Laboratory Design Newsletter 2012 Selected Abstract

Metallurgical Research Facility Integrates Renewables and Other Measures for a Significantly Reduced Energy Footprint

John Featherstone, Diamond Schmitt Architects
Birgit Siber, Diamond Schmitt Architects


Natural Resources Canada relocated its CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory from Ottawa to Hamilton to be closer to the steel and manufacturing sectors it serves through metallurgical research and testing. The new building raises the bar for sustainable design for industrial buildings in Canada, targeting LEED® Platinum, as well as surpassing the 2030 Challenge. It is the anchor tenant of the McMaster Innovation Park, situated on the 37-acre brownfield site of a former Westinghouse manufacturing plant.

The 172,000 square feet (16,000 square meters) of laboratory and office space incorporate a complex industrial research program in a fully integrated building where design and functional systems work in harmony to achieve an extremely comfortable, light-filled work environment. An integrated design process was an essential forum for the various sustainable design initiatives and innovative solutions to maximize the performance. Ambitious energy performance targets were set, aiming for an energy intensity of 335 kilowatt hours per square meter to achieve a 70 percent energy use reduction as compared with similar facilities and geographic locations, plus all 10 LEED energy credits. Both targets include energy used for processes within the laboratories, including the energy-intense melting, casting, and forming of steel, magnesium, and other metals.

To reduce energy use, the design team identified site-specific conditions that were fundamental to passive energy collection and conservation strategies. Orientation of the long facades and roof of the building on an east-to-west axis offers more readily harvested daylight combined with solar shading specific to orientation. A high-performance building envelope also reduces energy demand. Daylight and occupancy sensors control lighting and blinds to reduce energy use and maximize heating season passive energy gain. The light-transmitting glazing and customized solar shading strategy at the perimeter drives light deep into the space while reducing glare. The combination of these strategies considerably reduces the lighting electrical energy used.

The guiding principle applied to the design of the mechanical, electrical, and renewable energy systems was to target the maximum efficiency possible and the least waste achievable. The vast roof above this three-story structure allowed for two extensive renewable energy source installations. The 209 solar thermal collectors harvest heat for the radiant systems and hot water. Embedded radiant heating and cooling pipes use the thermal mass of the mostly exposed cast in place concrete ceiling slabs, running at moderate temperatures in winter and summer to reduce condensation and achieve very stable interior temperatures. Any excess solar thermal or process energy is discharged to the 500-foot-deep (152-meter-deep), 80-borehole ground source system, which is used for summer cooling.

A rooftop 7,530-square-foot (700-square-meter) low-tech solar wall, consisting of finely perforated dark metal siding through which the incoming air is drawn, provides the pre-heating of winter outdoor ventilation air. Tilted to 52º and forming the south side of the penthouse, the solar wall can increase incoming ventilation air by 16°C (61°F) on a typical day in January. The building is ventilated by a decoupled 100 percent fresh air displacement system; air is delivered through access floor plenums in office areas, giving occupants individual control at each workstation and office. For the laboratory spaces, a stratified displacement ventilation approach reduces fan energy and the hourly air changes required, as only the occupied zones of these spaces are being conditioned. Exhaust air from the relatively clean spaces such as offices is cascaded to the penthouse and reused as part of the ventilation air for laboratory spaces.

Photo 1

Two separate process cooling loops run through the building to supply research equipment cooling and collect rejected heat for reuse.

Photo 2

The solar, passive, and process systems provide nearly 95 percent of the buildings yearly heating demand.