This week, we got to take a behind-the-scenes look at George Brown College's new health sciences education learning center in Toronto, a building that promises to be one of the most sophisticated new green buildings in the city. The building, which is scheduled to open for class in September, benefits from its location at the edge of Lake Ontario, but it's what's in the electrical closet that makes it so intriguing. The building will feature a fully integrated technology interface that will drastically improve its efficiency, thus reducing its energy and water use.
The most exciting element of the new building is its automation system, which was developed with help from Cisco; because of those energy and atmosphere monitoring systems, the new building will be 50 to 60 percent more efficient than the average ASHRAE-ranked building. When construction began on the new building, the technology interface that’s currently being installed didn’t exist – builder EllisDon, Cisco and George Brown College had to collaborate to develop a system based on the college’s needs and vision for the building.
In the LEED system, these types of developments are known as “innovation credits” – they help make buildings smarter and run more efficiently, but they also limit the use of unnecessary materials, from wiring to switches. According to Cisco, “smart” buildings can achieve a reduction of up to 11% on annual operating expenses, and they can help builders to save up to 15% on mechanical and electrical systems.
The college is also installing an advanced sensory system and a full weather station on the 8th floor that will be used to gauge temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, precipitation. That data will be used to develop environmental analyses, which can be used to determine what types of on-site renewable energies might work well for that building or for other, future buildings located nearby. Although the building still relies on traditional sources of energy, it will serve as a laboratory for how to achieve net-zero energy at that particular location.
Native species of plants and wild grasses will be grown in the building’s green roof trough system, and seating areas will be added to the adjacent areas. Sixty percent of the new building’s roof, which spans several different levels, will be planted. The building also features stormwater management systems, and some recycled materials were used in the building’s construction.