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Algonquin Perth Campus

By: GRC Architects

Photo Credit: Algonquin College

Algonquin College is a major provider of post-secondary education in Eastern Ontario with campuses in Ottawa, Perth and Pembroke. This Campus is located in the Town of Perth, approximately 65 km west of Ottawa.

In 2009, planning began for a new facility capable of accommodating more students. The new facility had to be constructed while keeping the existing building fully operational. The existing building had no common space for students, most offices had no windows, there was poor air quality and a failing exterior envelope.

The new 4,155 m2 (44,715-ft.2) structure was ready for classes in September 2011, one year after the start of construction. The LEED Gold  certified building is comprised of an academic hall and a construction wing, connected by student-centered amenity spaces. The old building was demolished and an outdoor construction pad was provided in its location, to be used by carpentry and masonry students for their outdoor projects.

Through an intensive Integrated Design Process involving the consultants, College and numerous stakeholders, a Sustainability Action Plan was developed outlining project vision, principles, and objectives. Various workshops, design charettes and consultation sessions were held from concept to post-occupancy stage. This collaborative process allowed for every major decision to be considered from a sustainability and triple bottom line performance perspective, and optimized within the constraints of the project.

•    Annual Energy Consumption: 372,564 ekWh       
•    Energy Use Intensity: 95.7 ekWh/m2/year          
•    Building Full Time Equivalent Population: 256
•    Design Occupant Load: 400

The most important contributor to a successful  and sustainable building is a consultation process producing unambiguous priorities along with a list of concrete goals. All of the stakeholders participated in establishing the following Guiding Principles, each having a set of measurable targets:

•    Look and Feel: An innovative modern design celebrating the heritage tradition
•    Purpose: Student success
•    Functionality: Durable, accessible, multifunctional; promotes health and wellbeing; remains flexible and anticipates the future
•    Performance: A sustainable facility that fosters and enables occupants to practice environmental responsibility.
•    Connection: Integrated with and sustains the local community

Keeping these principles at the forefront of the decision-making process led to a design that not only targeted high energy performance goals, but also the health and well-being of the occupants, representing the values of the stakeholders.

Due to budget limitations, effective programming was key to right-size the facility. All programmed space had to meet a utilization rate of 80% or better and be flexible to accommodate multifunctional activities wherever possible.

The College had not employed a wood structure in previous academic buildings. The use of wood proved to be extremely economic, and built for much less than typical College buildings. The savings generated in the structure and envelope allowed the design team to maximize the inclusion of College program elements, as well as green features and more energy efficient mechanical/electrical systems necessary to achieve LEED Gold.


Photo Credit: Doublespace Photography/ Algonquin College

Algonquin College has been a recognized landmark  of the Perth and Lanark County for decades. The Perth campus was in desperate need of a new modern facility to continue serving the community and students. They also wanted to create a building that would be a legacy to their heritage carpentry, masonry and advanced housing programs. These programs are an integral part of the community’s success as masonry and carpentry projects completed by students, such as eco-homes and timber frame structures, are found throughout Perth and surrounding Lanark County.

The state‐of‐the‐art student focused facility ensures the continued success of Algonquin, their programs, and community involvement, by providing students with an intimate, friendly, modern and healthy setting for learning in a hands‐on environment. Student projects are prominently displayed throughout the building. The versatility and comfortable atmosphere of the student commons space has made it an attractive meeting place for numerous local groups and businesses. The library is also renowned for its unique and specialized collection of periodicals and articles, and regularly draws in members of the community to peruse through the archival collection of historical value.

Since there are no student accommodations and no public transportation to this rural campus, many students are car dependent. Although the new building is almost double the size of the existing building, the same number of parking spaces were retained.  Numerous bike racks are provided and carpooling is encouraged. Student amenity spaces, such as break-out rooms and quiet study carrels, a fitness room, and showering facilities are also intended to encourage students to stay on campus between classes.

Percentage of building population traveling to site by carpool, bicycle, or foot:  45%
Number of parking spaces (occupants & visitors): 160

A significant challenge on the project was the positioning of the new building due to the numerous site constraints:
•    the existing building had to remain fully operational until the completion of the new facility
•    the majority of the site to the west of the existing building is located within a floodplain
•    acoustical considerations to mitigate noise from the railroad tracks to the north of the site
•    existing buildings on the site had to be incorporated into the overall Master Plan, as well as outdoor work areas, and material deliveries to be isolated from pedestrian traffic.

The new building was constructed directly to the east of the existing building outside the limits of the floodplain. Zones for future expansion and future outdoor recreation were identified. The Shops are closer to the train tracks and adjacent to the outdoor existing construction related facilities.

Stormwater was controlled to satisfy the requirements of the local conservation authority. Poor infiltration of the soils and no municipal storm sewers required stormwater management strategies to control water at the surface be implemented. Bioswales along the south side of the site detain the excess runoff and improve the water quality. The use of appropriate vegetation and landscaping allows for the required rates of sedimentation to be achieved through reduced flow, ion exchange and natural flocculation.

