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Pushing the boundaries of green design: Q&A with EllisDon’s Andrew Bowerbank

Andrew Bowerbank, Global Director of Sustainable Building Services at EllisDon, on green design, construction and the Evergreen Brick Works kiln building redevelopment.
Top image caption: The new raised concrete floor poured in the historic kiln building on the Evergreen Brick Works site.

Published on May 17, 2017

This year Evergreen has embarked on a bold new build, the redevelopment of the historic kiln building at Evergreen Brick Works. This space, one of 16 original structures part of the former Don Valley Brick Works, will transform into a year-round hub to ignite and accelerate new practices and policies that will shape how we build cities of the future.

This isn’t your typical retrofit. Evergreen Brick Works becomes a test site for new and more sustainable design and construction practices -- with the ultimate target of carbon neutrality.

We asked our lead construction partner Andrew Bowerbank, Global Director of Sustainable Building Services at EllisDon, why he is taking on the challenge, and with it, pushing industry to establish new greener building standards.

Andrew Bowerbank, EllisDon's Global Director of Sustainable Building Services

EVERGREEN: What makes this project at Evergreen Brick Works unique from any other sustainable developments that are taking place across Canada?

ANDREW: The site itself. The 53,000-sq-ft building is an official heritage site, meaning right off the bat, all our actions require extra caution and care and must adhere to the Ontario Heritage Act. The project is located on a flood plain, so the construction and design choices require a comprehensive stormwater management plan. We have raised the bar for our design teams and construction partners with a goal of carbon neutrality. It takes a tremendous amount of coordination and creativity to transform this multi-use space into one of the highest efficiency venues in Canada.

EVERGREEN: This project is among the first in Canada to strive for a carbon neutral target. What does this mean?

ANDREW: While other green standards, such as LEED certification, focus on energy use and production, passive design principles and waste diversion, it is limited in its ability to track the detailed impact of greenhouse gas (GHG). For the first time ever, we are looking at how to take in account the GHG emissions that are produced during the construction, operation and decommissioning of a building, as well as the emissions generated from the manufacturing of materials.

The end goal is the entire Brick Works campus will have no net climate impact from carbon or other greenhouse gases. We can achieve this by aggressively reducing energy consumption, converting to low- or no-impact energy sources, and finally through carbon offsets. The process to analyze the full life-cycle of the project is very difficult and time consuming but the outcome can be groundbreaking in setting a new standard for future buildings.

EVERGREEN: What have been the biggest challenges so far?

ANDREW: One of our greatest tests is how we quantify this carbon neutral target. What tools do we use to calculate all the GHG emissions? How do we capture this data from all our suppliers and ensure accuracy in tracking? And what are our strategies to offset emissions? This has never been done before and is a new responsibility for the construction sector and its associated partners like suppliers, labourers and site supervisors. It has required the creation of a new framework, tracking templates, time, accuracy, detailed-oriented action items, analysis and scoping - a challenging and onerous task.

We have begun tracking emissions through an Excel sheet and asking our suppliers and labourers to take the time to quantify items such as material quantities, method of delivery and equipment used on site.

Once we collect this information, we can cross-reference that with online databases that have pre-calculated values of GHG tonnes associated to certain material and processes, providing us with a final GHG impact in tonnes.

Concrete floor being poured in the kiln building

EVERGREEN: What are some of the green design elements?

ANDREW: Some of the innovative techniques can be seen, or rather felt, in how we heat and cool the building throughout the year. We are combining high performance glazing, natural ventilation and a chilled floor to minimize the use of the mechanical cooling system outside of peak summer days. For the winter months, a solar thermal system integrated with the ground source system will collect and store heat for use during the winter months. Plus, a high efficiency, renewable and geo-exchange system will heat and cool other buildings on site and ultimately further reduce use of natural gas to help use creating a near zero carbon campus.

What’s exciting is that our architectural design teams and construction and manufacturing partners are testing out new ideas and searching for alternative products and methods of construction. We have a real opportunity to make a transformation in the market by demanding unconventional materials and processes, and therefore supporting sustainable innovators as opposed to the status quo.

Construction has already begun and is scheduled to be completed in 2018. The redevelopment of the Kiln Building at Evergreen Brick Works is the second official pilot under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

Join us on May 27 and 28 for Doors Open Toronto to learn more about the redevelopment of our kiln building and our carbon-neutral goal.