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Ontario's first net-zero police facility to be developed in Toronto

Two-storey, 60,000-sq.-ft. structure to be partially powered by geoexchange, solar panels

Ontario's first net-zero building is expected to be a police headquarters in Scarborough. (Courtesy Idea Workshop)

A new two-storey Toronto police building in Scarborough will be powered largely by sustainable energy, and is destined to be Ontario’s first net-zero police facility, according to the architectural firm designing the structure.

“I think the city wants to show that not only is this a TPS (Toronto Police Service) facility, it’s a City of Toronto facility,” Nicola Casciato, a principal at WZMH Architects, said in an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada. “It’s environmental stewardship that I think the city wants to now implement through a policy of more efficient buildings in the future.”

To be located at 2222 Eglinton Ave. E., the Toronto Police Service - Division 41 building is designed to be a two-storey, 60,000-square-foot structure partially powered by renewable energy and accentuated by green space.

Casciato is part of the fourth generation of partners at Toronto-based WZMH Architects, a firm that designs commercial, residential and institutional buildings. Its portfolio includes the CN Tower, Scotia Plaza and the Bay Adelaide Centre.

“Every building that we endeavour to design usually starts with asking the questions about how we can make it as sustainable as possible for future generations,” Casciato said. “We always look for ways to make our buildings as efficient and as sustainable as possible.”

Designing a net-zero police station

The approach for the building, according to Sean Fung, an associate principal at WZMH Architects who spoke with Sustainable Biz Canada, is to meet the Toronto Green Standard for a net-zero emissions building.

The headquarters will be partially powered by a combination of geoexchange from Geosource, and a solar array on the green roof that will produce approximately 125,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

None of the systems will be powered by natural gas or diesel, and it will run entirely on electricity, a first for the Toronto Police Service, Fung said. By electrifying the building’s mechanical systems, carbon emissions will be reduced and energy savings will be generated, Casciato added.

“It may take a few years to pay back, but there is an energy savings when you look at the life-cycle of the building,” he said.

Fung noted the building envelope is designed for a high degree of thermal performance, defined by triple-paned glass and increased insulation for a higher R-value.

Casciato said WZMH Architects has been “very judicious in the location and size of the windows on the building.”

“We wanted to balance how much natural daylight was coming into the building. The more windows you have, the more energy you have to consume to keep the building warm so we reduced the number of windows while still maintaining a lot of natural daylight in the building,” he continued.

The design is forecast to result in 40.14 per cent energy savings over a building that complies with the Ontario Building Code’s SB-10 regulation, and a reduction of approximately 70 per cent in carbon compared to a traditional building, according to Fung. A minimum of 20 per cent of the building’s energy is planned to be sourced from the geoexchange system, he added.

Not every watt will come from geoexchange or solar panels, a portion of the building's needs will still be powered by Ontario’s grid. But Casciato said greenhouse gas emissions will remain low because the province’s electricity is largely clean, coming primarily from hydropower or nuclear energy.

To reduce embodied carbon, recycled materials will be used within the building.

The Division 41 building will be constructed over two phases and is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Learnings for the rest of Toronto

Casciato said the lesson for others as they consider net-zero building projects is to consider the option in the earliest stages of design.

“That’s when you make the most important decisions about the building and doing it . . . in the early stages rather than later would be the best approach to designing a sustainable building.”

Casciato said the environmental features are beneficial to everyone involved in the project.

“I think the net-zero was a big win for both TPS and the City of Toronto, and us, quite frankly, that we’ve created this public building, this justice facility that serves the public as a net-zero emission building.”

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