The Verschuren Centre is one of Canada’s most sustainable university labs, with an estimated 50 per cent decrease in energy consumption compared to similar buildings. That efficiency was built into every aspect of the Centre’s design. Here are some of the features:
The Verschuren Centre is heated and cooled with an advanced geothermal system, with an estimated energy savings of more than 20 per cent compared to conventional sources.
Made up of 39 vertical wells on a closed loop, our geothermal field system is based on a series of 400-foot, two-pipe boreholes, drilled on a 20 by 20 foot grid.
With this set-up, the centre can heat and cool itself with no demand for hot water heating supply from CBU’s central heating plant.
Perched on the centre roof, a solar panel array takes advantage of an unobstructed southern orientation.
With an estimated output of 64kW, the panels power our domestic hot water system first, with any excess capacity directed to the heat pump or in-slab radiant heating systems.
Five vertical-axis wind turbines rise in front of the Verschuren Centre, welcoming every visitor to the CBU campus.
While small in size, the turbines benefit from Cape Breton’s world-class wind resource, delivering up to 1.2 kW to offset the centre’s electricity demand. The annual energy production form each turbine is estimated at 2000 kilowatt hours per year.
The Verschuren Centre’s displacement ventilation system supplies cool, clean, high volume, low velocity air at floor level, then extracts the air at ceiling height.
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 open atrium and the Lecture Theatre.
Natural ventilation just makes sense: we don’t need to use full-powered ventilation whenthe weather is good. The centre’s windows are tied into the building automation system so they can respond automatically to seasonal and occupancy conditions.
All roof runoff (except during extreme overflow)is collected in an above ground cistern to supply non-potable uses in the Verschuren Centre like toilets and irrigation. Used in combination with low flush toilets, the centre has excellent water conservation.
Excess water from the greywater system is captured on site and delivered to an environmental park. This water 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.
The Verschuren Centre’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. There are no light switches in the building.
Nova Scotia is a world leader in LED lighting use, and the centre uses LED in all exterior lighting.
Interior living wall
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 Verschuren Centre visitors simply stare at its beauty, the living wall contributes significantly to indoor air quality.
Green materials and practices
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 daylighting efficiency), high emissivity roof membrane, and permeable outdoor pavements.
During construction, Verschuren Centre 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.
The Verschuren Centre’s original building design is the product of two architectural firms: Barrie & Langille (Halifax) and Moriyama & Teshima (Toronto).