We all know that thermal mass is one of the key ingredients in passive solar design. Like a capacitor, thermal mass captures the sun's energy, reserving it for use in various parts of a building or after the sun has gone down. The Gleneagles Community Center by Patkau Architects in Vancouver, BC is a prime example of the potential this process holds in storing energy inside a building. The tri-level community center relies on large overhangs, cast-in-place concrete floor slabs, tilt up concrete walls, radiant floors and a ground source heat pump to maintain a constant temperature inside the building.
The community center, which is located next to a golf course, houses a community “living room,” café, meeting room, administration offices, child care facilities, as well as a gymnasium, multipurpose room, arts room, youth room, outdoor specialty area and fitness area. Built on a sloping hillside location, both the lower and middle levels are on grade and provide a closer connection to the outdoors. The gym consists of three open levels, and many of the programs within the building look down onto the gym floor.
A large, overhanging timber roof covers the entire building, protecting the interior from too much sun in the summer and re-directing rainwater runoff into nearby swales for water infiltration. The floors have been cast with concrete and slabs and walls were constructed from double-wythe composite tilt-up concrete. The concrete floors and walls serve as a thermal mass to soak up the sun’s energy and then re-distribute it through radiant floors within the structure. The concrete acts either as an absorber or emitter of energy – whether cool or hot – and helps keep the building a constant temperature.
Underneath the adjacent permeable parking area is a ground source heat exchange system that helps regulate the temperatures inside. A displacement system flushes contaminant up and out of the building while providing fresh air, and heat recovery brings the fresh air back in at a similar temperature. Ultimately, the community center uses less than 40% of the energy a comparable building.
The 24,000 sq foot project began back in 2000 and was completed in 2003. Since then the building has been awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Certificate of Merit in 2006 and then the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture 2008.
Images ©James Dow