The Expansion of Green

Green. What comes to your mind when you see this word? Is it the color of green, or is it what I will be discussing in my blog today? I hope through this post that when you see this word; green, you will think of both the color and environmentally friendly aspect of being ‘green.’ Yet what exactly does it mean to be green? Being green is not just about recycling or reducing your water use (although these are both great things to do), being green means so much more than that. To live a green life requires the commitment of an entire community and nation. Not only should individuals participate in ‘green’ activities, but the government and businesses must also abide by green principles in order to make a significant difference. I came across a relatively new and environmentally friendly building while researching green buildings within Calgary. This building is called The Water Centre.

This facility was built in 2008 and is used as a four-story office building.  The Water Centre is one of the most (if not the most) environmentally friendly buildings within Calgary. It was the first building to obtain a gold LEED rating in Calgary. The building received a total of 50 out of 70 points making this the top scoring place in regards to environmental conscientiousness within Calgary thus far. This LEED rating- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is based upon criteria in which address aspects such as helping building owners develop practical means in implementing green structures. Some of the criteria that is looked at when LEED makes an evaluation are things like low-flow plumbing fixtures, water collection and energy-efficient lighting etc. The Water Centre has achieved these 50 points based upon criteria like those listed above and other aspects I found when I visited the building. While researching this building I found that the Water Centre also has written goals it attempts and has successfully achieved in being green. These are:

  • To incorporate innovative ways to use less energy, minimal water, and recycled materials whenever possible.
  • To generate less waste throughout construction
  • To provide a healthy and dynamic working environment for City employees

The first goal the Water Centre looks to address I will discuss more thoroughly when I talk of retaining water. The second goal was addressed through lessening waste in the construction of the building. To generate less waste the construction of the building used 700,000 kilograms of recycled steel. The third and final goal is one in which I find the most fascinating. The ways in which the Water Centre tries to provide a healthy and dynamic working environment for City employees is immense. The building uses the northern light to maximize natural light and enhance air flow by having operable windows. The extra air flow is beneficial as the workers are less likely to become ill. The Water Centre features 100 percent day lighting, a 59 percent reduction in water use and a 58 percent saving in annual energy consumption.

The way in which the building is curved is done on purpose. The building curves to follow the road way. This reduces the ecological footprint of the building itself. Again the shape of the building shades the building from the sun’s heat. The Water Centre also reduces the amount of waste water by 72 percent. Researching information on the internet was not nearly enough for me so I decided to actually visit the building myself. When I visited the site of the building I immediately saw signs around it. These signs each discussed how the Water Centre attempts to implement green strategies. I will discuss two key features of the Water Centre that helped it attain the first gold LEED rating in Calgary.

Retaining Water

The site has a wetland to manage storm water quantity and quality. The precipitation is collected from the roof and travels along a runnel into the lowland marsh where the water pools. The sediment settles while the native plants planted filter out pollutants from the water. One of the native plants in the marsh is called a Creeping Spike-Rush. Afterwards the water drains into a cistern. The purpose of this is to lessen the amount of water entering the storm drain. Another way the building retains water is through its porous pavement. Although porous pavement is not readily used in Calgary (still in experimental stages) The Water Centre is one of the first facilities to determine the success of porous pavement in a climate like Calgary’s. The porous pavement allows moisture to sink into gravel infiltration which resides beneath the parking lot. This reduces the amount of water for run-off thus again eliminating the quantity of storm water. A smaller but still significant feature of the Water Centre is the waterless and low-flow plumbing fixtures installed. These fixtures reduce the amount of water being used. These are many ways the building retains water and thus limits the amount of energy expenditure.

Subtle Fixes

The second way in which the Water Centre attempts to reduce environmental impact is in ‘subtle ways.’ As soon as I walked into the building I noticed flyers on the table. These flyers contained copious amounts of information on how individuals can reduce their environmental impact too. This bit of information was very useful because not only is the Water Centre leading Calgary by example, but they are also educating others on how to improve their daily lives too. Another interesting detail to note is the location of the Water Centre. It is extremely close to the LRT station. The proximity to the LRT station allows visitors and workers an easier means for getting to this environmentally friendly powerhouse.

The final key aspect at the Water Centre is the roof. It has created a ‘modern version’ of a green roof. This version uses a rubber membrane and covered over the membrane is soil. This roof is distinct from a white roof in that the white roof reflects the sunlight, thus reducing the amount of energy entering the building. This is especially helpful in the summer months. Yet, the green roof has some of its own benefits. A major benefit of this style is the fact that it reduces some storm water run off from the building. This green roof has also helped the Water Centre in attaining the first gold LEED status within Calgary.

Not only are these environmental impacts amazing, but in addition the financial benefits are equally abundant. The reduction in energy consumption saves about an average of $108,000 per year. The Water Centre is said to pay for itself within 15 years. So, not only is being ‘green’ helping health, the Earth and future generations being green also can include making money; and this might be what brings more attention and effort by the community.

Love always,

Lexi Brunner

Written by: Lexi Brunner
Posted On: Categories:Blog Assignments

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