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An Evolving Edifice That Will Improve With Time
Four universities Envision the Centre for Interactive research on sustainability as a Living laboratory with a lofty mission and ambitious performance goals
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By Joann Gonchar, AIA


The roofs over the office wings will be vegetated, and will be monitored and evaluated. CIRS researchers plan a diverse set of projects. “We will test beyond [the usual] storm-water mitigation and thermal performance,” says Maureen Connelly, program head of BCIT’s Center for Advancement of Green Roof Technology. It is not clear yet if the roof’s loading capacity will be adequate for an intensive green roof system, which would be appropriate for a wide variety of plant material, including small trees, flowers, or vegetables. However, Connelly has high hopes that researchers will be able to use the facility to study the capability of green roofs to support biodiversity, urban habitat, and urban agriculture.

Connelly has a particular interest in the sound-transmission characteristics of green roofs—their potential to reduce noise transmission through the building envelope, and their ability to absorb and reflect sound. She predicts that other academics will likely conduct research into areas such as the relationship between green roofs and mechanical-system performance or the therapeutic benefits of rooftop greenspace. The strength of the center’s concept is that it brings these academics and their projects together, says Connelly. “At each platform of CIRS, there are many more levels of research,” she notes.

Images: Courtesy The CMU Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics, except © Karl A. Backus (middle)

The center will be connected to Vancouver’s water and sewer systems. However, CIRS officials and its designers say the municipal services will be used rarely, if ever. Rainwater runoff collected from the skylights and other clear roof surfaces will be stored, treated, and distributed for use in showers and sinks, and to supply other potable points. Any water that drains from the building’s green roofs will not be suitable for these uses because of organic materials typically found in such runoff, explains Troy Vassos, president of the process engineering firm Novatec. The green roof water will be combined with wastewater from showers, lavatories, and toilets, and treated, possibly using a membrane bioreactor or a solar aquatic system, so that it will be safe for direct human contact, he says. This treated, mixed wastewater will then subsequently be used to flush toilets and to irrigate the green roofs and the site’s landscaping.

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