The Okanagan College Centre of Excellence sets sights on the Living Building Challenge

Imagine an educational facility that is as much a teacher as the instructors standing at the front of its classrooms; a building powered by the resources of its surrounding environment; a building as full of potential as the students learning inside. That building is Penticton’s Okanagan College Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation, a world-class educational facility that will train British Columbia’s next generation of tradespeople in green construction.

Okanagan College’s Centre of Excellence, which will mark its grand opening this fall, is designed to the standards of the Living Building Challenge, the most rigorous sustainability program on the planet. The challenge requires projects to meet a stringent list of qualifications, including net-zero energy and water consumption while addressing critical environmental, social and economic factors. Successful Living Building Challenge projects are only certified if they prove they meet program requirements after 12 months of continued operations and full occupancy. At 6,780 square metres, the Centre of Excellence is currently one of the largest buildings to pursue Living Building certification.

“From the educational community to the design team to the various government offices involved, we came together to set the sustainability bar for the Centre of Excellence extremely high,” says CEI Architecture’s Tim McLennan. “The entire team worked incredibly hard to bring the building to life and the final result is perhaps the most innovative sustainability effort ever realized in the region. Designing to the standards of Living Building Challenge demanded a truly integrated design process, and buy-in from everyone involved.”

Innovative sustainability components throughout the building add up to make the Centre of Excellence one of the greenest educational facilities in the world. These include net-zero energy and water consumption made possible through features such as an in-floor radiant heating and cooling system, using an on-site water source drawn from 61 metres below the building; the largest array of photovoltaic solar panels in Western Canada; and composite concrete/wood panels in the gymnasium that contain piping for heating and cooling and are the first of their kind in North America. Nearly 100 per cent of the wood in the building is BC-sourced, including local pine from beetle-infested forests in the Okanagan.

The Centre’s planned educational programming includes Sustainable Construction Management Technology, Carpentry, Applied Ecology and Conservation, and Green Building Design and Construction, as well as the research and development of alternative and renewable energy sources.

“The Okanagan College Centre of Excellence is a building that will help teach and spread the latest ideas and innovations in the green building movement, and that is so powerful,” says Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute, the organization that created and oversees the Living Building Challenge. “It’s an exciting project and it will be very interesting to see how it influences others in the region, and around the world.”

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