Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always had this idea of “being green” thrown on me. I never truly understood how important being eco friendly was until recently.
As a developed country, individuals in Canada have large ecological footprints, meaning we use and waste many resources, the same resources that many people in other countries don’t have. This affects our Earth negatively and this negative effect on the Earth in return has a negative effect on us. If we pollute our Earth, the food we eat and air we breathe will be polluted. Saving the Earth isn’t just about the trees, the plants and those cute little animals on the Dawn commercials: it’s about us.
Hamilton is starting to become a very eco friendly city in many ways. My old elementary school had implemented “litter-less lunches”, where we were required to bring a school to lunch that would have no garbage whatsoever on a daily basis. After researching a little bit more about my own city, I realized that there are many eco friendly buildings in the area too.
LEED is a certification program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings all across Canada. It has been running since 2002 and has changed the way buildings are made, whether it be small homes and buildings or neighbourhoods and communities. There are six key areas LEED certification focuses on:
- sustainable site development
- water efficiency
- energy efficiency
- materials and resources
- indoor environmental quality
- innovation and design process
In 2005, McMaster University developed a sustainable building policy stating that every new building that was to be built on campus would have a minimum of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certification. It is the first Ontario University to do so!
The first building to be LEED certified was the Les Prince Hall Building. There are six other buildings that are LEED certified at the campus including the David Braley Athletic Centre, the Burke Science Building, the Engineering Technology Building, the Ron Joyce Centre, the C.E. Burke Science Building and the Nuclear Research Building. There are six other buildings that McMaster has targeted to make LEED certified!
The Les Prince Hall Building is a student residence meant to reduce environmental impacts and to have a great atmosphere for the studying and living of the 389 students this building can house. Indoor air quality, energy conservation and water conservation were heavily taken into consideration during the designing process. This building saves 32% in energy savings and 49% in water savings!
Features that help in making this building so environmentally friendly and LEED certified are the low-flow plumbing fixtures, well-insulated building shell with high performance windows, heat recovery on all make up air units, variable speed drives on all pumps, occupancy sensors for lighting, the use of recycled and regional materials, low off-gassing finishes and many daylight and outdoor views.
The windows on this building state to be “high performance” but what exactly does that mean? Regular windows tend to lose up to 30% of the total heat loss of an average home. High performance windows tackle this issue and use many features to prevent heat loss. One of these features is glazing, which using multiple layers of glass to prevent heat loss. Another is gas fills, where the spaces between the glazing of the windows are filled with gases such as Argon that are poor heat conductors. Insulating spacers further enhance the windows using special insulaters rather than metal strips to separate the glass glazing. Lastly, the frame that is used to make the window is also just as important as the glass itself. Frames with high insulation value and low maintenance are the best choices.
Another asset to the efficiency of this building are the occupancy sensors for lighting. We see this kind of lighting a lot outside of homes where the light will turn on when it senses motion. Lighting like this isn’t just restricted to turning on and off though. Occupancy sensored lighting can also dim when it does not sense the presence of someone. This type of lighting is very efficient as no one can forget to turn off the lights or the lights do not have to be left on in the hallways or common areas. Typically, in larger buildings meant for schooling or businesses, lights tend to be left on in the hallways overnight. With occupancy sensored lights, this can be avoided as well where the light will either dim or turn off completely to save power.
The Les Prince Hall follows all six criteria for a LEED certified building! Not only is it energy efficient, but recycled materials have been used to build it and it has a great indoor environment for all the students that live there. It is definitely a great example of being environmentally friendly.
Another great building in Hamilton is the EcoHouse. It is not LEED certified, but it raises awareness about being eco friendly and holds workshops for this cause. They display environmental technologies from the past, present and what could be possible in the future. They also have a community garden and hold local art exhibits. You can learn more about the EcoHouse here.
McMaster really has taken a LEED in an eco friendly Hamilton and I hope that many will follow in it’s great example. Not taking care of our Earth properly is like walking outside in the cold winter months without a coat or jacket on. If we don’t take care of our Earth, it’s going to affect us in the long run! I find it amazing that McMaster has become so dedicated to the LEED certification program and has so many buildings on campus that are already LEED certified and many more to come! I’ve actually chosen McMaster as the university I am attending next year and the fact that they are so environmentally friendly makes me want to go that much more! I hope that many other buildings and universities all across Canada try their best to be more eco friendly.
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Miss Teen Hamilton Region-World 2013