Canadian Consulting Engineer

Buildings: Top Performers at Okanagan

August 1, 2012
By Bronwen Parsons

The Charles E. Fipke Centre for Innovative Research and the contiguous Arts and Science Building at UBC Okanagan form a new precinct on the campus, which is located outside Kelowna. Both buildings were designed by Kasian Architecture Interior...

The Charles E. Fipke Centre for Innovative Research and the contiguous Arts and Science Building at UBC Okanagan form a new precinct on the campus, which is located outside Kelowna. Both buildings were designed by Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning, with Integral Group/Cobalt Engineering as the mechanical consultant.

Green Globes is a rating system administered in Canada by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). It evolved from a U.K. system, with involvement from the Canadian Standards Association. It was introduced to the U.S. in 2004.

Whereas LEED certification has traditionally been applied to a building’s design, Green Globes is an online auditing tool which assesses a building’s actual ongoing environmental performance once it is occupied. Green Globes covers all aspects of sustainable design, from site management, to water use, to indoor environment and energy performance. The program rates buildings according to a graduated system. Five Green Globes is the highest ranking and is sometimes considered to be equivalent to LEED platinum.

Assessing a building once it is up and running, rather than relying on the design projections, is important because buildings need to be fine-tuned to achieve their top performance. Project architect at Kasian for both the Okanagan campus buildings is Michael McDonald. He explains: “With any high performance building it [optimum performance] doesn’t happen right away. What happens with temperature swings and how do we react to them? How quickly do the slabs heat up, and how quickly do they cool down? Those sorts of things take a little bit of time — a year — to work out.”

The Fipke Centre (75,000 sq.ft., completed 2008) and Arts and Science Building (86,200 sq. ft., completed 2010) are both multi-purpose buildings. Both have classrooms, offices, common areas, and 300-seat auditoriums. Both also have wet and dry labs, occupying approximately 25% of their total floor area. The Arts and Science building also has an animal care facility.

All players at the table

Energy monitoring has shown that the Okanagan buildings use almost 50 per cent less energy than equivalent lab buildings designed to Canada’s Model National Energy Code for Buildings.

Albert Bicol, P.Eng., the project manager at Integral Group is proud of what was ultimately achieved: “A typical lab building uses around 600-800 kWh per square metre per year. This building’s measured data is half that number. And this number relates to all the energy consumed — gas and electricity, not just HVAC.

The most important part of the project, Bicol says, was using an integrated design approach. “We were involved from Day 1 with the owners UBC Properties Trust, the contractor, architect, consultants, and the cost consultants.” The approach enabled them to reduce the size and costs of the mechanical systems and redirect those funds to architectural elements such as an efficient envelope. “You can’t do that when people are working in silos without an integrated design approach,” Bicol says.

Trickling energy into the space

Bicol outlines some of the design features that helped reduce the building’s energy consumption.

First, the concrete structure is a “thermal active slab” for both heating and cooling the entire building. The exposed slabs integrate hydronic piping and are only around 9” thick. They radiate heating or cooling upwards into the floor above, and downwards into the ceiling below.

The hydronic system is served by the campus district energy system, which is a geo-exchange system that draws from underground aquifers. It was built to serve several new buildings on the campus.

Bicol describes the mechanical systems at the Fipke and Arts and Science buildings as “semi-passive” and low-grade systems since they don’t require very hot or very cold water to condition the spaces. During the summer the team was “pleasantly surprised” to find that water from the aquifers was cold enough to be pumped through the building without having to use a compressor energy — this in a climate where temperatures can rise as high as +30°C in summer (and –20°C in winter).

“We have reduced the demand for cooling so much because of shading, proper window glass, and the thermal mass/radiant slab that it becomes possible to just trickle energy into the space,” says Bicol.

Wind towers and simplicity

Offices and common areas are ventilated through operable windows, trickle vents, and wind towers. Bicol describes the wind towers — there are three in total, rising around 10 feet above the roof — as “an old technology, almost like a clerestory.” The towers have louvres at the top to allow hot air to escape through a stack effect. The towers also provide a means of heat recovery of exhaust air during the winter. “As the wind blows across the top of the tower it creates negative pressure inside the tower, like an airplane wing reducing the need for electricity to move air through the building,” explains Bicol.

The labs and theatres use displacement ventilation. Air is conventionally conditioned and released into the labs in cabinet grilles near the floor. These spaces have their own exhaust systems, with heat recovery.

In the theatres, fresh air is brought in quietly through plenums under the stadium seating. Carbon dioxide detectors located throughout the building ensure that the ventilation is adequate and air quality is good.

Daylighting is maximized through the buildings’ orientation and strategically placed overhangs on the exterior facades, while occupancy sensors and energy-efficient lighting reduce the electrical loads further.

And since building operations are so important for achieving actual energy savings, these Okanagan buildings have it right. “A main feature of both buildings is that they are simple to operate and simple to maintain,” says Bicol. “There are not many VAV boxes, diffusers, or “stuff” with moving parts, which means the buildings require less operation and less maintenance.”cce


Charles E. Fipke Centre for Innovative Research / Arts and Science Building, University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus. Client: UBC Properties Trust. Architects: Kasian Architecture Interior Design & Planning with HMA Architecture/Art Huber Architect. Mechanical: Cobalt/Integral (Albert Bicol, P.Eng.) Structural: Bush Bohlman and Partners. Electrical: Falcon Engineering. Construction services: Stuart Olson Dominion.


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