April 28, 2022
- Rating System/Standard
- Zero Carbon Building
Phenix rises again with Zero Carbon Building-certified retrofit
Architecture, planning and design firm Lemay has achieved Zero Carbon Building – Performance (ZCB-Performance) certification for its transformation of an abandoned warehouse into a low-carbon, net zero energy workspace for 350 employees.
Aptly named The Phenix, the project features the deep retrofit of a three-storey, 9,264 m2 structure that was originally built in 1950 and used for industrial purposes. Located in the heart of Montreal’s Sud-Ouest borough, the building initially served as a distribution centre for department store catalogues and then as a document storage facility. It had been vacant for at least a decade before it was converted into office space for Lemay’s growing transdisciplinary team.
The Phenix presented an opportunity for Lemay to design a unique work environment that could serve as an experimental laboratory for testing out new sustainable concepts and approaches.
The retrofit of the structure, as its moniker suggests, represents its rebirth: as a health-promoting, energy-efficient and innovative project to inspire best practices in sustainable development.
A demonstration of Lemay’s sustainability strategy
A key driver for Lemay’s adoption of the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) Zero Carbon Building Standard (ZCB Standard) was the development of its Net Positive framework for integrating sustainability into every project the firm undertakes. The firm’s new headquarters served as the perfect showcase for its three-pronged strategy focused on health, environmental protection and carbon emissions reductions, and as a way for Lemay to demonstrate its leadership to clients and the industry.
The company decided to pursue a different certification system to align with each of its three priorities. with ZCB-Performance chosen as the most relevant pathway to support its carbon target. Lemay is also aiming for LEED Platinum certification to demonstrate its environmental stewardship, and the retrofit has already attained the maximum three-star Fitwel rating in support of its focus on occupant health and well-being.
Reducing carbon by 86% through a retrofit approach
For Lemay, the decision to retrofit the Phenix instead of designing and constructing a new building was significant as it resulted in a much lower carbon footprint that that of a new build. Construction and operations over 60 years of a comparable new office building would have equaled a carbon footprint of nearly 12,000 tonnes of CO2; in comparison, the renovation and building operations over a similar period equate to approximately 1,600 tonnes of CO2, representing a reduction of more than 86 per cent.
The project’s design also minimized the use of new materials by retaining the structural concrete of the building’s floors and columns and original brick walls. As a result, the project team was able to divert 93 per cent of the construction and demolition waste from landfills.
A preliminary life-cycle analysis done as part of the ZCB Standard certification determined that the use of extruded aluminum for curtain walls contributed significantly to embodied carbon. The project team was able to proactively address this by incorporating recycled content from the existing building and sourcing the aluminum from a region with a low-carbon electricity grid.
Other features and initiatives that helped Lemay reduce its carbon footprint and achieve ZCB-Performance certification include:
- An upgrade of the building envelope’s thermal performance through the inclusion of triple-pane windows on the north façade and improvements to roof insulation, reducing energy consumption related to heating and air conditioning;
- Advanced LED lighting systems with motion sensors, daylight sensors and an operation schedule based on building occupancy;
- An integrated solar wall that preheats the building’s ventilation air intake;
- Installation of 379 photovoltaic (PV) panels with a total capacity of 134 kW;
- Hydronic radiant heating;
- Thermal and electrical energy storage systems to manage demand during winter peak periods; and,
- The purchase of 100 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in carbon offsets to compensate for < 94 tonnes of carbon emissions related to energy consumption
A Natural Resources Canada grant allowed the team to include many of the project’s innovative energy systems, such as the PV panels and thermal solar wall, and gather valuable data about their usage. The firm is already reaping the benefits of its focus on carbon for the project, with an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score of 98 and energy cost savings of 83 per cent annually.
A catalyst for creating the workplaces of the future
With the Phenix building, Lemay made a clear choice to go as far as possible in guaranteeing the building’s efficient use of resources, promote green transportation, and enhance occupants’ health and wellness.
As such, the project includes many green features such as a living wall, evergreen climbing plants and a green room designed to improve indoor air quality and balance humidity. All office areas have access to daylight and views, reducing the need for artificial lighting. These changes increase interactions with the natural environment to foster well-being among Lemay’s staff.
The building also employs a combination of natural ventilation from large, operable windows on all sides and a high-efficiency mechanical system that provides heating and cooling only when required.
Employee health and well-being is also promoted through the following measures:Air quality
- An Indoor Air Quality Management Plan
- Specification of low-VOC (volatile organic compound) and low-emission materials
- High-efficiency MERV 13 air filters
- CO2 sensors in meeting rooms to optimize fresh air supply
- Thermal sensors to ensure occupant comfort
- Water filters for the provision of high-quality drinking water
- Availability of multifunctional relaxation areas
- Active design plan that gives the main staircase connecting all building floors more visibility than the elevator
- A gym with activity program
- Bicycle parking to promote active transport
The ZCB-Performance certification process for the Phenix project helped Lemay clarify its own priorities, measures and verification methods when it comes to emissions reductions. This has also aided the firm in taking a more systematic approach to life-cycle analysis and carbon accounting on all its projects, making it easier to encourage clients to also focus on carbon.
With its successful application of deep retrofits, adaptive reuse and diverse sustainability measures, the Phenix is an impressive case study on how to renovate an old building to the highest standards of sustainable development, while significantly reducing the environmental impacts of raw material extraction on a large scale.
As a result, the project demonstrates that sustainable development can be a catalyst enabling the rebirth of underused sites into healthy, socially responsible environments that deliver low carbon and significant cost savings.
The retrofit of the structure, as its moniker suggests, represents its rebirth: as a health-promoting, energy-efficient and innovative project to inspire best practices in sustainable development.Hugo Lafrance, Director of Sustainability, Lemay