Green Buildings – Renewable
Articles,  Blog

Green Buildings – Renewable

– This is Stephani. She thinks about buildings
differently than you or I do. Stephani’s a consultant. She helps builders make
sure that the buildings they’re creating are energy
efficient and sustainable. But to understand what it is she does, you have to start thinking
of heat and energy less as things that come
out of vents and outlets and more like an ecosystem. We are going to talk to
Stephani about how we can use design and technology to make
those ecosystems work better. And how what we learn creating buildings can be used to make better
neighborhoods, and even cities. Here on Renewable. – My name is Stephani Carter and I’m a sustainable consultant. When I started as an interior designer, it was like week one I realized that sitting at my desk, I was ordering hundreds of pieces of
furniture for one floor, in one office tower, for one client, and this is happening over and
over again across the globe. Interior design is an interesting field because it’s very aesthetic-driven, and basically every five
years is a new aesthetic. So you could have to get
rid of your current finishes and furniture even if it’s
not out of date or worn out, it’s just aesthetically not trendy. What are they doing with that furniture? Are they just gonna get rid of it? Are they gonna repurpose it? There’s so much waste in that. That’s going all to the landfill. I was overwhelmed. – Waste and the scope of that waste sparked a realization
that completely shifted Stephani’s career path. She found herself in the middle
of a newly emerging field, right at the intersection of human health and how it’s affected by
the spaces that we live in. A field that can be,
admittedly, tricky to explain. – The reason why it’s
hard for me to explain what I do for a living is
’cause it’s so complex. But it really is a
science of the building. We spend 90% of our time indoors. Some people spend 95% because
they go from their condo into their garage, inside
garage, into their car, into their inside garage for their work, and into their office,
never leaving outside. So all of those spaces
should be really healthy, but your car is off-gassing,
your house is off-gassing, everything is off-gassing
some sort of fumes that you’re breathing in, and everything has an interplay in it. So, we always have new information. And that’s kind of where
the name came from. It was just me at the beginning, but it was to arm my peers with knowledge so they could reload with EcoAmmo. (laughs) – Stephani and her partners consult in building construction. She helps builders navigate issues of sustainability and human health. Which is particularly relevant here, in this building. The Mosaic Center. – This building is Alberta’s first attempt at commercial net zero. Alberta’s actually a leader
in net zero buildings. We have the highest number
of net zero buildings, out of Canada, which is is great. And this is the first commercial
building to try that out. The idea behind the building
was to be a shining example of what other people can do. The intent behind it was to
make it replicable in the way that it doesn’t have to cost more. It’s not a science fair project, where only certain people could do it ’cause it’s too complex,
it has to be simple. And it has to be beautiful, for people to want one for themselves. So this is the Tesla of buildings. – So how do you create a net zero building that’s beautiful, accessible,
and most importantly, not a science fair project? – This building has solar voltaic, which is producing the energy. We have geo-exchange, which
is just using the constant temperature of the Earth
to help us heat or cool. It has heat pumps that
help in that transition of taking the heat and
making it to a higher grade or a lower grade. And then the mechanical system itself is just the heat pumps and fan coils that actually move the
energy around the building. So if one part of the
building, like the restaurant, needs cooling, and it
always needs cooling, and another part of the
building, like the north side, needs heating, we can just
move the energy around. – Move the energy around. That’s the core concept that Stephani and a team of engineers,
architects, and tradespeople worked with to achieve net zero. It all starts with an energy model, which is a computer-generated layout of what the team is constructing. Before shovels ever hit the ground. First, the team went
about making the building super energy efficient,
lowering the total energy required to run it. The team added solar to the
roof, but the model helped them realize that by adding geothermal
exchange in the basement, which uses the Earth’s average temperature to heat and cool the building, they could reduce the
amount of solar on the roof, which actually saved money. Next, they implemented an
award-winning mechanical system that transfers heat from the
hottest parts of the building to the coolest parts, and vice versa, using glycol lines, they
could reuse the hot kitchen and the cool north corner
to complement each other, without burning fossil fuels. By starting with a model,
the team could experiment with different ingredients
to find the best fit, and to test out new ideas. – So there’s a whole bunch of factors, nerdy, nerdy factors
that you have to enter in all this data into a software, and then out comes some numbers that you can play around with. Like in this building,
what we did in order to actually get over the hump and see that we can actually, maybe meet net zero commercial, was remove all the general lighting. We have accent lighting,
but general illumination we decided to take a big
leap and say, let’s try no general illumination. The electrical engineer was freaking out, the owner was freaking out. But in the end it worked ’cause
there’s so much daylight. Changing those factors and playing with it in a model upfront, then can allow you to set the course for the
design of the building. Once you get to a really
high performance building, all of a sudden the business
case starts to change. When you think of just adding
solar to a normal building, you see that as an extra cost. When you have a goal to reach net zero, you can push and pull. You know, this cost of geo might look like it’s an added cost to a regular project, but combined with trying
to reach net zero, you’re actually saving money
by bringing in the geo. – It’s easy to draw parallels between Stephani’s career path and something that whole sector’s of our economy are going through right now. Big changes hinged on these
moments of realization about our consumption and our wastefulness that spark a total reevaluation of how we should be doing things. We asked her what sparks
those realizations, and what motivated her
to commit her career to sustainability. – I am, in nature, a
continuous improvement person, and that, I get satisfaction out of. I get satisfaction out of problem solving. And I get satisfaction of inspiring people and changing the world. Sometimes you work on a job,
especially at the early days, when I was in my early
20s, you go to a job site, it’s all guys in their 60s,
and they’re looking at you like, what are you gonna tell me? You know, you’re a 20 year old girl. I’ve been doing this forever. And eventually, if you can
get them onto the concepts and understanding the
value, then to see them ignite with excitement, and
at the end of the project be the person running around
and telling everybody, oh no, don’t do that. You can’t just throw out
your Tim’s coffee cup, here, use a reusable one. Going the extra mile, not
even just in the construction. Yeah, that’s really rewarding, to see that change in somebody. – On this season of Renewable, we are going to be looking at people. Engineers, entrepreneurs,
thinkers, and activists. Each with their own unique
vision of a sustainable future in the heart of Canada’s
fossil fuel industry. Follow us @greenyeg to
find out when new episodes are coming out, and don’t
forget to subscribe. Thanks for watching, and we hope to have you back for the next episode of Renewable.

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