By Brent Whiteley, Vice President, Parkin Architects Limited
At Parkin, we evaluate integration of sustainable materials and systems on a project-by-project basis, and incorporate them where feasible. The evaluation process requires early engagement with the consultant team to analyze materials, products and contemplated system upgrades to find the balance point between capital expenditure and long-term operating savings. This might involve selection of more durable finishes within high-use areas, or the replacement of mechanical and electrical fixtures. Infrastructure upgrades for optimization of building performance might include re-tuning building systems such as valves and BAS systems, and the replacement of light fixtures with more efficient LED lighting and occupancy sensors. The replacement of older plumbing fixtures with low flow devices and automatic sensor controls also contributes significantly to reduced water consumption.
At the LEED Gold certified Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health in St Thomas Ontario, sustainability measures include upgraded finishes such as integral floor bases, high impact gypsum board, pick-proof sealants and integrated window shades the objective of reducing long term operating costs. Other operating cost savings stem from the design of the combined high efficiency central plant heating and cooling equipment, achieving energy efficiency, reduced gas consumption for space and domestic water heating, and reduced electrical energy consumption for cooling. Heat is recovered from the owner’s electrical transformers and IT systems for application to domestic water preheat terminal, reheat and AHU heating coils.
Quality sustainable design does not require costly or difficult-to-maintain components or materials. We use durable, reasonably priced and practical materials in unique ways to create environmentally sound spaces with strong visual appeal. Yet, we also look beyond the visual elements to examine all aspects that may influence the selected materials – from how and by whom they are cleaned, to maintenance costs and the long-term durability of the space and its components.
This is most evident in the example of flooring materials where a flooring selection that is durable, easily maintained and comfortable contributes greatly to an in improved interior environment We have extensively used floor finishes such as linoleum, rubber flooring and polished concrete, all durable finishes that are low VOC, and require no special cleaning regime or top coatings.
At the Regional Rehabilitation Centre (RRC) in Hamilton, Ontario, floors at the grade level lobby entrance, main waiting area and ambulatory clinic are polished concrete, which accommodates the high volume of scooter and wheelchair traffic. The inpatient unit flooring on the upper levels is linoleum, a durable material that conveys a warmer environment suitable for long term rehabilitation in a homelike environment, and provides a comfortable walking surface.
Access to daylight and views to the exterior are essential to an inviting and productive interior environment. On larger healthcare projects, site constraints and large building footprints tend to limit opportunities for proximity to exterior walls, so planning strategies include interior courtyards, clearstory lighting and use of extensive borrowed-lights to allow light penetration into building cores. The RRC project incorporates rooftop courtyards to provide convenient upper level access for patients to landscaped outdoor spaces, while extensive glazing increases the amount of natural light that floods the interior support, staff and patient dining spaces. Skylights were also integrated into the landscaping of these courtyards and allowed daylight to flow into the interior spaces of the intermediate level.
At Parkin, we consider projects holistically, integrating features that endure over time. From materials sourced to a design’s long-term productivity, our solutions address ongoing building renewal. We approach sustainable design in a practical and affordable manner, and customize our methodology to each client situation.