The most northerly 'net zero' commercial building breaks ground in Edmonton

The Mosaic Family of Companies is aiming to have the most northerly building achieve “net zero” status and the first in Alberta to be petal-certified by the Living Building Challenge.

Mosaic CentreThe Mosaic Centre is to become the head office for its namesake which designs oil rigs and provides environmental consulting. The new building will host a mix of offices, a child-care facility, wellness centre, lounge areas, game rooms and a restaurant.

Edmonton-based Manasc Isaac Architects designed the 30,000-square-foot office building which is expected to be completed in May 2015.

As a net zero building, the structure will generate as much energy on-site as it consumes annually. To achieve this goal, the architects plan to use a high-performance building envelope and minimal mechanical and electrical systems which will “work together to form an integrated response to the building’s physical environment,” according to a statement on the firm’s website.

Photovoltaic panels covering the majority of the roof will provide much of the electricity for the Mosaic Centre while a geo-thermal system will provide heat and cooling.

Heat from the computer’s server room will be distributed throughout the building via a heat recovery system.

Architect Shafraaz Kaba told CBC their client wanted “to set the whole commercial building sector in a whole different path, so they challenged us to come up with this building using a very unique process.”

Part of the process included taking advice from tradespeople, who they wouldn’t normally consult, and dealing directly with the contractor and owner in what Kaba called a very collaborative project.

The Living Building Challenge

The International Living Future Institute, with offices in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, administers the Living Building Challenge, “the built environment’s most rigorous and ambitious performance standard.”

Seven performance criteria or “petals” define the challenge: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. According to the institute, petal certification is awarded to projects that haven’t met the full criteria for the Living Building Challenge. The certification is granted to projects satisfying the requirements in three categories of the challenge, one of which must be in the areas of water, energy or materials.

To date, only five buildings have received full Living Building Challenge certification.

In the mid-1990s, an effort to produce the most advanced sustainable design globally, the EpiCenter in Bozeman, Mont., led to the idea for the Living Building Challenge. Bob Berkebile, who led the project, and Jason McLennan, who was the lead on the EpiCenter’s research and technology, put together a concept for a “Living Building.”

Research carried out to examine the economic and environmental implications of a Living Building compared to LEED certification demonstrated that long-term, economically Living Building was the smartest choice. However, Living Building carried a hefty start-up premium. Over time, those costs have diminished.

In 2005, the McLennan launched the Living Building Challenge.

Manasc Isaac Architects

When it comes to sustainable building, Manasc Isaac has a long track record. The firm built Edmonton’s first LEED Silver building, as well as the first LEED Gold building in the Arctic. As well, the firm was one of the first in Canada to adopt the 2030 Challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings through the design of new and renovation of existing buildings.

For its work, the firm has received the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Award, a Brilliant Building Award and a Governor General’s Award.

The company’s commercial work includes offices and retail as well as heritage building renovations. It also has carried out a number of feasibility studies for various structures.

A multiple award-winning reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years, Charles Mandel most recently worked as the National Observer's climate change reporter. He is a former Atlantic correspondent…

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A multiple award-winning reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years, Charles Mandel most recently worked as the National Observer's climate change reporter. He is a former Atlantic correspondent…

Read more

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