Life & Health Sciences Building “Block D”; Earns LEED; Gold Status for Sustainable Design

The special qualities of Block D of the Life & Health Sciences Building may be imperceptible by the students and staff working in the new labs, but for those who know what is behind the walls, the building’s status is golden, at least by the standards of the leading sustainability organization in Canada.

Block D, the most recent construction project on the Trent University campus), has achieved LEED gold status from the Canada Green Building Council, a non-profit, national organization working to advance green building practices in Canada.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and recognizes sustainable designs, practices and operations by offering four levels of certification (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum) to projects meeting LEED certification criteria.

On the surface, students, staff and faculty may notice recycling bins, bike racks and showers for cyclists as obvious environmentally-friendly aspects of the new building. Since access to low-impact transportation is a valuable criteria in the LEED requirements, having year-round bus service also gained a point for the project.

But the rest of what earned the project LEED Gold status is everything people won’t see: building materials that were extracted and manufactured within 800 km of the job site, wood used from certified managed forests, and reflective paint used on the roof.

“Trent has a reputation for being green”, says Linda Smith, one of two project managers in the Physical Resources Department, and the one who oversaw the Block D construction from start to finish.

Ms. Smith talked about every aspect of the LEED designation with enthusiasm, not missing the irony that some aspects, like the large cistern installed to collect rainwater, takes us right back to our grandmothers time.  The cistern provides non-potable, or graywater, for flushing toilets; when water levels get low, the system switches to the municipal feed.

Following LEED criteria within the day-to-day building process presented constant challenges. “Construction waste diversion was difficult to manage sometimes,” said Ms. Smith, adding that, “the general contractor had to work with sub-trades on that and did very well. Fifty per cent of waste on site was diverted to recycle, salvage, and an implemented plan.”

According to the CaGBC website, “Buildings generate about 35 per cent all of greenhouse gases, 35 per cent of landfill waste comes from construction and demolition activities, and 80 per cent of all water is consumed in and around buildings”. This is why they are commending Trent University for their commitment to sustainability.

“I would like to congratulate Trent University for certifying their Block D LEED Gold” said Thomas Mueller, president and CEO of the Canada Green Building Council. I’m pleased that the university is committed to providing healthier, more sustainable facilities for its students. Walking the talk is key in preparing future professionals to have an appreciation and  take a leadership role in sustainability.

Managing the project from start to finish, Ms. Smith had to balance the input of many stakeholders, advisors, and consultants, from staff and faculty to engineers, architects and designers.

“We had a wonderful team here and everyone worked together”, she said.

That team can be credited with finishing on time and on budget, but the best news came when Ms. Smith was notified in October 2012 that the original goal of LEED Silver accreditation had been surpassed, and that they would instead be awarded LEED Gold certification.

Construction of the approximately 50,000 square feet building was funded by a $10.8-million contribution from the federal Knowledge Infrastructure Program (KIP) and $9.9 million from the province of Ontario.

Block D of the Life and Health Sciences Building is only the second LEED Gold certified building in Peterborough. It is home to Trent University’s Department of Biology.