To further reduce runoff, a 2000 litre cistern collects excess rainwater from the roof which is then circulated through the building for non-potable uses. Runoff rates were also reduced through the use of a granular rather than a paved surface in the expanded parking area.

Native/adaptive landscaping eliminated the need for irrigation and most of the existing trees were preserved or successfully relocated.

Passive design strategies were assumed from the start. Large windows at the south admit generous amounts of warming sunlight in the winter while deep eaves prevent overheating in the summer. The windows facing north are triple glazed, both for the thermal performance, and for acoustics to reduce the noise generated by passing trains. Clerestory glazing brings natural light into the core of the building.

Operable windows provide natural ventilation to all occupied spaces, and cooling during the shoulder seasons. The large overhead doors into the shops are also located to promote air flow when open.

The reflective roofing is light in colour to reduce the heat island effect. The high-bay roof is designed to support the additional load of future PV solar panels.

Photo Credit: Doublespace Photography

Daylight, views and fresh air are provided to all regularly occupied spaces of the building. The narrow floorplate allows programmed spaces to be located along the perimeter of the building, and have high quality glazing with operable units to provide natural ventilation and views. Clerestory glazing brings daylight into the corridor and main lobby space, and the ends of the corridors are glazed to enhance the connection to the outdoors. Deep eaves give shade in the summer to reduce glare and solar heat gain.

A dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) contributes to the interior air quality. Advanced controls that incorporate class schedules and occupancy sensors were required to optimally control and schedule the ventilation air to accommodate the wide range of occupants at different times of day.  The ventilation design strategy was further improved by implementing low level returns in the classrooms to increase the air change effectiveness and reduce the amount of outside air required by 20%, which saved energy, and improved indoor air quality. The shop wing has its own air handling system to isolate dust and noise propagation.  

The electrical design features an overall low lighting power density due to the ample amount of natural daylighting. Additional controls allow occupants to tailor their lighting needs based on ambient conditions.

To improve the indoor air quality, all off the materials used  contain very low or no VOCs. A comprehensive green housekeeping policy has been adopted by the College to help maintain a high level of indoor air quality throughout the life of the building.

Photo Credit: Naquib Hossain / Algonquin College

Water management and conservation are addressed through a number of strategies. For one, the sustainable stormwater management and site maintenance implemented reduce the amount of suspended solids and minimize pollution and eutrophication of waterways from excess nutrient pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The site is also covered with drought tolerant indigenous landscaping, native or adaptive, requiring no irrigation.

Potable water usage is reduced through low‐flow plumbing fixtures including dual‐flush toilets, low‐flow urinals and aerated lavatory faucets and showerheads. The water consumption is further reduced with a rainwater harvesting system that captures rainwater from the roof for reuse in the flush fixtures throughout the building.  These water conserving strategies combine for an total estimated potable water use reduction of greater than 60% and greater than 50% for water used in sewage conveyance.

•    Precipitation managed on site: 100%
•    Plumbing fixture water requirement: 1,154,342 L/yr
•    Rainwater harvested for flush fixtures: 375,748 L/yr
•    Annual potable water consumption: 461.820 m3  or 1803.9 L/person/year 
•    Reduction in Water Use Compared to the Reference Building: 60.96%

A core principle retained from the integrated design process was that energy-efficient buildings start with a high performance building envelope. The Algonquin Perth campus building has on average effective assembly R-values of R30 walls, R40 roof, triple-glazed windows on the north facade, and deep overhangs and a reflective roof cover to limit the summer heat gains. The flat roof of the shop wing has been designed to support the load of future photovoltaic panels.

The mechanical design includes a dedicated outdoor air system (DOAS) with variable volume and a reverse flow heat recovery unit supplying ventilation air at near 90% efficiency. Outdoor air is supplied to individual fan coils for each space which allows the systems to be turned off in each classroom based on usage saving on operation and outdoor air. Space heating and cooling is accomplished from a central plant via 95% efficient condensing boilers and an air‐cooled frictionless centrifugal chiller with an IPLV of 0.57kW/ton. Domestic hot water is generated by a condensing hot water heater with a thermal efficiency of 94%.

Considerable attention has been given to the energy use in the shops. The main overhead doors are separated by an airlock to minimize the impact on the indoor air temperature in winter months. The radiant heating is efficient in the high-bay spaces. The dust extraction equipment, like the building ventilation design, uses a heat recovery system. Finally, the shops are cooled in the summer months through natural ventilation encouraged through low level windows and large overhead doors and upper level clerestory windows with fan assistance to promote sufficient air movement.

The electrical design features an overall lighting power density of only 9 W/m2 leveraging the ample natural day lighting in combination with T5 high output fluorescents in the high-bay shops areas and T8 linear fluorescents in the remaining spaces.

