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LEED® V4: the next level of responsible design

Fully integrating a design team from start to finish yields additional benefits

By Erica Baranik, Calgary AB

The City of Calgary Composting Facility (CoCCF) has, to date, been one of the most interesting projects that I’ve worked on in my career. This isn’t just because it’s the first LEED® v4 project that I’ve coordinated, although that was a big part. I love working on projects that positively impact our communities.

But before we get into the project, let’s talk about LEED® v4. Yes, there’s a new version of the LEED® rating system. How is it different? One of LEED® v4’s biggest differentiators is its focus on integration. This really came into play in the CoCCF project, as it strayed from typical project delivery methods, and engaged all members of the project team—including the contractor and operator—at the onset, and has continued this collaboration throughout the project life. Bottom line, everyone is committed to a responsible design from the get go, and supports it right through to completion.

So what does this look like in practice? The City of Calgary selected the LEED® v4 rating system, targeting Gold certification for a portion of the CoCCF, in support of the City’s Sustainable Building Policy and their commitment to divert 80% of waste from landfills by 2020. At over 800 square metres, the CoCCF’s Administration and Education (A&E) Annex, presented a great opportunity for the City to implement more stringent (compared to earlier versions of LEED®) water and energy targets. Our design team was brought on board to tackle the aspirational standards that the integrative design processes required to achieve LEED® v4 certification. We were determined to go for Gold!

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For the CoCCF—a Design-Build-Operate project—it meant a diverse team of Stantec architectural, mechanical, electrical, structural, civil, sustainability, and geotechnical engineering experts needed to collaborate from the beginning with the contractors and the building operators.

Pursuing LEED® v4 Gold allowed us to maximize interrelationships between architectural, electrical, mechanical, and structural components and exterior environmental systems to create a high performance, cost effective building. With the entire team involved from the beginning, communication was at the forefront, making key decisions easy and efficient.

Are there still challenges? Of course! But another benefit of structuring a project around LEED® v4 is you have the combined creativity of the entire design team to find solutions.  For example, water is a big part of the composting process.  We wanted to avoid relying on potable water to make this process work because why waste perfectly good water that falls from the sky?  Our team incorporated the facility’s design into the surrounding property to make sure 100% of rainwater landing on the site flows into a stormwater pond that and directed into the facility to assist with composting.  And, why stop there? Our team saw an opportunity to use a portion of the rainwater to flush toilets in the A&E Annex to further reduce reliance on the potable water supply. That’s the kind of collaboration that gets you to LEED® v4.

One of my co-workers commented that one of the best feelings is going into a building and knowing that you were part of the team that brought this facility all the way from concept to reality.  I can certainly relate because working on a project like the CoCCF and using the LEED® v4 system takes that feeling of pride up a notch for me. This is a project that affects all of us in Calgary. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to work with a diverse team on a project dedicated to making our community process waste and use water more responsibly. 

Erica is a Sustainability Analyst in Calgary’s Buildings team. Erica is passionate about how building design impacts the environment. Erica will be speaking about her experience with the integrative design processes and how it impacted the City of Calgary Composting facility at the Canada Green Building Council conference in Halifax Nova Scotia on June 22. 

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