. “We are trying to change people’s habits. It’s a bit of a cultural change.”

The building will be used to help train the next generation of tradespeople in green construction practices.

“In the original design, we were looking to get as many photovoltaic solar panels on the roof as possible, so the project could get a net-zero energy rating” said McEwan. “There are many other systems that are being put in place to meet the net-zero goal.”

In order to meet the targets of the Living Building Challenge, the building has been designed meet net-zero energy and water consumption.

At least 300 kilowatts of photovoltaic solar panels will be installed to generate electricity.

The building is expected to use 65 kilowatts of energy per square metre per year.

A typical building of similar size, built to standard specifications, would use about 250 kilowatts per square metre per year.

“The superstructure of this building was made of wood, which was a challenge in itself, because it’s a 70,000-square-foot building,” said McEwan. “Usually commercial buildings this size are built from steel and concrete.”

“The gym panels are unique and use new technology,” said McEwan. “We are calling them composite wall panels. The structure of the building panels are designed to hold up the roof and the wood beams.”

The gym walls were designed by structural engineers Fast + Epp and built by StructureCraft Inc. of Delta, B.C.

The walls are built with composite panels, a combination of concrete and glued laminated timber beams that are light and strong.

These walls have heating and cooling piping inside with electrical conduits and ventilation built in.

The first and second floors of the building, excluding the gym, are polished concrete and will be heated and cooled with an in-floor radiant system.

The water source for the in-floor heating is 200 feet below the building, where wells have been drilled.

The water is drawn to the surface, where heat is taken out of the water via heat pump technology. The building is naturally ventilated, so the windows may be open at specific temperatures. Six solar chimneys draw warm air up and out of the building.

“We are exposing the building’s mechanical and electrical systems through plexiglass, so students can see how the technology works,” said McEwan.

“The students will have a demonstration mechanical room to alter and monitor the photovoltaic and geo-thermal systems themselves.”

He said that the Living Building Challenge requires the building to be monitored for one year, which is an on-going process.

“We may not be at net-zero today, but we are always striving to achieve that goal,” he said.

According to McEwan, the project is about 85 per cent complete and is scheduled for completion in March 2011.

There were about 130-150 workers on the project during peak construction.

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