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Integration key to making green buildings work: CaGBC Summit

At last week’s Canada Green Building Council Summit, held in Montreal, the word of the week was “integration.” Whether you’re building a new building or retrofitting an old one, the message was simply, integrate all hoped-for outcomes early in the project. Only through integration will the greatest benefits be realized.


June 15, 2009
By Rob Colman

Andreas Athienitis, Scientific Director of the Solar Buildings Research Network at Concordia University was keen to emphasize that in a presentation he made regarding a building integrated photo-voltaic thermal system.

The vision of the Solar Buildings Research Network (SBRN), of which Athienitis is a part, is the development of the solar-optimized building as an integrated advanced technological system that approaches net-zero energy consumption while being cost effective and comfortable.

The new John Molson School of Business building is one of the SBRN’s projects. It is partly heated and powered by the sun: solar panels cover the top two floors of one facade of its building. This world first demonstration of this type of combined solar heat and power technology integrated into a non-residential building is also the largest solar-electric installation in Quebec.

Covering approximately 300 square metres, the solar panels generate electricity for the building and heat fresh air during the heating season. Integrating a combination of solar heat and power in a commercial building is a first step in the development of the next generation of buildings that not only produce energy for their own use, but generate enough power to provide it to the electricity network, thereby transforming buildings from passive consumers of electricity to net energy producers.

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Integrating solar power into new buildings on a cost effective basis requires a shift from custom engineered solutions to standardized, modular building blocks that are built into the building envelope in an aesthetically attractive way, like any other building product. Canada’s Sustainable Energy Technologies’ patented inverter technology is used at the Molson School to make this possible.

Athienitis’s example is just the most forward-looking example of how the built environment needs to be considered as a whole if green buildings are to be realized on a large scale. Johnson Controls’ recent announcements regarding substantial, integrated retrofits at hospitals in Hamilton and Toronto are an example of how this is being managed effectively in certain sectors. However, it’s clear that more building owners, architects, builders and trades need to improve the initial conversations on these issues to make a bigger difference.

The positive news that came out of the Summit was simply that more people get that this is important. For instance, there will likely be more than 6,000 LEED Accredited Professionals by the end of this year in Canada. That’s a very good base of individuals that truly understand what it means to “green” a building, making them more energy efficient and environmentally sound.