Ask the Expert: Maxime Boisclair of Beaudoin Hurens discusses their involvement in CaGBC's
Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program

As the Director of Sustainable Development at Beaudoin Hurens, Maxime Boisclair has worked on more than 31 LEED projects in the past decade.

His experience and passion for green building led him and Beaudoin Hurens to collaborate with Commission scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Milles-Îles on one of Canada’s first zero carbon building projects, the construction of the new Curé-Paquin Elementary School in Saint-Eustache, QC, as part of CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Building (ZCB) Pilot Program.

We spoke with Maxime about his takeaways from being involved with the pilot program thus far, including the challenges experienced, the differences between ZCB and other green building initiatives, and the opportunities this has provided to them for learning about carbon reduction in buildings.


1. Tell us briefly about yourself and how you how you came to work on sustainable/green building projects.

From the moment I started studying building mechanics in 1998, I knew I wanted to focus on energy efficiency and sustainable development. In 2004, I attended the inauguration of the Quebec Chapter of the CaGBC and also won a student prize at the Énergia Gala of l’Association québécoise pour la maitrise de l’énergie (AQME). My win attracted the attention of engineering consulting firm Beaudoin Hurens, which was looking for a specialist in energy conservation and sustainable development. Since then, I have been the Director of this department at the firm. In the last 13 years, I have worked on several outstanding projects, including one that was LEED Platinum, as well as 10 large-scale LEED Gold projects.

2. You are working on one of Canada’s first zero carbon building projects for the CaGBC Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program. How did you get involved in this? Why are you working on this project?

For the past 10 years, C.S. Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles has been seeking to revolutionize the way schools are built. When the school board went looking for an engineering consulting firm capable of innovation, optimization and taking a leadership role, Beaudoin Hurens was a natural choice given our expertise in the sustainable development field and with institutional and school environments.

The first-ever steering meeting of the new school took place before the CaGBC's call for proposals for ZCB pilot projects, and it was already clear that this project would be a guiding light for new schools. When the call for proposals was posted, the team did not hesitate to join the program.

3. What have you learned most working on LEED projects? Is there any advice you would convey to other project teams?

Several building optimization decisions were made right from the beginning to improve the student experience while limiting energy consumption and environmental impact. The school board’s goal was to provide an exemplary building for students that could also be used as a learning tool. Here are some of the mechanical and electrical characteristics of the building:

  • Geothermal energy for 100 per cent of the project’s heating needs
  • Recovery of 85 per cent of the energy contained in the exhaust air
  • Displacement ventilation
  • Volumetric flow to allow for natural ventilation
  • Radiant heating and cooling in the rooms
  • Optimization of windows to maximize natural lighting
  • Thermal accumulation for load levelling
  • 100 per cent LED lighting
  • Solar photovoltaic panels
  • Occupancy and natural light detectors
  • Increased fresh air flow (30 per cent more than the ASHRAE standard)

4. What have you learned so far working on a zero carbon project and with CaGBC? Have you encountered any challenges?

As a mechanical engineer, my biggest learning curve was around the embodied carbon of materials. This was an aspect of the building over which I had little control, and I found that the information available on this subject is relatively limited. As such, I think the CaGBC's initiative to build a database on this topic is excellent.

The greatest challenge for ZCB projects in Quebec remains profitability. Energy is still very inexpensive and it can take long time to see a return on investment from the supply and installation of photovoltaic panels. In addition, the conditions of our electricity supplier make it complicated to obtain net measurements, and sometimes it’s even ineligible.

5. How does working on net zero/zero carbon differ from LEED projects? How is it the same?

In my opinion, the principle of the ZCB program is quite different since we focus mainly on one subject: carbon! For LEED projects, several topics are discussed to maximize the credits obtained. Some elements of the ZCB program are covered within the LEED v4 certification system as well: energy performance, renewable energy, life cycle analysis. But in general, there is room for both programs (LEED and ZCB) in the sustainable development market.

6. Would you like to add anything else?

Carbon footprint reduction is undoubtedly an emerging trend in the area of sustainable development. With the Zero Carbon Building Pilot Program, the CaGBC is a global pioneer in this area. This initiative is extremely significant in the international goal of mitigating climate change. All you need now is to have more innovative property managers like C.S. Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles to join the ZCB program!