Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre
Project of the Year Winner & Institutional—Under $50 Million (tie)
By Joseph Caouette
Cost: $17.5 million
Location: Camrose, Alta.
Companies involved: BR2 Architecture, Clark Builders, Read Jones Christofferson, Smith + Anderson, Howell-Mayhew Engineering
Traditionally, audiences applaud the performer, not the theatre.
But the Jeanne and Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre is no traditional theatre. Boasting LED lighting—powered by an ingeniously designed solar array—this stage is a model for the next generation of theatrical facilities and performance spaces. Not only has it tied for first place in the Top Projects Awards’Institutional—Under $50 Million category, it is also Alberta Construction Magazine’s choice for 2014 Project of the Year.
Located on the University of Alberta’s Augustana campus in Camrose, Alta., the project was a joint effort between the university, the city and county of Camrose, and the provincial government. The 44,200-square-foot building contains a 550-seat theatre, an orchestra pit, back-of-house facilities, public galleries, administrative space and a multi-purpose rehearsal hall.
The exterior of the 70-foot fly tower is covered in 488 solar panels, making it the largest building-integrated solar photovoltaic system in Canada. Every side of the tower is covered in the panels, which not only produce electricity but also serve as a replacement for more traditional forms of cladding. Excess electricity produced by the 122-kilowatt system can be sold to the grid to help offset the building’s operating costs.
The panels were actually not part of the initial design—they were added later on thanks to a funding assist from the University of Alberta’s Envision energy reduction program—and the team had few real-world examples to follow when crafting the complex solar installation. Various structural issues had to be considered, and the wiring infrastructure needed to support the system had to be built into the tower.
“There are no standard details for the installation of solar panels in a vertical rain screen application. It’s unique,”says Bill Smith, project manager for Clark Builders, which served as design-builder on the project. “All of the flashing, cladding and fixation of the panels were designed by the team.”
With the black panels looming large on the Camrose skyline, the tower serves as a bold visual statement announcing the extensive environmental credentials of the entire building. High-efficiency boilers and chillers have been installed, and high R-value insulation was used on the roof. Long-lasting polished concrete floors were employed to minimize future maintenance, while under-floor air distribution offers energy savings by moving conditioned air more efficiently.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The other sustainability feature that has really been drawing attention is—fittingly enough—the spotlights. Lighting is usually one of the biggest energy draws in a theatre, but the building has cut down its power consumption by using LED stage and front-of-house lighting. A traditional stage lighting plot would have required 104,250 watts of electricity, compared to 12,483 watts for the all-LED system used by the centre.
This emerging technology was so new that it didn’t even exist when the project began, Smith says.
“It was a bit of a leap of faith, but we designed the building and let technology catch up to it,”he says. “The building envelope, mechanical and electrical systems were all designed to focus on energy efficiency and sustainability to reduce environmental impacts.”
A great deal of preparation went into ensuring the building was made for LED lighting. The more common incandescent lighting used in theatres—as just about any stage actor who has sweated through a lengthy soliloquy can tell you—produces large amounts of heat that must be addressed within the design. The project team committed to the idea of LED and devised the energy modelling accordingly.
When combined with the other energy efficient and sustainability features, the LED lighting will save the centre an estimated $50,000 in annual operating costs. It has also helped earn the project Green Globes level four certification—a unique distinction in a province where only two other projects bear the Green Globes stamp of approval and a special badge of honour for a theatrical building.
“Four Green Globes is an incredible achievement for any building project, let alone for this type of a facility,”said Michael Madsen, senior project manager for the University of Alberta, in a statement earlier this year. “It was important to challenge the accepted norms—in this case, that performing arts centres are difficult to make sustainable.
“The design-build team was challenged to look beyond their usual sustainability tool kit to emerging and maturing technologies, while at the same time minimizing risks,” he adds.
The university has guidelines requiring that new buildings fulfill a number of sustainability criteria, and in this case that meant earning Green Globes certification. Much like Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED), Green Globes operates by awarding points for a range of sustainability features during construction and in the finished building. Level four certification means that the centre earned 70–84 per cent of the total points available.
According to Green Globes, buildings at this level have indicated “leadership in terms of energy and environmental design practices and commitment to continuous improvement and industry leadership.”
COMMITTED TO COLLABORATION
Indeed, the project has already proven its commitment to continuous improvement by surpassing its original goal of earning three Green Globes. Key to that success was the use of an integrated project delivery method, which allowed the team to incorporate new ideas and technologies as the building concept evolved and designs were reiterated. During every step of the process, Clark Builders worked closely with the university and other partners, as well as its team of energy, utilities, and facilities and operations people.
“The intent was basically to integrate the project through collaboration between all stakeholders. We all embraced that,”Smith says. “It’s open and transparent, which led to the success of this project.”
Crucial aspects of the finished building, like acoustical draping, rigging and stage lighting, were handled by the project owner, which required Clark Builders to incorporate input from theatrical and acoustic consultants and equipment suppliers during the process. Those systems had to be integrated with the builder’s own work to ensure the coordination of the necessary mechanical, electrical and structural infrastructure.
That spirit of collaboration—one might even say harmony—extends not only throughout the project team but also to the entire surrounding community. In order to integrate the building’s distinctive design with the campus landscape, the team worked closely with the City of Camrose and Augustana to ensure the detailing would complement other buildings in the area while maintaining the centre’s own prominent profile, Smith says.
“The support and interest we’ve got from the local community and special interest groups has been marvelous,”he says. “There have been a couple of open houses where people walk through and say, ‘We can’t believe this is here in Camrose.’"