These strategies resulted in a facility that will cost 51% less to heat, cool and power than a similar facility designed to the standard of the Model National Energy Code for Buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 270 tons of CO2 a year. This translates to 7 LEED points.

Photo credits: Doublespace Photography / GRC architects

The historic town of Perth, Ontario has a rich history, reflected in the 19th century mills and factory buildings along the Tay River, Victorian storefronts and grand century-old stone buildings.  The Algonquin College Perth Campus building sought to blend with this fabric through the use of traditional forms, locally sourced materials, and wood frame construction.  The white pine wood siding on the building's exterior and feature columns were sourced locally requiring minimal resources to obtain the material on site.  Local community relations were also supported through the construction phase, with regional materials and labour sourcing.

Overall, 55% of the building materials came from the region. The majority of the wood was sourced from FSC-certified distributors and retailers.

Much of the equipment and furniture from the old building has been retained for the new one. The flooring material requirements were reduced by using exposed concrete floors.  In total, the materials had a recycled content of 17.5%, and 92.7% of construction waste was diverted from landfill.

The key drivers for selecting the structural and building envelope elements were performance, cost, availability, ease of construction and durability. For the high-bay shop areas, a metal pre-engineered building with high performance sandwich panel wall system.  The academic wing is a wood framed structure including pre-manufactured wood trusses. These construction methods were used for cost-effectiveness and speed of installation. The locally sourced wood siding and masonry veneer cladding is applied to both the steel building and wood building to provide a unified appearance.

•    Based on cost, building materials contain a total of 17.5% recycled material content
•    Based on cost, the percentage of local materials sourced within an 800km radius (this value includes materials transported within a 2,400km radius that were transported by rail or water): 55.2%.
•    Percentage of waste diverted from the landfill: 92.7%

Photo Credit: Doublespace Photography

One of the objectives of the project was to "anticipate future growth potential by adapting structure to easily allow for future expansion to classrooms to accommodate 25%‐30% increase in future".  Careful siting permits eventual expansion of both the trades and academic wings to the east and west.  The student amenity spaces were grouped together in the central node of the building designed to be large enough to handle future growth in student population.  The cafeteria is also located adjacent to the student lounge so that they could be combined to become one large multipurpose space for events, able to hold up to 400 people.  

Classrooms have sinks and storage areas so they can serve a variety of evening classes. Plumbing and other services were designed and roughed-in to allow for future growth. For example, services are not located in the dividing walls between the classrooms or where a high churn rate is likely to occur, so that room reconfigurations can be done efficiently.

Design elements related to masonry and carpentry were incorporated into the curriculum, such as the replacement of wood siding on one of the walls of the building with masonry veneer (wider foundation wall installed to accommodate this), and siteworks such as stone walls, future boardwalks, etc.  By having students participate hands-on with campus related projects, they might establish a stronger connection to the campus and develop a more meaningful experience.

Photo Credit: Doublespace Photography

The success of the project is the result of an extensive collaborative effort among the design team, consultants, the client, key stakeholders and the community. The Integrated Design Process started at the pre-design stage. Key stakeholders participated in an IDP training session. Following a Visioning Session, a Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) with vision, principles and objectives was developed establishing a set of well-defined environmental and social goals. This document formed a decision framework to inform decisions between competing alternatives. Design charettes and workshops were facilitated to validate end-user requirements, explore trade-offs and synergies  and prioritize investments moving forward. The stakeholders then used the SAP to evaluate the design during the design review process and ultimately assess the success of the project post-occupancy.

The building also promotes learning among the students and encourages interactions through shared common amenities, prominent display areas for student projects, and through large amounts of glazing from the corridors into the shops. Guided tours are offered on a regular basis, where the majority of activities taking place can be observed from the main corridors.

The building structure, envelope and systems were designed in accordance with the LEED durability credit.  Life cycle assessment principles were applied in the building systems selection and value engineering of the building to optimize the efficiency of facilities management and building operations and maintenance.

In terms of best practice strategies moving forward, more importance needs to be placed on the design and construction of the building envelope due to the increased complexity and drive for improved energy performance. Building envelope commissioning can be a valuable process in providing a high quality building envelope that achieves the performance and criteria of the design, code, constructability and durability.

Design Architect: GRC Architects Inc.
Owner: Algonquin College
Project Manager: BLJC
General Contractor: Frecon Construction
Civil Engineer, Mechanical, Electrical, LEED: GENIVAR (now WSP Canada Inc.)
Structural Engineer: Adjeleian Allen Rubeli Ltd.
Landscape Architect: James B. Lennox and Associates Inc.
IDP Facilitators: BuildGreen Solutions
Commissioning Agent: Isotherm Engineering Ltd.
Building Envelope Consultant:  Morrison Hershfield
Life Safety: Morrison Hershfield
Acoustics: State of the Art Acoustik Inc.
Quantity Surveyor: Hanscomb Limited
Geotechnical Engineer: Houle Chevrier Engineering Ltd.