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Water Today Title July 7, 2022

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Update 2017/3/20
Greening government - Retrofitting Options Part 4


By Ronan O'Doherty

For our latest look into the Federal efforts to "green" their buildings, we turned to a couple of sustainability experts to get their take.

As of last fall, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, has committed to running all Federal operations on renewable energy by 2025.

It is a huge undertaking to say the least and a few projects are in the pre-design phase already.

A representative from Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has told us that the Connaught and C.D. Howe Buildings in Ottawa as well as the Place Du Portage Phase III building in Gatineau are all scheduled for retrofitting.

The first two are fair sized buildings that consume quite a lot of energy. The Connaught's Kilowatt Hours (KwH) were in the 2.5 million range for 2015/2016 and C.D. Howe's was almost 19 million KhW. Place Du Portage Phase III dwarfs both, using around 33 million KwH for the same time period.

According to sustainability experts, there are many options available that could result in noticeable decreases in energy consumption as well as a building's environmental footprint.

Rinaldo Veseliza is an architect and Director of Sustainability for Alisto Engineering in California. He said that the first thing planners should be considering when retrofitting an existing building in a sustainable manner is creating their own energy sources. "Stay on the grid but be as self-sufficient on energy as possible," Veseliza said. "Your goal is to get to zero net energy," adding, "This helps the development itself keep its own power in cases of disruption."

While he promoted taking advantage of solar energy as an excellent way to power a building and distribute energy locally, Veseliza pointed out that it's not the only clean power source available.

He touted the efficiency of today's biomass generators, saying they get rid of biomass while creating clean energy. Far from a new technology, these generators burn biomass, which is any plant or animal bi-product, cleanly to generate power that can be used or sold to private industry.

Veseliza is fairly well known in the sustainability space for being a proponent of recycling wastewater. He managed construction of Water Garden, a large office complex in Santa Monica that is able to recycle over 80% of its wastewater.

The existing storm and sewer systems that most cities have these days are anachronistic as far as Veseliza is concerned.

"Our infrastructure is old and out-dated," Veseliza said. "A lot of it was built 60 to 100 years ago, so now the systems are rotting and broken resulting in sewers and storm water systems leaking into our aquifers."

He believes, for large building complexes like the one at Place Du Portage, it makes sense to dump as little sewage into these systems while reusing as much as is possible.

In an email after our interview, Veseliza wrote, "Centralized systems were great, big, expensive and “permanent” solutions for growing communities during their earlier development. Now, as these overgrown dense, urban and suburban cities are overwhelmed with growing populations, we need smaller scale micro-grids which can remove the mystery of processing storm water and sewage water into usable/potable with self-contained prefabricated modular systems and automated quick response services."

To take the story more local, we interviewed Steve Pope, Sustainability Consultant for CSV Architects in Ottawa.

He has very similar opinions to Veseliza when it comes to water recycling. According to what he's seen, some water recycling programs can take a little getting used to but they're huge savers.

"At the war museum in Ottawa, they used filtered river water that hadn't been purified, in their sanitary facilities," Pope said. "People would flush it constantly because it didn't look clean (chlorinated and filtered)."

He went on to add that maintenance patterns have to change and people using the facilities need to relax and become accustomed to their non-potable water looking a little funny.

Pope seems confident that things are headed in the right direction, as there are a lot of sustainable products available right off the shelf that are becoming more standard for larger size buildings to adopt. These include waterless urinals that actually work, low flush toilets and smart monitored bathroom faucets with longer lasting sensors.

"These things aren't so different," Pope said, "They're not Jetson looking but they perform a lot better."

Pope also noted that when larger buildings are coming up for major overhauls, architects are starting to recommend more fine grained HVAC zoning systems with power over Ethernet as well as internet addressable lighting ballasts as viable options.

He said that it's up to architects and designers to put these sorts of items in their specs and for the buildings themselves to commit to actually using them.

According to the PSPC representative, the C.D. Howe Building has been identified for a Federal Buildings Initiative (FBI) project. FBI is a program that was created by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to help government departments reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The program's projects are energy performance contracts where capital investments in the facility are paid for by energy savings achieved.

They are performed by energy saving companies that are pre-qualified by NRCan who propose energy efficiency measures that impact every aspect of the building.

The FBI request for proposal is scheduled to appear on Buy and Sell, the governments open procurement information service, by April 2017.


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