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London, Ontario’s first LEED platinum office building almost done

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London, Ontario’s first LEED platinum office building wraps up construction at the end of November. And despite facing many unusual challenges, the build will come in on budget, says its coordinator.
London, Ontario’s first LEED platinum office building almost done

London’s first LEED platinum office building wraps up construction at the end of November. And despite facing many unusual challenges, the build will come in on budget, says its coordinator.

Alex Shivas, coordinator of land and facilities for the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, says a needs assessment begun in 2005 led to the decision to build a new head office for the organization.

“We knew that long term and to be cost efficient it was better to go to new building,” the authority members decided, he explains.

But little did they realize just how challenging developing a new space would be.

The goal was to build a LEED (Leadership in energy and environmental design) certified facility that would reflect the authority’s values and become an example for others in the area. Federal shovel ready grants intended to kick start the economy after the 2008 recession seemed like an ideal way to help fund the vision of a state-of-the-art facility. “We applied for everything,” Shivas recalls. “Didn’t have success.”

So, in 2010, with a budget of $12 million, the authority assembled its team. Randy Wilson Architect Inc. in London provided the design and closely interviewed staff about their activities and workspace needs to develop a functional plan. Enermodal Engineering was the lead consultant on the building’s green features and Graceview Enterprises Inc., in Belmont is the builder.

The building was planned to be 36,000 square feet and two storeys. It would offer enough room for 105 workstations, meeting rooms and space to host a conference of up to 130 people.

The plan was to erect most of the new building first and then tear down the old building to allow staff to remain in their old quarters until the new facility was habitable. The last phase would be to build the new building’s entrance and file storage.

By September 2010, shovels hit the ground with the anticipation that much of the site preparation work could be done before the snow settled in. Then, excavation turned up a surprise: a concrete batch plant that had been used for the nearby dam.

That discovery was followed, in December 2010, by record snowfalls in the London region.

“All they did for three weeks here was clear the site,” Shivas says.

By spring, however, work on the facility was in full swing.

Many of the building’s features are common to green builds: a cistern to draw water from the building tile to use for washrooms, for example, and green and white membrane roofing,

There are other, more innovative additions, such as sensors to control heating and cooling, carbon dioxide detectors to trigger the opening of cold air returns and a septic system that uses a biofilter. The building will use 50 per cent less energy than one conventionally built under the current building code, Shivas says. The dam’s hydro plant will supply the electricity.

James Van Gurp, president of Graceview, says although it’s not uncommon to combine different materials, the project — the company’s first official LEED build — was “a bit more intricate than most with some of the curves and the different components you have to work together.”

A concrete structure creates the first floor and concrete columns project into the second floor, he explains. On these column “trees” are a combination of tapered engineered wood and steel to support curved engineered wood girders. On top of the girders are truss joist I-beams and a 250 mm thick insulated panel system topped with a high-reflectance single ply membrane roof.

Len Vanderweerd, the company’s operations manager, says one challenge he found was to protect the cast-in-slab that acts as both the structure and the upper level’s finished floor. It had to be used for months as a working platform.

“We’ve certainly done those in the past,” he says. “Because it was exposed for such a lengthy time just exacerbated that.”

Staff moved into the new building in June in five days.

“We love the building; we love the layout; we love the fact that we’ve headed down the LEED road,” Shivas says. If the opportunity came to do it all over again, the only difference might be changing the location so the building could be fully completed before occupancy.

As for whether it will qualify for the LEED platinum designation, “we probably won’t know for six months or so how many points we actually have achieved,” Shivas says. “But we’re confident, and so is Enermodal, that we will achieve platinum.”

by Mary Baxter

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