Built-in climate control

One of the nation's most environmentally progressive building projects ever.

It was the home of Confederation; now Charlottetown boasts one of the nation's most environmentally progressive building projects ever: the Jean Canfield Government of Canada Building. The 186,260-square-foot office is designed to exemplify sustainable design principles, while combining a sense of open public access with high security. It represents the forefront of the Canadian green building movement, which recognizes that 30% of all greenhouse-gas emissions in Canada are from buildings, and that 40% of the raw materials used globally — three billion tons annually — goes to construction.

Canfield building architects Bergmark Guimond Hammerlund Jones and HOK Canada Inc. decided to aim for LEED Gold certification when they took on the challenge. That is, they're trying to achieve at least 39 of 70 standard rating points in categories like Water Efficiency, Sustainable Sites and Indoor Environmental Quality. At present, only 238 Canadian buildings are registered in the LEED program. Few achieve a Gold rating. (One that does is HOK's own Toronto office; it's one of three certified Gold in the Commercial Interiors category.)

To address the security issue, the Jean Canfield Building is designed with a central atrium. Public access is restricted to the ground floor, but visitors see open mezzanine levels above them. The atrium also allows for maximal daylighting, which not only reduces long-term energy costs, but contributes to a more pleasant working environment. (Indoor environmental quality, a key LEED consideration, has demonstrable impact on productivity.)

The building uses low-flow fixtures and collects rainwater to flush toilets. “We're using 80% less potable water than an equivalent office building,” says Richard Williams, vice-president and practice leader of architecture and sustainability for HOK. HVAC features include giant concrete floor slabs for cooling, a tie-in to Charlottetown's existing District Energy System for warming, and a separate ventilation system that exhausts office air into the atrium — after it passes through a heat exchanger to conserve energy. These features use about 54% less energy than average, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions significantly.

Completion is expected in spring of 2007, by which time Canada's Green Building Council will have registered many more new buildings in the LEED program. The greatest wish of sustainable building advocates? That the Jean Canfield Building will be the best of its kind — for only a very short time.