Maison du développement durable

Montreal, Quebec

April 15, 2013

Rating System/Standard
Certification Level
Building Type

When the founding members of the Maison du développement durable (Centre for Sustainable Development in English) decided to create a unique, state-of-the-art space that exemplified sustainability and environmental education, they were hoping to create a new space that would inspire the community. After a great deal of carefully planned development and collaboration with community members, organizations, governments and industry experts from every discipline – the result is one that truly does inspire.

The following case study is derived from an interview the CaGBC did with Amélie Ferland Dufresne, Director of Communications and Programming for the Centre. The energy use and materials statistics are from an article published in SAB Magazine (Authored by the design team at MSDL Architectes, Montreal).

Infill building densifies the city and earns LEED Platinum

For several years, employees and volunteers who were working for community organization Équiterre were in an unsuitable environment. In 2002, the management had the choice to move its location to a new space for its occupants; one that was both accessible and inspiring. Équiterre then decided to make the entire project into an educational opportunity, one that constructed an exemplary building that would inspire local citizens, experts and elected officials, as well as encourage others to do the same in Quebec. The team chose to aim for LEED Platinum from the beginning because LEED’s rigour and high environmental standard matched the Centre’s high environmental record.

The objectives pursued by the Centre for Sustainable Development were that it aimed to build the future through:

  • Maximizing the potential for the Centre and outside organizations to share social and environmental resources.
  • Act as a centre for reflection, education, innovation and as a meeting place for thought leaders where they can discuss sustainable development.
  • Provide citizens, businesses and governments with new educational tools on sustainable development.
  • Provide Canadian researchers a great tool for researching green building.

Why LEED made sense for employee health and comfort

Having previously worked in an unsuitable environment, LEED provided the Centre with the opportunity to create the ideal indoor environment for staff, clients and visitors.

“LEED as an environmental certification standard was developed specifically according climates, construction practices and Canadian regulations, and it has provided a design guideline to improve the well-being for the building’s occupants, as well as to maximize environmental performance and the economic performance of the building,” says Amélie Ferland Dufresne, Director of Communications and Programming for the Centre.

“For example, in the office space, a plenum of 305mm in height was put between the concrete slab and floor area which is used to supply ventilated air for those who occupy the space. This system requires less energy than conventional ventilation because it brings air into the office at a low speed down at ground level, and pushes it directly into the space occupied by the employee, which improves comfort.”

In addition, LEED helped the staff decide to optimize the positioning and size of the windows to maximize the entry of natural light and views within the building. The use of automated management tools (with sensors and brightness) and the implementation of efficient appliances that had bulbs with low mercury levels (T5 and LED) also helped significantly reduce the electricity consumption of the building.

The Centre also set emission maximums for all of the following products in order to keep the indoor air quality as high as possible: carpet, wood and laminates, adhesives and sealants, and paints and varnishes.

Lessons learned

From the point of view of building science, the greatest thing the project team and staff learned working on this project was not so much with the final product but the importance of cooperation and sharing during the process. During all stages of the design and construction of the Centre, Équiterre and all the parties involved (architects, consulting engineers, general contractors, researchers, suppliers, etc.) worked in multidisciplinary teams to reach innovative solutions, putting into practice integrated design which was essential to the success of this project.

When Équiterre started the project, they had no money, no land and no real expertise in real estate development but we were lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing partners that stayed with them throughout the project. Real estate developers, lawyers and property managers all volunteered their time; governments, corporations and foundations donated money, and citizen groups gave a soul to the project, helping it overcome many challenges.

In total, more than 53 partners and private donors contributed to the implementation and financing of the Centre, including the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (MDDEP), the City of Montreal, Ville- Marie, the Business Development Corporation of Old Montreal, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Regions and Land Occupancy, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities with Alcoa as the lead partner.

Community education component uses the building to teach sustainability

To fulfill its mission of being a meeting point for discussion, trade and innovation toward sustainable development, the Centre offers a free and varied program including guided tours, exhibitions, lectures, debates and workshops on current issues related to sustainable development.

The Centre also offers a self-guided course, free and open to the public, that has kiosks and information panels on the principles of green building and the techniques and materials used in the construction of the house. For the casual visitor the MDD also offers self-guided tours (by way of touch screens that monitor and explain real time building performance), and a library of more than 100 environmentally-friendly materials.

Additional project strategies and results

  • All general purpose concrete that was used includes fly ash waste from coal-fired power plants; fly ash, the solid residue derived from incineration processes, is used to offset Portland cement in concrete. A plate of experimental concrete, including a significant amount of recycled glass, is also being tested.
  • The building is covered with an extensive green roof with an area of over 800m2. The vegetation is composed of at least 10 varieties of plants which reduces the heat island effect, aids energy consumption and contributes to the building’s sewage and wastewater.
  • The premise for the construction of this building was the minimal use of materials (polished concrete, no acoustic tiles or gypsum on the columns, exposed concrete on walls). Eighty-seven ecological materials were catalogued using ATHENA software that enables designers and builders to assess and compare their environmental impacts.
  • The architectural walkway and staircase in the atrium were created with driftwood, retrieved from Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay. Experimental products were also used, such as glass powder as an additive to cement, and kitchen counters made of 93 per cent recycled glass.
  • At least 50 per cent of all new wood used in the building comes from FSC certified forests; and 15 per cent of all materials are recycled products. For example, the gypsum board that was used is made of 99 per cent recycled materials and the material used for the insulation is 70 per cent recycled content. There are five counters in the building’s kitchenettes and each is made up of 93 per cent recycled glass.

By proposing a Platinum LEED certified environmental construction project in the downtown case, the promoters of the Maison du développement durable made a very strong statement concerning respect for the built environment. Conceived and constructed to serve as an educational tool, the success of the MDD will ultimately be measured both quantitatively – in the performance of its environmental systems, and qualitatively – in the response of its occupants and in the influence it exerts on others through its educational components and outreach programs.

“Obviously, the certification also has value in terms of reputation,” says Dufresne. “It ensures that the work was done professionally and in accordance with very high standards. Thus, the Centre is able to benefit from visibility amongst the universities and in the media, as well as with elected officials and other experts. The credibility provided by LEED certification generates a value that is priceless.”


Certification LevelPlatinum
Rating SystemLEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations 1.0
Total Points earned59
Sustainable Sites14 out of 14
Water Efficiency5 out of 5
Energy & Atmosphere14 out of 17
Materials & Resources8 out of 14
Indoor Environmental Quality13 out of 15
Innovation in Operations5 out of 5

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