What is a Green Building?
A green Building is a structure that includes technologies and systems that allow it to run with the smallest environmental impact possible through the use of technologies like having a white roof, solar panels, or other methods. Not only should it have little to no negative impact on the environment, it should be a structure that actually creates a positive effect, and one that allows people to participate in the green movement. Thank you to our sponsor of this blog challenge Tiocoat for the opportunity to learn and share information about the most interesting and green buildings!
I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to tour the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, a building on the Okanagan College Penticton campus with Jill Smith, Recruiting and Events Coordinator. This building is so green that it is considered the second most sustainable building in all of North America! This building was officially opened in 2011 and has since become a marvel of new environmentally friendly and sustainable technology that encompasses every aspect of the building from the lights, to heating and cooling systems, and even the green programs that have been put in place. The focus however, is not only on the environmental impact of the creation of the building, but also on the participation and use of the people, programs, and products within the campus to help create a greener environment that can be enjoyed by all.
Upon entering the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence it is obvious that so much thought and consideration was put into the building, and not only on its environmental sustainability but also its usability, esthetic appeal, and the health and well being of its users. The building itself is made of local materials, in fact most of which come from within 300 kilometers of the building. These materials been recycled, and reused to create a contemporary and green environment. The floors for example are made of locally recycled rubber, the wood panels on the ceiling are made of Pine Beetle Kill wood from the Okanagan area, even the front desk is made of recycled glass and the cafeteria chairs of recycled plastic. All of these items were once thought to be useless and have now instead been broken down to build up materials, and items that are fully functional. Using local materials reduce the waste that is put out into the environment, and also help to reduce the carbon foot print of making the building as they are all local products that did not have to be shipped from other countries, or even across our very large country.
A very interesting feature of this building is its lighting systems, it is seen throughout most rooms that windows are a key feature. All windows are strategically placed to enable every room to use as much natural lighting as possible and really benefit from the bright Okanagan sunshine. Another way this building took advantage of the natural light is by installing Sola Tube Lights. The way that these lights work is by taking the light that has been captured from a dome on the roof where it is then channeled down a tube with a reflective system that captures lights from many angels and basically magnifies it to light an entire room. The lights require no electricity, they are bright even on cloudy days, and they result in a minimum amount of light that is lost. Other light features that are noticed through out the building are dimming energy efficient lights that are also motion detecting so that they use the least amount of energy possible.
Heating and cooling
In my opinion the heating and cooling of this building is the most interesting concept, and it is a concept that also focuses on the heath of the people that use the building. The easiest way to describe this intricate system is probably from the ground up, literally by starting with the floors. The majority of the floors are made of polished concrete that keep the area cool in the summer and warm in the winter because they are actually heated from underneath by the excess heated air from the waste water treatment plant and cooled from the fresh air circulating over them. The building also features geothermal heating that heats and cools the air by capturing the heat in a medium such as water, and pumping it down into the earth through a piped system where the temperature is more moderated and then it is pumped back up to the building where the new, more stable temperature is released. A large part of the heating and cooling systems in the Centre of Excellence is real fresh air being naturally circulated through the entire building through solar/ wind chimneys. These entail large vents that run from top to bottom of the building and focus on the idea that warm air rises, therefor the warm air in the building will run up through the large vents with the help of the solar powered heat at the top of the vents that create suction and out the chimneys on the roof. There is also an old school way of ventilation that is a common practice in this amazing building, which involves the highly complicated process of opening a window to let some air in.
In reality the building operates on a red light, green light system that shows when the optimum time to manually open the window to moderate the temperature, and ventilate the room is. Lastly the feature I was really interested in was the gymnasium walls that are made of concrete that have a heating and cooling system built into the walls! The concrete of the gym walls was actually cool to the touch. It was amazing to walk through the building and experience just how much better these technologies actually make you feel. Through having new air circulate constantly gives the feeling of being outside while you are inside and that creates a place where you can learn while feeling like you are in a better physical, and mental state because of the openness and freshness of the area.
Systems and programs
The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence is a place of innovation and new effective green ideas that are also incorporated into the other systems found around building. For example the building has a white roof to reflect the sunlight and keep the building cooler. The building itself is also completely self sufficient when it comes to energy, much of which is created by the one thousand thirty three solar panels on the roof. The Jim Pattison Centre of excellence actually uses water systems such as the irrigation and toilets that all run off of reused grey water. The school even features energy efficient equipment in its classrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens to lower the amount of energy used. There are even programs in place that compost and use the discarded food waste to fertilize the natural landscape that is also green since it emphasizes the use of local flora that does not need any extra watering. In addition the students and staff alike are encouraged to contribute to the green theme by lessening their environmental impact through recycling and reusing items such as a coffee cup at the cafeteria for a discount on coffee! Because the building is a place of learning most of the environmentally friendly technologies installed in the building such as wiring, and pipes have been left exposed so that they can be used as a learning tool for those who would like to learn more. The College is even offering a Sustainable Construction Management Technologies Diploma to educate and train professionals to help make our world a greener place.
I would like to thank the staff of Okanagan College and especially my guide Jill Smith for being so willing to help me learn and understand some of the environmentally friendly concepts that the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence has to offer. I am thrilled to be attending the Penticton Okanagan College in fall 2013 and cannot wait to take advantage of such a unique building. The knowledge I have gained because of one tour is astounding and the fact that such an amazing place focuses not only on the environment but also on the health and well being of its staff and students is fantastic. The technologies that are in place at the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence that allow it to be completely self sufficient even when it comes to energy and water, are ones that are exciting and new and can also be learned from to create a better tomorrow for everyone.