March 6, 2010


The Smith Carter Architects and Engineers Inc. office in Winnipeg Manitoba is the only office building in the province to attain LEED Platinum certification.

FOCUS | Green building / LEED

Smith Carter Architects’ office building gets LEED Platinum certification

Smith Carter Architects and Engineers Inc., a Winnipeg-based firm, has received the first LEED Platinum certification for an office building in Manitoba. It is one of only nine Platinum buildings in Canada.

SC3, the company’s third Winnipeg headquarters, received the rating last summer. The 50,000 square foot, two-storey office building contains a 25,000-square-foot studio, open-concept offices, library and meeting rooms.

To earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, buildings must score at least 26 points in five different categories – site selection, water and energy efficiency, use of materials and resources, indoor air quality, innovation and design.

SC3 scored 52 points, the minimum to hit Platinum, which is the highest green rating possible.

“Sustainability and energy efficiency were priorities right from the start,” said Glen Klym, a Smith Carter architect and LEED specialist. “It’s easier to achieve credits if they’re part of the original design vision.”

Smith Carter also wanted to build its expertise in LEED for its clients.

“In 2004 (when the building was built) there were few LEED projects in Canada,” he said.

About three-quarters of the building can access natural light and automated blinds drop down when there’s too much direct sun.

The $8 million project was the first in western Canada to use Solera, a high-performance glazing system.

“It has a very high R-value, which allows a lot of natural light through the skylights but provides good insulation at the same time,” Klym said.

Another SC3 innovation is the access floor panel system, which rests on pedestals two feet above the sub-floor.

Air, power and communication are all routed through the floor to allow air ventilation. Fresh air is drawn in from outside, delivered at ground-level and then returned at the ceiling.

This system enables the 130 staff to quickly and easily rearrange furniture and equipment for work teams as needed.

Recycled building materials helped score LEED points. The structural steel is 95 percent recycled and exterior stainless steel is 60 per cent recycled. The strawboard used for flooring is 100 percent recycled, as is the exterior deck.

In addition to achieving LEED Platinum, SC3 has received other accolades, including the 2006 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture.

Despite the kudos, there were challenges.

The company sold it’s former headquarters and had to quickly move to the new location.

To compress the project schedule, SC3 was delivered using a fast-tracked design and construction process.

“We hired local constructor M.D. Steele as construction manager,” Klym said. “We worked together to define a sequential series of eight bid packages that allowed us to start construction, well before all design work was completed.”

This allowed site prep and foundation work to get underway, while detailed interiors, mechanical and electrical design work was just beginning.

However, Smith Carter didn’t know the total cost until after the eighth and final package had been awarded.

Another challenge was design of the site, due to its unusual geometry and orientation.

Located near the intersection of two major roads, the site is triangular. At the wider southern end of the site are two groves of mature spruce forest which, as a condition of purchase, had to be retained.

“Our solution was to locate the building adjacent to the spruce grove, making that side of the building our ‘front door,’ to take advantage of the forest, and orienting the building to maximize daylight,” Klym said.

While preparing for LEED certification, Smith Carter realized the project was well past Gold and believed they were within striking distance of Platinum.

“So we sat down and developed a strong rationale to make our case, focusing on site development and energy efficiency,” Klym said.

The extra cost of attaining Platinum compared to Gold was about five percent more.

It took five years to obtain certification, as some credits depend on information gathered after construction and there are always clarifications required. However, certification wasn’t the company’s first priority, as they still had to look after their clients.

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