Felise Eber News

Lessons From Canadas Most Energy-efficient Building

Written By: Jim Adair
Thursday, April 10, 2014

Recently Cisco Canada and Schneider Electric announced that they have formed a partnership "that will create new opportunities in the development of smart buildings and smart communities across Canada, and have a positive impact on the environment by improving energy efficiency," said Rick Huijbregts, vice-president of Cisco Canada.

The announcement took place at the Earth Rangers Centre for Sustainable Technology in Vaughan, Ont., which is the highest-rated LEED building in Canada. The building operates at less than 9 kWh per square foot and generates 30 per cent of its energy consumption on site.

"Cisco and Schneider electric have each been working with Earth Rangers for a number of years and many of our collaborative solutions can be seen in the centre," said Huijbregts at the announcement.

"The world will spend more money on energy in the next 40 years than it has in the previous 400. This massive increase in demand creates challenges with generation, distribution and CO2 emissions. In order to address this dilemma we need to eliminate waste and reduce demand, while managing to improve profitability and resource productivity."

The two companies will work together to devise better methods to monitor and control energy output, Huijbregts said. "Its also an important step to further the possibilities made available by the Internet of Everything IoE," which he says will play a crucial role in sustainable technology. "Over the next few years, more and more items will be connected to the Internet that can have a tremendous impact on the environment: anything from refrigerators to cars to building heating systems."

Energy metering is one of the key components that have made the Earth Rangers Centre the "greenest" building in Canada. "In a building that has not had an energy audit or any attention paid to energy consumption, this investment can pay itself off almost immediately or even during the first utility cycle," says the centres website.

Earth Rangers is the Kids Conservation Organization, which educates children about biodiversity, conservation and sustainability via a national television show, live shows at schools and community events, and via online presentations.

Originally built in 2006, the centre features thermal mass technology, radiant heating and cooling, earth tube ventilation, on-site wastewater treatment and a green roof. It has been constantly improved since it first opened. Schneider Electric donated the ION Enterprise system that monitors power, water and gas consumption.

When the centres parking lot was expanded, a ground source heat pump system was installed and a 58 kW solar array was added. A bioswale was developed to capture the storm water runoff from the parking lot and a new building automation system was included.

The centre recycled 1.5 million litres of water in 2011. It supplies 100 per cent of its power from renewable or low impact hydroelectric sources and generates 130,000 kWh of solar energy annually, which is enough to power 12 average Canadian homes for a year. Staff and tenants in the building have been able to divert 80 per cent of waste from landfills.

The centre has extensive information about all of its building systems and technologies on its website, including live data, and it conducts frequent tours for interested parties.

"The one feature that everyone remembers after they tour the building is the earth tubes," says Andy Schonberger, former director of the centre and now business development manager for Smart Connected Communities with Cisco Canada. There are nine tubes, which are simple pre-fabricated concrete sewer pipes that are 20m long, buried 3m below ground level. They allow the transfer of ground source energy to heat or cool the air. Each tube can warm winter air by as much as 20 C and cool summer air by as much as 10 C without any mechanical equipment. The centre says using the tubes allow for 100-per-cent fresh air in the building without incurring large energy costs.

Another way building and homeowners can emulate the centre is by using "green" cleaning materials. "Purchasing all natural cleaning materials reduces toxic substances in the work environment, resulting in healthier, more productive people," says the centres website. "Combine your green cleaning program with a focused air quality program, and youve got a winner."

The centre reduced water use by installing dual-flush toilets and pint-per-flush urinals. Not all the systems tested at the centre worked out - including an experiment with waterless urinals but the centre also has water-conserving faucets and shower heads.

Lighting accounts for about 25 per cent of a buildings energy use, says the centre. It says pot lights, spot lamps and parking lot lighting are good places to retrofit with LED alternatives.

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