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McCallumSather and B+H Design for Net Zero Performance at Mohawk College


August 8, 2017
by Canadian Architect

The new Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College’s Fennel Campus in Hamilton, Ontario, will be one of the region’s first net zero energy institutional buildings when it opens its doors to students in the fall of 2018. New students will have access to 96,000 square-feet of solar-powered labs, workshops, open study space, and lecture theatre.

A joint venture partnership with B+H + mcCallumSather, the Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation is a pilot project for sustainable design. The building will help determine the requirements and standards for the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Buildings Framework and contribute to the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) “Advancing Net Zero,” a global project which aims to ensure that all buildings are net zero carbon by 2050.

Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation, Mohawk College, B+H, mcCallumSather

Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation

To navigate the pursuit of a Net Zero energy building, B+H and mcCallumSather upended the typical design process, rooting their design in the development of an energy budget. “It’s a progressive approach,” says Kevin Stelzer, Principal at B+H. “Where we are typically driven by a financial budget and schedule, for this to truly work we knew we had to step outside of our comfort zone and approach this challenge from a different perspective.”

The energy budget accounted for the eventual uses of the building, including lab equipment, a targeted use of mechanical systems and an allowance for unregulated loads, such as laptops. With the budget in place, a clear roadmap was established to inform each component of the design, from the building’s orientation and material pallet, to the mechanical needs and photo-voltaic targets—the latter of which informs the most conspicuous part of the Joyce Centre’s design.

Joyce Centre for Partnership and Innovation, Mohawk College, B+H, McCallumSather

West Elevation

“We really wanted to elevate the concept of capturing the sun’s energy and making it a design feature as opposed to a series of panels that are going on the roof,” says Joanne McCallum, Director and Co-Founder of mcCallumSather. All photo-voltaic panels are housed in a set of wings that soar above the four-storey complex, echoing the building’s lofty ambitions.

“There is a sea change underway. We’re starting to understand that we as individuals are accountable for our energy use. This building will make you aware of the energy you are using and force you to change your habits. You will not be able to plug in your laptop for hours on end,” says McCallum. “It’s an overdue change and we think the future of how buildings will be designed and operated.”

Joyce Centre, Mohwak College

North Elevation

The pursuit of the elusive net zero energy threshold spurred innovation throughout the project, including the development of an innovative curtain wall system with an effective R20 thermal performance. “Architects love designing with curtain wall, but the standard design can be one of the biggest impediments to sustainable performance right now,” says Stelzer, explaining that the highly conductive materials used in curtain walls are like an energy sieve.

B+H + mcCallumSather were able to work with manufacturers and building scientists to develop a new curtain wall system that incorporated isolation gaskets to achieve their energy conservation targets. Function and form conspired to deliver a transparent, light-filled cladding that delivered on the ambitious energy targets.

“The interiors will be drenched in sunlight and offer flexible learning and collaborative spaces for staff and students. A large atria flows into modular classrooms organised around a central common area encouraging social learning. Robust materials are juxtaposed against warmer elements like wood, glass and stone tile to create a rich, inviting palette,” says Stelzer.