Mohawk College opens net zero energy facility

Ellen Cools
October 22, 2018
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October 22, 2018 - Hamilton’s Mohawk College recently opened the doors of the new Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation, a net zero energy institutional building, at its Fennell Campus.

The centre is only the second building in the country to receive the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC’s) Zero Carbon Building — Design certification.

The centre features a number of environmental technologies that reduce energy use and carbon emissions, including a high-performance building envelope with unique curtain wall technology, solar photovoltaic (PV) panel arrays that can generate 721,000 kWh of electricity, a solar thermal array, 28 geothermal wells and a heat pump system.

The 96,000-square-foot building was constructed in just two years, after breaking ground in fall 2016.

“The Joyce Centre will bring learning and preliminary research under one roof,” says Ron McKurlie, president of Mohawk College. “Students will build skills and knowledge in eight new labs, a digital creativity centre and a partnering studio.”

Further, students will apply the knowledge learned in classes through research projects and ultimately learn how to operate, maintain and monitor the building themselves.

“We’ll be gathering data that will help define future buildings and how they will operate,” says Tony Cupido, chief building and facilities officer. “Students will be able to access all the data on the centre and its operations.”

“Net-zero energy is all about operations,” adds Lisa Bate, regional managing partner for North America for B+H Architects, which helped design the new building. “Whatever we design will fail if we don’t also change occupancy behaviour.”

Beside operations, another key factor in the building’s energy efficiency is its envelope, says Joanne McCallum, CEO of mcCallumSather, which also helped design the centre.

“The unique curtain wall has a frame system that is thermally broken, so little of the building’s energy needs to go to heating and cooling,” she explains.

According to Steve Kemp, principal with RDH Building Science, which designed the curtain wall, the centre is 75% more efficient than a typical building constructed to code. RDH will monitor its energy efficiency over the next two years, now that students are occupying the building on a daily basis. One of the biggest concerns, Kemp says, will be plug load, i.e. the number of devices plugged into outlets throughout the building. Maintaining efficiency will depend on students and staff being aware of their energy use.

In the meantime, Mohawk College is also executing a master planning exercise, Bates explains, which will look at the possibility of creating a net-zero campus in the coming years by retrofitting and rehabilitating existing buildings.

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