Situated on the Halifax Harbour—part of Nova Scotia Community College’s Waterfront Campus—is the LEED-, BOMA BESt Platinum- and Audubon-Certified Centre for the Built Environment (CBE). A 120,000 square foot, living research laboratory, the CBE blends the natural environment with the built environment; a unique concept for a trades and technology space.
“When creating the Centre for the Built Environment, we placed emphasis on sustainable building practices, environmental stewardship and collaborative learning,” says Don Bureaux, President of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). “This facility brings together students, staff and industry partners to develop, test and prove the built environments of the future, and lead the way toward more sustainable building practices.”
The CBE features large operable walls and doors that can be opened or closed to create flexible workspaces—allowing various trades to work together collaboratively as they would in industry, or independent of one another. The goal of the space is to offer learning environments that enable students to see first-hand how building systems function, and access the latest in alternative energy technologies.
A building of the future
Solar wall cladding naturally preheats ventilation air that is supplied to the building. A geothermal field with 36,152-metre deep wells provide 100 per cent of the building's cooling and 50 per cent of the building's heating needs. A bioswale, a gently-sloped ditch lined with grass and plants, acts as a natural filter to clean storm water run-off. As water flows over the sloped soil, the plants filter out contaminants. An 8,000 square foot green roof insulates the CBE—further reducing heating and cooling costs, as well as increasing the roof’s lifespan. The building also features five working wind turbines. Two interior living walls are planted from floor-to-ceiling with plants that act as natural air filters, while an exterior living wall is home to 24 plant species and 7,000 plants—including begonias, daylilies, hostas, horsetail, bunchberry, winterberry and ferns.
“These combined, renewable energy sources and economizers result in a building that is 50% more energy efficient than a conventional building,” says Mike Chapman, manager of infrastructure, sustainability & space planning at NSCC.
Beyond the innovative, restorative infrastructure, the CBE also features some unique features that further blend environmental stewardship and technology.
An outdoor solar classroom extends the College’s Applied Energy Research Lab outside into a space akin to a high-tech playground. Students are encouraged to explore sustainable energy technologies in the unconventional environment offered by the unpredictable weather of Canada’s East Coast. “The solar bench is made from wood reclaimed from the site the CBE sits on,” says Chapman. The bench offers students a place to relax and recharge their batteries—figuratively and literally—while a solar panel uses the sun’s rays to power cell phones and other electronic devices. Interpretive and diagnostic panels also display and log the building’s systems function in real time allowing facilities staff to monitor and manage building operations.
Impacting the planet
“Over the past eight years, across the College’s 13 campuses, energy consumption has been reduced by 23 per cent,” says Chapman. “Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 31 per cent, water consumption by 40 per cent and 75 per cent of the College’s generated waste has been diverted away from landfills. The CBE both contributed to this achieved success as well served as a catalyst for change across the College, the Province of Nova Scotia and beyond.”
Waterfront Campus Principal Paul Little adds, “Equipped with advanced skills and knowledge about sustainable practices provided by this new educational model, NSCC graduates will lead the way in raising awareness about environmental stewardship in the workplace and transform their communities in the future.”