The University of Calgary's two newest student residences have recently been awarded LEED Silver certification. Just as important, the buildings are earning good grades from both student residents and university staff.
Aurora and Crowsnest Halls, named after mountains in the Canadian Rockies, are the latest in a string of LEED-certified buildings erected at the university. In total, a dozen campus buildings are currently LEED certified, including a third residence, Yamnuska Hall.
The two residences were completed in 2015 under a design-build contract led by CANA Construction. NORR was the project architect and mechanical and electrical services were provided by MCW Hemisphere Ltd.
"We've had a lot of experience building residences on campus in recent years," says Randy Maus, director of residence services at the university. "One of our greatest assets is a consistent core group of university staff, including residence services, architectural, facilities and systems colleagues. We've learned from the past and coming into this round of residence building there's been a lot of experience brought to the table. I think that's resulted in a pretty good product for students. I can't really think of any irregular or unexpected facilities issues we've encountered in either residence."
The projects have been modelled to produce only half of the carbon dioxide generated by a traditional university residence — no more than 100 kilograms per square metre annually. The buildings were also designed to reduce energy costs by more than 40 per cent, as compared to conventional construction.
Both residences were built using low-emitting construction materials and feature a dedicated outdoor air system and low-flow water fixtures. Large windows provide considerable natural daylight at every level.
Crowsnest Hall features two towers, one at seven storeys and the other at 11, attached by a common structure at their first floors. It offers housing to 394 graduate students and provides residents with an edible landscape, complete with apple trees, blueberry bushes and Saskatoon berry bushes.
Aurora Hall is a nine-storey building with a triangular pinwheel footprint serving 269 undergraduate students. It connects to other campus locations via underground tunnel. Featuring native vegetation, the building landscape was replanted with 1,000 aspen and 200 white spruce trees cloned from specimens harvested at the site by 02 Planning + Design Inc. prior to excavation.
Maus notes that interiors of each hall were designed around the type of activities that graduate and undergraduate students are likely to undertake. That includes the provision of purpose-built common study areas and recreational spaces.
While Crowsnest is geared toward a graduate lifestyle, Aurora is more of an undergraduate apartment complex. In fact, Aurora was used last summer as just that—an emergency apartment residence to temporarily house evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfire.
Students living in the buildings have been reacting positively to the new spaces, says Hilary Jahelka, vice-president of student life with the University of Calgary Student's Union.
"The students who are aware it's a LEED certified building are excited about that aspect of it," she says. "But in general, students are always excited to see new infrastructure coming to campus. The halls are comfortable and welcoming and the design of the buildings really encourages students to build a sense of community."
The edible landscaping at Crowsnest is also beginning to attract the attention of students.
"The trees around Crowsnest are really producing a lot of apples," Maus says. "Last year, I also saw a group of students picking and eating berries from the bushes. There may be some opportunities there for a more co-ordinated community harvest."