Seeking Sustainability Excellence

There’s no better place to educate construction students in the design, installation and maintenance of green building technologies than in one of the most innovative sustainable facilities in the world. Located on Okanagan College’s Penticton campus, the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation is a working model of all the technologies being taught and is designed so all systems and elements can be easily observed, accessed and monitored.

A Comprehensive Approach to Sustainability

“In addition to achieving LEED® Platinum certification, the building incorporates the design standards of the Living Building Challenge, version 1.3, the most rigorous sustainability program worldwide,” said Gary Thomas, construction manager. “This version of LBC focuses on the six performance areas of site, water, energy, health, materials and beauty + inspiration, as well as on developing a building with net-zero energy and water consumption. This focus on performance allows the facility to contribute to the local community and helps make the world a better place.”

Rising to such a challenge required collaboration between all project partners and stakeholders. “The best part about the project was the team approach,” said, Gary. “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.”

A Regenerative Building

How do you create a building that produces more energy and water than it uses? You incorporate a three-pronged approach to energy and water use: conserve, capture and create.

Conserve with:

  • ​High insulation levels.
  • Triple-glazed, argon-filled windows.
  • Vestibules at all primary entrances.
  • High-performance doors.
  • Solar shading.
  • High airtightness performance.

 Capture with:

  • ​Passive solar gain.
  • Natural ventilation.
  • Ground source heating.
  • Ground source cooling.
  • Light pipe technology that magnifies sunlight by a factor of ten.

Create with:

  • ​Vacuum-tube solar panels to supply hot-water needs.
  • Photovoltaic array — the building contains the largest photovoltaic array for a non-utility organization in Canada.
  • Net metering.

Avoiding the Red List

Avoiding Red List items was the most challenging part of the project. To meet LBC standards, Red List building materials that are used in standard construction had to be eliminated. The team conducted extensive research to find suitable materials and products and even reached out to the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) for help in finding acceptable alternatives. “LBC standards require all wood products to be Forest Stewardship Council certified; at the time of construction, however, 15,600 square miles of forest in close proximity to the project had been decimated by pine beetles. We worked with the ILFI to obtain approval to use pine-beetle-kill wood. This helped us resource almost 100% of the wood from local sources, reduce transport costs, and adhere to the project’s strict budget,” said Gary.  

Unique Temperature Controls

“We installed a combination of engineered wood and concrete composite wall panels in the gymnasium to accommodate a radiant heating and cooling system,” said Gary. Radiant heating and cooling is normally restricted to flooring, but the wood athletic floor in the gym eliminated this possibility. This is the first time this technology has been used in North America. 

Ventilation chimneys naturally draw air through the building and engage building occupants in helping to control the building’s temperature. Windows feature a green-light/red-light system that indicates when occupants should open windows to maximize cooling and shut off the HVAC system or close windows to preserve the temperature.

Long-Term Beauty

Pursuing LEED and LBC standards ensured the project team embarked on a holistic approach to building sustainably. The team persevered through many challenges, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing and regenerative building. The facility will meet the test of time and equip construction professionals of the next generation with the knowledge and abilities they need to bring future sustainable buildings to life.