+VG Architects set lofty green goals and they consistently back them up with on-target results. The company, with offices throughout Ontario in Toronto, Brantford and Ottawa, makes no bones about it when it comes to establishing a new standard for all buildings – the intent is to bring green initiatives and sustainability practices to the mainstream. They accomplish that in a variety of ways, seeking to broaden their impact … and not just with specialty buildings or clients who have ample budgets to pursue LEED certification. “Since municipal clients are held accountable for taxpayers’ hard-earned money, they’re often conservative in their approach to innovative ideas, including green initiatives that they may not have had much experience with,” says Nicole Konrad, director of marketing in the +VG Toronto office. “When money’s tight, relying on tried and tested methods can seem like the most sensible route to take.
“+VG champions sustainable practices by educating our clients, who can then educate the public. In many cases, green initiatives actually produce cost savings over the life of the project. I think municipal clients can also find the different energy efficiency rating systems (such as LEED or Passive House) intimidating. We’re showing them that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s better to do something than nothing at all.”
Saying that, often there are projects that are mostly ‘all-in’ with what +VG proposes. A case in point is the King Township Municipal Centre, located just north of Toronto in King City.
Completed in February, the project incorporates many green initiatives such as geothermal mechanical systems and enhanced sustainable site strategies and is anticipated to meet either LEED silver or gold level certification. King Township had outgrown the previous facility and +VG pointed out that the Sixties-era school building had many physical constraints which would limit an efficient adaptive reuse. As well, the client was told, any selective demolition would be extremely costly. As a result, a detailed cost benefit analysis was conducted and it revealed that a replacement building would only present an increase in cost of four percent, so +VG moved ahead with a new building on the site. The upshot is that the building has created a new identity and focus for the community, and is perceived by citizens as cost-effective and pleasing. It should also be noted that the final project was delivered on-time and on-budget.
Thomas Wilson, the project manager and +VG partner, says a defining characteristic with King Township is the presence of the provincially-protected Green Belt natural preserve. With that in mind, +VG was able to reflect the symbolic importance of that reality with the design for the new municipal building. The site, Wilson says, is bounded by natural woodland and wetland preserves. He points out that the +VG design enhances these preserves. Some of the features include:
“It was also important for this project to lead by example when it came to township values and planning policies related to sustainability,” Wilson says. To that end, Wilson said the building included the following components as part of the design:
Two other +VG projects – Kingston East Community Centre and Township of McNab/Braeside Municipal Offices – provide yet another glimpse into the company’s green approach. In Kingston, in addition to enhancing the surrounding area, the community centre will contribute to the city’s goal of reducing carbon emissions to become a leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship. When completed, it will also serve as a learning tool for the surrounding community to understand the importance of building high-performance, energy-efficient public buildings and their impact on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In McNab/Braeside, less than 100 kilometres west of Ottawa, the new town hall will be constructed using engineered timber products to pay homage to the rich history of forestry and logging in the area and to reduce to overall embodied energy in the building materials used for construction. Other green features include a ground source thermal field, energy-efficient building systems and a future solar array.
“+VG Ottawa specializes in the coordination of energy-efficiency/GHG reduction studies to assist our clients through the design development stage of their projects,” says Daniel Wojcik, an architect with +VG Ottawa. “Working closely with mechanical, electrical and sustainability consultants we are able to empower our clients into making informed decisions to reduce resource consumption and GHG output while understanding the capital and life cycle costs to achieve their objectives.”
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