An engineering firm’s office may not seem to be the type of space that thrills, it’s true. But that’s not why the office of Enermodal, a leading engineering consulting firm dedicated to green building, is profiled here. Enermodal’s headquarters in Kitchener, Ontario, just west of Toronto, is considered the most energy efficient office building in Canada. It’s a model, really, for an office building and interior that can be designed and built sustainably with a wide range of unique features from the exterior structure to the interior finishes.
Founded in 1980, Enermodal Engineering is Canada’s largest consulting company exclusively dedicated to green buildings and communities. The firm assists and leads design teams through the process of LEED® certification. For example, Enermodal consulted on the sustainable design of Corus Quay in Toronto, and was instrumental in that project attaining LEED Gold. When Enermodal needed a new headquarters, company president Stephen Carpenter knew that his building would need to be an exemplar of sustainable design. Carpenter was the first chair of the Canada Green Building Council’s technical advisory group, after all, and co-authored the original LEED Canada Reference Guide. He hired Robertson Simmons Architects of Kitchener to design the new headquarters, a reversal from the norm of the engineer acting as consultant to the architect. “It’s unusual for us to be working for a mechanical engineer,” says Patrick Simmons, a partner at Robertson Simmons. “Stephen is a visionary. He had been promoting green design for years and was instrumental in introducing the LEED rating system to Canada. This building is a catalogue of green features and that’s the story.”
Platinum in both NC and CI
Enermodal’s new home, called A Grander View, has achieved Platinum in both LEED Canada-NC (New Construction) and LEED Canada-CI (Commercial Interiors), and is a candidate to receive Platinum for LEED Canada-EB:OM (Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance). A Grander View is one of two buildings that will represent Canada at the Sustainable Buildings Challenge in Helsinki, Finland, this October.
Working in close collaboration with Enermodal, Robertson Simmons rigorously designed the building, located on a site adjacent to the Grand River, as a long, narrow three-story structure measuring 40 feet wide by 200 feet long. The 22,000-square-foot building is oriented east-west to maximize daylight and views of the river, as well as improve air flow through the building. The 40-foot width is the optimal maximum width because that is the widest that the single-span hollow-core precast floor can be without the need for support columns in the building. As an added bonus, the narrow building footprint allows daylight to reach the desks of all 75 employees. “Within those constraints, you have to make it beautiful, functional, and make it work,” Carpenter says. “A Grander View shows that you can create a good building sustainably. It doesn’t have to break the bank. It’s about good design.”
The designers eschewed the trend toward curtain walls, which can be leaky. The exterior walls, built with an airtight concrete form shell, are clad in cedar siding, stucco, weathered stone and steel, and corrugated metal siding. Large triple-glazed windows provide ample daylight, and exterior mechanical window shades on the east, west, and south sides of the building control glare and heat gain.
Money and energy savings
Built for an economical $260 per square foot, A Grander View has been measured to use a metered 69 kWh/m², compared to the Canadian average of at least 375 kWh/m². Thus, it is deemed the most efficient Canadian office building. A Grander View is also achieving higher water savings than predicted, with 89 percent indoor water savings compared to a conventional office. The building is heated and cooled entirely by three air-source heat pumps on the roof. And while most buildings in this area are serviced with gas for heating, this building is not—its mechanical system is entirely electrical. Inside, employees have access to 60 individually controlled thermostats, which is rare for a building of this size. Occupant-sensor-controlled lighting, ventilation, and heating/cooling also help control environmental systems and save energy.
Elemental Interior Design from nearby Waterloo designed the interiors, developed the space plan, selected finishes including custom bamboo millwork and all FSC-certified woods, and selected the Teknion District workstations and Teknion Altos glass partition system. Richlite countertops at the reception desk and in the kitchenette are composed of a paper-based composite. “It was basically a learning experience of how ‘green’ we could get,” says Tahani Gunal, an interior designer with Elemental.
For Simmons, the building is a key example of how sustainable design can be done well. “The building is something we can show to consultants, contractors, and clients,” Simmons says. “No other project has this range of features and the data to back up the features.”
Architect: Robertson Simmons Architects. Interior Designer: Elemental Interior Design. Architecture project team: Patrick Simmons, partner-in-charge, design architect; Yanan Li; Alex Moore; Colleen Barron; Ashley Feeney; Craig Gill; Grant Taylor; Kevin Drehmer. Interior design project team: Lorelie Ratz; Jamie Mclaughlin; Tahani Gunal. Contractor: Melloul Blamey Construction Inc. Engineering: Enermodal Engineering Limited (mechanical, electrical); MTE Consultants Inc. (civil, structural). Landscape: Roth & Associates. Furniture dealer: Grand and Toy. Client: Enermodal Engineering.
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. 22,000 total square feet on three floors. Cost/sf $260.
Paint: Boomerang Paints. Drywall: Georgia-Pacific. Flooring: Forbo Marmoleum. Carpet: Interface Global. Carpet fiber: Blue Chip. Ceiling: Armstrong. Lighting: Lightolier. Doors: Teknion. Glass: Accurate Dorwin (fiberglass frame); Pilkington (coating). Window treatments: Sun Project. Workstations: Teknion. Seating: Haworth. Counters: RichLite. Signage: Sign Language Inc.