Geothermal system for heating and cooling
The VCSEE is heated and cooled with an advanced geothermal system, which contributes over 20% of the estimated energy savings compared to conventional sources. There are 39 vertical wells on a closed loop. The system is based on a series of 400-foot, two-pipe boreholes, drilled on a 20 x 20 foot grid.
With this set-up, VCSEE can heat and cool itself with no demand for hot water heating supply from CBU’s central heating plant.
There is an array of solar panels on the VCSEE roof to take advantage of an unobstructed southern orientation. With an estimated output of 64 kW, the panels power our domestic hot water system first, then any excess capacity is directed to the heat pump or in-slab radiant heating systems.
There are five vertical-axis wind turbines in front of the VCSEE. Although they are small in size, the turbines benefit from Cape Breton’s world-class wind resource, delivering up to 1.2 megawatts to offset the VCSEE’s electricity demand. The annual energy production from each turbine is estimated at 2,000-kilowatt hours per year. The yearly average for a Canadian household is 9,000 kW hours.
The VCSEE’s displacement ventilation system supplies cool clean, high volume, low velocity air at floor level, then extracts the air at ceiling height. This is highly efficient and effective from a comfort and energy standpoint. Displacement ventilation is at work in a number of areas including public event spaces, the atrium and the lecture theatre.
Natural ventilation just makes sense: we don’t need to use full-powered ventilation when the weather is good. The VCSEE’s windows are tied in to the building automation system so they can respond automatically to seasonal and occupancy conditions.
During wet weather the “V” shape allows the roof runoff (except during extreme overflow) to be collected in an above ground cistern to supply non-potable uses in the VCSEE, such as toilet s and irrigation. Used in combination with low flush washroom fixtures, the VCSEE has excellent water conservation.
Greywater is wastewater from domestic activities such as cleaning, hand washing, showers, etc. At the VCSEE this excess water if captures on site and delivered to an environmental park which then supplies a water feature allowing solid materials to settle, water to oxygenate, and exposing the water to beneficial bacteria and microbes that thrive in plant roots and rock material.
VCSEE’s lighting is tied to daylight and occupancy sensors: entering a room triggers lights-on if natural light is not sufficient, exiting the room eventually triggers lights-off. Nova Scotia is a world leader in LED lighting use, and VCSEE uses LED in all exterior lighting.
All offices and labs, and rooms in the VCSEE benefit from natural light sources. Even areas along the interior walls have windows, which allow natural light to filter into the space.
Located on the mezzanine level in the heart of the building, the living wall is a vertical hydroponic garden of tropical plants, overlooking the atrium, directly beneath a central skylight that washes the vegetation with daylight, sunlight, and shadow through the day.
Research suggests that in “biophilic” spaces – where humans and organic life interact – patients recover more quickly, students learn better, workplace productivity goes up, and absenteeism goes down. Even if VCSEE visitors simply stare at its beauty, the living wall contributes significantly to indoor air quality.
European Beech Wood
European Beech wood was used throughout the building. Wood from beech trees (as well as pine, oak, and birch) cause lower environmental risk than wood from tropical or subtropical trees like mahogany or teak.
The ceiling in the atrium is also European beech – openings in some of the panels are for acoustic properties.
Other Green Features
Other building features include: local and regional materials, materials with high recycled content, materials free from “off-gassing” content, FSC certified wood products, high performance glazing products (for improved thermal and day-lighting efficiency_, high emissivity roof membrane, and permeable outdoor pavements.
During the construction, VCSEE builders practiced construction waste separation and management (for landfill diversion), stringent erosion and sedimentation control, rigorous indoor air quality management, and conscientious building systems commissioning.