A Lesson in Sustainability

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation is literally a lesson in sustainable construction. Located on Okanagan College’s Penticton Campus, the building’s innovative features are designed to be a part of a “living lab” that can be used as part of students’ education in green construction.

Designed to achieve LEED platinum status, the
Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence inspires students
to keep sustainability in mind throughout all stages
of the building process.

The building’s roof has the largest array of
photovoltaic solar panels in Western Canada, which
provide domestic hot water as well as supplemental
building heat.

To encourage students to think locally, the project
features 100 per cent BC wood, other than a
hardwood gymnasium floor sourced from Ontario.  

Challenge Accepted


The structure was designed to achieve LEED® Platinum status as a form of inspiration for the next generation of tradespeople, site managers, and construction workers. As if that were not enough, Okanagan College also had a vision to take on the Living Building Challenge (LBC). The LBC is just that—a challenge. The goal is to achieve an advanced measure of sustainability by focusing on seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. On top of prerequisites in each of these categories, the challenge requires net-zero energy and water consumption.
Rising to such a challenge necessitated collaboration. PCL was in charge of construction management, but worked closely with consultants and contractors. “The best part about the project was the team approach,” said senior project manager, Gary Thomas. “We had an excellent consultant group and an excellent owner’s representative. The College was the driving force behind the green initiatives, and I think we were fortunate that there was such an ambitious vision for this building.”

The Building That LiveD

So, what does this ambitious vision and the resulting living building look like? For one, it is something that actively adapts to the environment around it to ensure it remains as efficient as possible. This can be seen in the building’s natural ventilation and cooling system. Windows feature a green-light/red-light system that indicates when occupants can open windows to maximize cooling.  

To avoid the use of energy from nonrenewable resources, the building has the largest array of photovoltaic solar panels in Western Canada. Solar energy provides domestic hot water as well as supplemental building heat.
As a part of the LBC, PCL was also challenged to engage the local community in the building process. “One of the most rewarding aspects was engaging smaller local firms,” said Thomas. “We found that they had expertise from other industries or experiences in putting together materials and components that fit this building.” The locality of the building is further reflected in the materials used to build it, as most of the wood was logged in close proximity to the site. Although the hardwood gymnasium floor was sourced from Ontario, the remainder of the project features BC wood, including pine from beetle-kill-affected forests.
Not only did the project live up to the vision that Okanagan College had from the start, but through its function as a living lab it is also equipping the next generation of students entering careers in construction with the knowledge and abilities they will need to bring future sustainable buildings to life.

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