Tuesday, February 27, 2007

UOIT: Brave New Design

Canada's newest university, The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), adjacent to Durham College in Oshawa, is a leading example of how innovative design can be both beautiful and energy efficient. When construction began at the campus in 2002, the guiding principal was environmental sustainability. This was accomplished by incorporating advanced technologies and innovative, renewable energy systems.

"We all have to work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency to lower operating costs," said Ken Bright, Manager of Special Projects, Utilities & Energy Management at Durham College/UOIT. Bright explained that as part of the pre-construction planning process, it was determined that the energy efficiency of the buildings would be 50 percent better than the National Energy Model.

After careful consideration, it was determined that a geothermal energy system was the most economical renewable energy source. UOIT is now home to Canada's largest borehole thermal energy storage (BTES) installation. The system, which has a 2,000 tonne capacity, consists of 370 wells, each one penetrating 180 meters into the bedrock and utilizing 80 kilometers of piping.

During the summer months, water circulates through the underground tubes, and is chilled to between 6 and 10 degrees Celsius. It is then circulated through the buildings, picking up heat as part of the air conditioning system. The water is then transferred through the heat pump to a ground loop, where it is returned through the underground tubes, dispersing its heat into the bedrock.

The reverse happens in the winter months. The water is circulated underground, collects heat from the earth, and disperses that warmth into the buildings.

"Essentially we are using the ground to store energy from one season to another," said Bright. In addition to being energy efficient, installing the BTES system made good financial sense. The payback on the installation is estimated to be 7.5 years.

The installation is also much more esthetically pleasing than traditional centralized air-conditioning systems that require large centralized plants above ground.

"Instead of having a large cooling tower to reject heat into the atmosphere, we reject it into the ground," said Bright. "We use a heat pump to transfer the heat energy from one water source to another."

Another innovative feature at UOIT is the installation of green rooftops on the five new academic buildings on campus. In total, 40 percent of the rooftop area of the new buildings has been "greened". Using soil beds filled with low maintenance indigenous plants, green roofs are both functional and beautiful. Rainwater is captured and held in the soil before it can reach the ground, effectively recycling the water back into the atmosphere. Any surplus runs off into an underground, 250,000 -litre storage area and is used for irrigation, thereby reducing municipal water use.

Green rooftops also help absorb carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas. The air intakes are located near the gardens, which also helps to cool the air as it enters each building.

The BTES installation and green rooftops are just some of the energy efficiency improvements made at UOIT. In addition, many of the windows have been coated with microscopically thin layers of silver that is invisible to the human eye. These metal-oxide coatings allow heat to remain inside during the winter and help keep rooms cooler in the summer's heat. The insulating glass also blocks 99.5 percent of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, thereby reducing fading and damage to furniture and other items.

Another energy saving innovation at the campus is the university's arena. Bright explained that the energy reclaimed from the arena's ice-making equipment is used to heat water, control the permafrost under the ice slab, and assist in snow melting.

"We take energy conservation very seriously," said Bright. He also added that the University has an aggressive recycling program. "I think it's the right thing to do."


For more information on UOIT's energy efficiency initiatives, visit www.uoit.ca.

How green is green? The LEED Green Building Rating System was developed to provide a recognized standard when assessing the environmental sustainability of building design. Developed in the U.S. by the Green Building Council (USGBC), the standard has now been adapted by the Canadian Green Building Council. For more information visit The Canada Green Building Council.

The solar energy that falls on Okotos, Alberta in a single day equals the energy from all the fossil fuel that is extracted from the province in an entire year. This is precisely why Okotoks’ newest subdivision, The Drake Landing Solar Community (DLSC), is the first community in the world that is designed to derive 90 percent of its space and water heating requirements from solar energy. For more information visit www.okotoks.ca.


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