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When Trent University set out to design a Forensics Crime Scene facility, the building would be the first of its kind on a Canadian university campus. But the innovation didn’t stop there: the building would also be the first certified Zero Carbon building in Canada, and the first institutional building to use hempcrete blocks and hemp batt insulation, helping it to store more carbon than it emits from its materials.

Ambitious building goals require a team approach at the design stage, and this project had an excellent design team:

Christopher Z. Tworkowski Architect
ZON Engineering – Mechanical & PV design
Building Alternatives – Structural design
Berthelot Engineering – Electrical design
Endeavour Centre – Zero carbon design

In order to be able to provide a measurable result for Trent’s zero carbon goals, the team decided to pursue the Zero Carbon Certification from the Living Future’s Institute (the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building Program was also a contender, and had V2 of the program been in place when design began we may have chosen this option).

These certifications focus mainly on operational emissions by achieving a net zero energy performance level using on-site renewable energy. For this building, that means a 43kW solar array on the roof of the building and extremely high levels of insulation and air tightness.

The Zero Carbon Certification program does not have particularly ambitious goals for material emissions. However, Trent decided to aim for a building that would also have zero materials emissions and that led to the use of numerous innovative material choices, including:

Glavel expanded recycled glass insulation under the slab floor
Nexcem waste wood chip & cement insulated concrete forms (ICF) foundation wall
Just BioFibre hempcrete block walls
NatureFibres hemp batt insulation
Gutex wood fiberboard insulation

Together with sustainably harvested lumber for wall and roof framing, these materials will help the building store more carbon in its biogenic (plant-based) materials than was emitted in making all of the enclosure materials. The initial design for the building was run through a prototype version of the BEAM calculator from Builders for Climate Action and showed a net 10 tonnes of carbon storage.

We’ll blog about the progress of this project until it is complete.

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