Photo: University of Calgary

Top Projects 2015: University of Calgary Design-Build Residences

Sustainablity (TIE)

University residences are rarely seen as standard bearers of sleek, modern design, or cutting-edge sustainability practices for that matter. But two of the newest contributions to the University of Calgary campus—Aurora Hall and Crowsnest Hall—buck this trend.

The 122,000-square-foot Aurora Hall provides space for 269 students across nine storeys and boasts a distinctive pinwheel shape. The building remains connected to the campus through an underground tunnel that allows students to traverse most of the campus without every going outdoors. The larger Crowsnest Hall has room for 394 students in its two linked towers—seven and 11 storeys high, respectively—which provide a combined 197,000 square feet of space. A number of stylish touches like sandstone fireplaces are included throughout, and the buildings also include acoustically enhanced music rooms and rentable spaces for events.

Built to LEED Gold standards, the residences represent the university’s growing efforts to incorporate sustainability into its capital projects from the earliest design and concept stages to construction execution and even building operations. Low-flow plumbing can reduce water consumption by 30 per cent; water is being reclaimed for potable uses; occupancy sensors in suites will help reduce heating requirements; and all services will be metered to track consumption.

Environmental concerns guided many of the team’s choices on the project. Reinforced concrete was selected for the structural system because it offered long-term durability and low maintenance requirements. Cloud-based software was used to store and manage project documents, and people on site were given iPads to access drawings and other information, allowing the construction team to go fully paperless. The project was also focused on decreasing water consumption and reducing emissions during construction, and the final waste diversion rate was 78.6 per cent.

The project represents the first time that the university has ever built greenhouse gas emission reduction goals into its design requirements. As a result, annual emissions from the buildings will be less than 100 kilograms of COper square metre. (An average university residence generates twice that amount.) Overall, energy costs are expected to be 40 per cent lower than conventional buildings, and any student who takes up residence in one of the halls can claim a four-tonne reduction to his or her own personal greenhouse gas footprint.

Sustainability even extends beyond the four walls of each building to the surrounding landscape. Before clearing the area around Aurora Hall, a team collected aspen cuttings to be cloned at a local tree nursery. The hardy, long-living trees will help preserve continuity with the environment that existed before construction, and enough trees were grown to provide greenery for other campus landscaping projects.

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