LEED Spotlight - Evergreen Brick Works certifies LEED Platinum

1. Tell us about the project and its unique features, particularly those that led to it certifying LEED Platinum.

Today, the Evergreen Brick Works reveals a shiny silver building attached to a gritty, graffiti covered historical brick making factory. Called the Centre for Green Cities within the larger Evergreen Brick Works complex, the contrast is striking, receiving many building awards including one from SAB Magazine in 2012.

This is one of the first-ever LEED Platinum certifications in North America granted to a community centre on a heritage site. Adding to the fact that it was built on a floodplain, with special water harvesting and waterflow design features such as greenway-like moats, stormwater marshes, and parking spaces made with permeable concrete to slow and absorb water surges, make it especially unique.

Opened in September 2010, the five-storey Centre for Green Cities office building is clad in corrugated metal panels in a nod to the industrial character of the site. The building provides workspace for the not-for-profit Evergreen and sustainably-minded tenants. It is also the hub for many environmental and community programs from farmers markets to a nature-based children's playground.

The building itself takes into consideration many green elements. A superinsulated envelope (R-values for the wall and roof assemblies at 35 and 50, respectively), 40/60 window to wall ratios, an HVAC strategy where heat is delivered through an in-floor radiant system on the ground level, perimeter radiators on upper floors (rather than through the ventilation system), operable windows during cooling season, along with three fan-assisted solar chimneys to help purge warm air, and "demand management" techniques that allow for selective temperature control where needed, are a few of the unique features of the building.

2. Why did you choose LEED certification?

Evergreen is a national not-for-profit that inspires action to green cities. Through the CityWorks initiative, we are changing the way we plan, design and develop our urban areas to accelerate the shift to greener and more efficient cities. This LEED Platinum building in the middle of a large adaptive re-use campus demonstrates to the public, industry and to municipalities what is achievable in building smarter, more efficient cities.

3. What value does LEED certification bring to your building, both as a landlord and for those the tenants who occupy it?

The value as a both landlord and community centre is comfort that is efficiently attained for the tenant and public. Natural light all four seasons, fresh air circulation, windows that open, and a dashboard of tools at the property manager's disposal – from vents to daylight harvesting, radiant and solar heat, and efficient boilers – to ensure personal comfort helps make the work and play experience at Evergreen Brick Works a pleasurable one. That the user can 'control' their own personal space to an extent is also empowering.

4. What was the biggest lesson learned from building a LEED project that you think would be valuable to other building LEED?

Firstly, we are constantly learning, tweaking our dashboard to eek the most efficiency from the building.
Secondly, our approach has been immersive and holistic, in terms of wanting to reduce our environmental footprint as the site was being used. From water and energy usage, to waste diversion (during and post construction) and even influencing mobility (bike racks, electric vehicle stations, and a white parking lot to minimize the urban heat island) and exploring urban agricultural practices, everything done on-site is looked at through an environmental lens to encourage both systems and behavioural change and behavioural change.

Thirdly, the secret in this accomplishment is that many brilliant dedicated partners – from construction workers to architects and developers – shared a vision and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to help realize Evergreen's ambition. That, and a natural curiosity to find solutions to being efficient, for the pocket book and the planet, are the keys to constructing a useful, ecologically sensitive building.

Finally, Evergreen has learned that there is a great deal of interest from others to find out how we've achieved our goals in everything from minimizing energy use, to rainwater harvesting and lessons from our green roof. We have a constant stream of visitors from New York to Amsterdam asking how we've achieved our efficiencies. Evergreen's property manager, the engineers at Halsall and the architects at Diamond Schmitt, are always happy to take developers on a tour of the guts of the building.

5. Is there anything else you'd like to add about your building or LEED in general?

A house is a house, but it really only means something when it is a "home". The Centre for Green Cities is a building, but what is really important are the people who use it. The architects, builders and Evergreen recognize this important nuance that the site and the building are for the people in the community.

Every municipality has an abandoned train station they don't know how to re-purpose. Many builders will maintain that going LEED Platinum is too expensive and challenging. We invite everyone to come down to this site to learn from our experience.

Project Team: