March 16, 2009
Sustainable Building Practices
Alberta capital’s green tower aims for the sky
Downtown Edmonton’s first new office tower in more than two decades is aiming for LEED Silver certification.
Alberta energy provider Epcor will become the anchor tenant in Qualico Developments’ 625,000 square foot Epcor Tower project, now under construction at Qualico’s Station Lands development.
Edmonton-based Kasian Architecture and Interior Designs were awarded the contract to design the 29-storey office tower.
Construction of the $250 million project was awarded to general contractor Ledcor Construction.
Ken Cantor, Qualico Developments’ commercial manager said that energy efficiency had always been in mind for the former Via Rail property.
“We acquired that land a decade ago and we did an awful lot of our preliminary and our conceptual design as part of our due diligence in acquiring the parcel in the first place,” he said, adding that building energy efficiency into the design from the ground up was important.
“A lot of those design decisions were made before LEED was part of the everyday lexicon,” he said.
Cantor explained that he sees LEED certification as a report card for design philosophy.
“It (LEED) will tell you how good your design philosophy is, and I know for some people that’s kind of splitting hairs a bit, but if you have good design, you are going to get a good LEED report card” he said. “But, if you are just designing to a report card, you may not necessarily get good design.”
The manager explained that current figures show the project sitting at about a 34 on the LEED scale, which would qualify the project for LEED Gold.
“(I’m not sure) whether we’ll be able to maintain that or not as we go forward, but we are pretty comfortable that we made a lot of good decisions at the very beginning,” Cantor said.
Although early design decisions including orienting the building east and west to maximize light penetration, while reducing solar glare, will add to the overall energy efficiency of the building, one of the building’s below ground features led to an added bonus.
As part of the project, Qualico made provisions to run a tunnel for Edmonton’s light-rail transit (LRT) line beneath its P4 parkade level.
Cantor explained that construction of the tunnel left a large void in-between the P4 level at the top of the main ramp where the elevator and stairwell foundations are located – a situation that allowed the designers to take advantage of some free cooling and heating opportunities by creating an earth tube plenum.
“We are bringing in outside air, we are taking it down under P4 and then through this void before it feeds into the fresh air system,” he said.
“Part and parcel to that, we relocated some of our mechanical spaces. Originally they were to have been on the eighth and 28th floor. We kept the mechanical room at the top, but moved the main mechanical room with the boilers down to P1 so they’re at a more efficient location in the building.”
Although the project has yet to reach to the main floor level, several other elements are planned to enhance energy efficiency including high efficiency lighting with daylight sensors, radiant heating and cooling and triple-glazed windows.
“It’s probably one of the few buildings in the country that will be a full triple-glazed curtain system,” Cantor said.
“It’s a little bit unique even for a northern climate.”
Mike Roper, one of Ledcor’s project managers, said that the topping off is scheduled for December of 2010.
“We’re well into the parkade construction,” he said, adding that his crews had just poured the first suspended slab for P1.
“There’s still the main floor to pour – we are scheduled mid-march to pour the first portion of the main floor.”
Even in the early stages, LEED has been the focus.
Roper explained that higher fly ash content in the concrete, recycled materials for reinforcing steel and the project’s waste management program, all factor into the quest for LEED certification.
“I believe we are achieving 80 to 85 per cent diversion,” he said.
Waste management isn’t the only area achieving high percentages.
Epcor has committed to leasing 265,000 square feet of the building and Qualico recently announced that the federal government will lease another 128,000 square feet.
“We are at 70 per cent lease now in the office component,” Cantor said.
Epcor Tower is the first phase of the development and represents 20 to 25 per cent of the overall project. The first phase is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2011.
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