The Early Stages: Achieving Gold LEED Status
As you have seen on this site, the ERC is a cutting edge green building. Many of the features that allow our building to operate at an efficient level were incorporated into its initial construction, such as thermal mass, radiant heating and cooling, earth tube ventilation, wastewater treatment and a green roof.
Once we moved in, we started to learn how we could improve the building beyond the initial design. We wanted to monitor these gains and provide proof that we were operating the building in the most sustainable way possible. That is why we decided to certify the building under the LEED for Existing Buildings (LEED EB) rating system. In 2006, the Earth Rangers Centre was awarded Gold in LEED for New Construction, a certification that required modeling and predictions of expected performance, as well as many innovative design features. For the facility to qualify for the LEED for Existing Buildings we needed to track the actual operational performance of the Earth Rangers Centre, and hit some very tough targets.
Step 1: Data Gathering and Performance Tracking
We began the process of documenting our building’s performance in late 2008. We wanted to prove to our sponsors, donors, staff and future tenants that not only was our building designed to be efficient, but that we were continuing to operate it with as little environmental impact as possible. To accomplish this we needed to start tracking everything from the type of cleaning products we used to discovering the sources of our Animal Ambassador’s food, as well as dissecting our utility bills.
Step 2: Partnerships and Planning
The building as it stood in 2008 was still in flux. We were looking to improve our heating and cooling, automation, metering, monitoring and lighting updates, all with the goal of getting the facility to carbon neutrality. We lined up some amazing partners including Schneider Electric, Ecovert Sustainability Consultants and MCW Custom Energy Solutions, who provided practical, actionable advice and designs to implement our plans. They also provided vital support during the LEED certification process.
Our first major system update to get us ready for the LEED EB application was the energy metering system. The ION Enterprise system, donated by Schneider Electric, allows us to monitor the power consumption of major subsystems, as well as water and gas consumption. The data from this system informed many of our other upgrades, and has served as the basis for implementing features to improve the facilities’ energy efficiency.
Next we expanded our parking lot, but in true Earth Rangers’ style we installed a ground source heat pump system, dramatically cutting our carbon footprint and reducing our annual natural consumption by 90%. Above the parking lot we built a 58 kW solar array, capable of generating up to 20% of the building’s energy needs. We even addressed stormwater runoff from the parking lot with the installation of a bioswale. With the help of Schneider Electric and implementation partner TACanada, we updated our building automation system as well to allow us to integrate previously disparate building systems.
Platinum LEED Certification
These updates and our performance tracking resulted in the Earth Rangers Centre for Sustainable Technology being awarded platinum certification from the Canadian Building Council through its LEED for Existing Buildings (EB) rating system.
Our LEED EB scorecard, which rates the facility with a score of 92 out of a possible 110 points, shows that these improvements have added up to dramatic reductions in the impact that our operations have on the world around us. Some of our proudest achievements include:
- Recycling 1.5 million liters of water in 2011
- Supplying 100% of our power from renewable or low impact hydroelectric generation sources
- Generating 130,000 kWh of annual solar energy (enough to power 12 average Canadian homes for a year!)
- Diverting 80% of waste from landfills
The Earth Rangers Centre for Sustainable Technology is currently the highest rated LEED building in Canada, an honour we would not have been able to achieve without the many facility supporters that have contributed to the Earth Rangers Centre.