The Centre for Excellence at Okanagan College in British Columbia was designed to meet the incredibly rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge. Officially named the Okanagan College Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation, the building is actually a living classroom outfitted with the latest and greatest of sustainable technologies. The super energy efficient building was designed by CEI Architecture Planning Interiors and includes a rooftop full of photovoltaics and solar hot water heaters where students can test, study and optimize to their hearts content.
Planning for the hands-on, living classroom began back in 2009, with a design charrette led by CEI that involved over 40 participants and Okanagan College to develop a working model for the building. The 6,780 sq meter facility combines classrooms, meeting areas, office space, research and testing facilities and a community gymnasium. The living classroom was designed to practice what it teaches and aims to reduce energy use, conserve water, and mitigate its impact on the surrounding environment. The net zero energy and water facility provides live energy and water data from which students can learn from.
The large roof incorporates a number of sustainable strategies to both reduce energy use and generate energy for the building. A series of ventilation chimneys work off the stack effect to draw hot air up and out of the building, and encourage natural ventilation. Solatube skylights and sun-tracking light pipes dot the roof and pull daylighting down into the building, while a couple sections are planted with native plants creating a new habitat for local species. Both photovoltaics and evacuated tube solar collectors generate energy for the building, and a test area allows students and faculty to change out equipment to study new technologies.
The entrance of the building features a gorgeous array of sun shades that block the sun during the summer and bounce light into the space during the winter. FSC certified and thermally treated wood is used to create a timber frame entrance, and prototype composite panels designed specifically for the center grace the remaining walls. Triple-glazed argon-filled windows and a continually insulated wall assembly ensure a tight and high performing envelope. The Centre for Excellence was completed in March of 2011, and must undergo a full year of performance verification before it can earn its Living Building Challenge certification. In the meantime, they are also targeting LEED Platinum certification.
Images ©Ed White Photographics