Canadian Consulting Engineer

Award of Excellence: Biodiversity Centre, Universit de Montral

October 1, 2012

A joint venture between the City of Montréal and the Université de Montréal, the new Biodiversity Centre building (Centre Sur la Biodiversité) will obtain LEED Gold certification with a reduction of 51% less energy...

A joint venture between the City of Montréal and the Université de Montréal, the new Biodiversity Centre building (Centre Sur la Biodiversité) will obtain LEED Gold certification with a reduction of 51% less energy consumption compared to Canada’s Model National Energy Code for Buildings.

Bouthillette Parizeau, the consulting engineers who performed mechanical, electrical, commissioning and site supervision for the project, used heat load analysis and energy simulation to incorporate multiple sustainability measures in the building. These include a geothermal system, a solar wall, energy recovery and rainwater harvesting. The architects were Provencher Roy + associates.

The 4,180-m2 pavilion is located at the Montreal Botanical Gardens near the Biodome and Olympic Park. Completed last year, it incorporates an exhibition centre as well as classrooms, laboratories and office space. It also has botanical collection storage that is maintained at a fixed temperature and humidity.

From the outset the client wanted the building to comply with the principles of sustainability and LEED. Also, the project was undertaken as an integrated design, i.e. all the design consultants, client’s representatives and the researchers were involved in the design from the outset.

Keen to innovate

The client and engineers were keen to innovate and take bold measures on the electrical and mechanical side, such as choosing a geothermal system as the main source of heating and cooling.

The closed loop geothermal system is designed to meet 100% of the heating requirements when the energy recovery measures are operational.

One of the two chillers is a geothermal type and can respond to 48% of the cooling load, or 71 tons. Thus the geothermal well field operates to its maximum at all times to answer the load demands (18 wells with a depth of 122 metres meet the equilibrium for 100% of the heating load and for 48% of cooling loads at peak conditions). Through sophisticated building controls, the system avoids unbalancing the ground thermal conditions.

The installation of a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) supplies 5,950 L/s to three air handling systems: the offices and laboratories, the exhibition hall, and the botanical storage areas. The DOAS includes a 193-m2 solar wall installed on two facades. In winter the solar wall has a 95% efficiency and provides an annual saving of 11 tons of carbon dioxide.

Energy is also recovered from the exhaust air of the laboratories (90 kW), from the chiller compressors and from specialized rooms such as the electrical, server, and freezer areas. The HVAC system may operate in a free cooling mode in mid-season. Other energy efficient strategies include underfloor air distribution for the exhibition hall, frequency inverters, occupancy, daylight and CO2 sensors, operable windows, and a 15% lighting density reduction.

To reduce water consumption and sewer discharge, the building has low-flow plumbing fixtures, and rain water is harvested from a section of the roof and distributed to non-potable fixtures such as urinals.

The design was optimized to meet several criteria: daylight, views, comfort, access, security and functionality. For example, the building envelope has a high thermal value and consists of 48% windows.

Since the building is outside the university campus, it had to be designed with two owners operating it simultaneously; the university maintains and operates the building, while the city of Montreal controls the HVAC system of the exhibition hall.

The team provided a detailed draft of costs at each stage of design. Completed in April 2011, its final cost is $15.4 million, with the mechanical and electrical work amounting to $5.4 million. The energy simulation demonstrated annual cost savings of $58,000 in operations and maintenance and 262 tons of CO2.

Finally, the integrated design approach demonstrated to the owner and the other professionals that mechanical and electrical design has evolved. It is no longer a matter of finding a single recipe to meet any building’s needs. Although applying any of the above energy recovery measures separately would demonstrate results in a standard construction, using the measures combined in an integrated system under a centralized control system is innovative. The key is to maximize their efficiency and sequence their operations at precise moments, and for this it is crucial to understand the behaviour of the whole building from the start through rigorous analysis.cce

Name of project: Centre Sur la

Biodiversité de l’Université de Montréal

Award winning firm (prime consultant, mechanical & electrical engineering): Bouthillette Parizeau & Associés,

Montreal (Jacques Lagacé, ing., Caroline Paquet, ing., René Desrosiers, tech.)

Owner/client: Université de

Montréal, Ville de Montréal, IRBV

Other key players: Provencher Roy +

associés (architects); SDK (structural

engineers); Golder (geotechnical); March& Houle et associés (civil), Teknika HBA (enhanced commissioning), Le Group Séguin Lacasse (landscape)

Supplier: Xylem (pumps,

heat plate exchangers)


The centre embodies the essence of what sustainable design is all about: that the technology can coexist with high design and is not simply about saving energy. It is through this enlightenment that the ideas of sustainable design are carried to the next generation.


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