Humber boasts first retrofitted zero carbon building certified by Canada Green Building Council

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By Kristen Frisa

Ontario Construction News staff writer

On June 11, Humber announced its NX building has achieved Zero Carbon Building design certification through the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC). It’s the first retrofitted building in Canada to have achieved the status.

Zero-carbon buildings offset their annual carbon emissions through extreme efficiency and by using clean renewable energy.

Humber’s NX building retrofit has cut the building’s energy use by 70 per cent, making it one of the most energy-efficient buildings in North America, Humber says.

“Globally, buildings are responsible for 40 per cent of annual energy consumption and up to 30 per cent of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions,” said Spencer Wood, Humber’s Director of Facilities Management in a statement from the college.

In Canada, Wood says, our biggest challenge is heating buildings at a reasonable cost, without the use of fossil fuels.  “Humber wanted to be an example to the Canadian design and construction industries on how a deep energy retrofit can contribute positively to our country’s climate,” the statement read.

In order to decrease the energy the building uses, NX was fitted with a complete envelope retrofit that is heavily insulated and airtight. Triple pane windows were installed, as well energy efficient upgrades to lighting, heating, and cooling systems.

Then solar panels were installed.

“Humber College is showing real leadership and innovation in green building and carbon reduction. The NX building demonstrates that Canada has the expertise and technology now for buildings to reach zero carbon and contribute to global climate change efforts in a meaningful way,”said Thomas Mueller, President and CEO of the Canada Green Building Council.

Renovations to the NX building were designed by B+H architects and Morrison Hershfield and completed by BIRD Construction. The work has been in progress since May 2018 and is scheduled to finish in summer of 2019. NX was originally built in 1989.

Campuses across the country are picking up on the green building trend, showcasing Canada’s capability to move forward in this sphere.

George Brown is receiving $4.1 million of federal funds to build the Arbour, a 10-storey wood building on its Waterfront Campus, as part of the government’s Green Construction with Wood program. Wood is a low-carbon building material and the Arbour is to be a net-zero certified building.

Meanwhile, Fanshawe College is looking to retrofit one of its on-campus residence buildings to teach students how the project can be done. Lead by instructor Tom Davis, owner of Green-Tech Environmental Engineering Ltd. out of Toronto, students will enhance Kestrel Court so that in the end, Davis says, it will actually produce more energy than it uses.

These are but a few examples of post-secondary institutions leading the charge to build and retrofit buildings to be energy-efficient. The growing trend will be featured at the CaGBC’s post-secondary summit, to be held on June 13 in Hamilton.

Leaders representing projects from Humber, Sheridan College, First Nations Technical Institute, University of Guelph, Western University, Fanshawe College, Ryerson University, George Brown University, Centennial College, and University of Toronto will be in attendance, to showcase green building excellence at Ontario universities and colleges.

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