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SAIT sets its sights on net-zero sustainability

June 21, 2017

The Green Building Technologies Lab and Demonstration Centre is the first net-zero commercial building in Calgary — harvesting and producing as much energy as it consumes. To achieve this, the building uses net-zero energy design and construction, and building-integrated renewable energy solutions - such as solar thermal and a water-treatment.

"What we're doing will raise the bar for home building in Canada," says David Silburn, SAIT's Green Building Technologies Research Associate.

Energized by nature

Opening on the summer solstice — the longest day of the year — is fitting, considering the role solar power plays in green technology. Rainwater, living walls and a green roof, along with creating energy efficiencies, also contribute to this net-zero effect.

The multi-million project puts SAIT at the forefront of the growing area of green technology and will allow us to not only provide hands-on training to students and researchers across a number of disciplines but also create and expand on our collaborations within the industry.

"We are moving the industry towards greener technologies and will be able to provide the expertise and equipment needed to pursue solutions in this exciting field," says Silburn.

Through work with builders, government and regulatory bodies, along with other stakeholders, the lab is set to bring new products and processes to the flourishing green technology marketplace.

"We're excited to bring green technology to a broader market," says Silburn. "Our students and our industry partners count on us to lead in our programs, courses and applied research, so they have a competitive advantage in local and global markets."

A living lab

The nearly 600-metre-square facility, set in the northwest corner of campus, serves as a "living laboratory" dedicated to finding new ways to lessen buildings' energy consumption. It joins the two existing solar labs - which study solar energy generation, storage and use - and the rainwater harvesting lab, along with areas for specialized workshops, testing bays and a construction storage area.

Inside and around the house-like building, there is a cold climate mechanical system test lab, where the performance of heat pumps and recovery ventilators will be tested, a natural air ventilation system that eliminates pockets of hot and cold air and a water lab for studying using rainwater and greywater for non-potable purposes. Even plants are part of the construction.

"We will create a wetland to filter the building's grey water to make it portable and installed a living wall and a green roof," says Silburn.

Summer storms and other rainy days will fill a 38,000-litre cistern, providing water for toilets, watering the living wall, plants on the roof and the outside landscaping, which will feature drought-resistant plants.

Leading the way

Ultimately, the leading-edge facility will benefit researchers, industry and the students who will work with a curriculum that reflects this growing area of building construction - one that has long-term benefits as we move to lessen our energy footprint.

"The Green Building Technologies lab is moving the industry forward when it comes to net-zero construction and energy efficiency," says Silburn. "We will give students the knowledge, hands-on training and experience needed to be leaders in clean technologies."

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