Vital Engineering Corporation
#223, 52 Sioux Rd.
Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
T8A 4X1

P. (780) 416.8336
F. (780) 416.8620

Park companies aim for zero impact

OCTOBER 20 | 2009 | 2:30 PM

Two Sherwood Park companies are working on a net-zero impact development in Edmonton called Station Pointe.

Renewable energy consulting firm Vital Engineering and Hartwig Architecture have been hired by Edmonton-based Communitas to develop Station Pointe, a mixed use development north of Yellowhead trail on Fort Road in Edmonton.

In its current conceptual state, Station Pointe will contain a 16-storey residential tower and multiple-storey condominium and townhouse buildings. Businesses will be provided at ground level, with a courtyard in the middle of the development.

The conceptual designs call for all buildings to be connected to each other to allow for improved ventilation, but that is only one of the project's approaches to achieving an absolute net-zero impact on the environment.

Brian Scott, the director of research marking and technology for Communitas, said the company has built similar projects in the past, but not on the scope of a net-zero impact development.

With renewable energy systems from solar to wind and geothermal incorporated into Station Pointe's design - along with a closed loop waste water treatment system - the hope is that the development can become almost completely self-sustainable.

Whatever power the development may need in the winter could be drawn upon by hooking into the nearby power grid. However, energy consumed in the winter months could be returned during the summer months if excess power is generated by on-site technology.

"Net-zero is not off the grid," noted Dean Turgeon, the president of Vital Engineering, calling it a common misconception in the industry.

In other words, "The project is not zero-consumption," Scott said, "But net-zero. As much as we consume, we will generate."

Turgeon noted, "It's looking like solar (power technology) may be used to accumulate enough resources to share with adjacent sites."

Scott said Communitas is performing a balancing act between keeping the development's impact to the environment as low as possible while keeping the more than 200 living units affordable in a co-op style approach to real estate.

Scott said Communitas is also looking at offering standard free market homes in addition to its co-op model.

In keeping with the theme of zero impact, Junichi Hashimoto, a principal owner of Hartwig, noted that Station Pointe is located near an existing LRT line and bus route, allowing residents at the development to navigate Edmonton without the use of a vehicle.

Geothermal heating and cooling, combined with the above-ground inter-connectivity of Station Pointe's buildings, can create a more naturalized ventilation system for air flow reducing energy consumption for that aspect of the development by 80 per cent Scott said.

"We may be able to create a large chimney stack right up through he middle of the high rise and use that stack as a passive way of creating an updraft, if you will, and connect it to all the buildings that they still need ventilation, they can tap into that," he explained.

Hashimoto also noted that the parking lot (each residential unit will have one parking stall) could be utilized to capture heat and send it through Station Pointe's ventilation system.

A closed-loop waste water treatment system means gray water would be captured, treated, and then used to water roof-top vegetation.

Scott said the topsoil on the roofs would be deep enough to grow various shrubs, which would in turn help cool Station Pointe's property. Recycling the waste water means the City of Edmonton would spend less energy, not needing to worry about treating another residential development, he noted.

Vegetation on the roofs would also reduce the wear and tear they experience as Edmonton's weather shifts from above to below freezing.

Communitas is no stranger to environmental-friendly developments, having built the Grand and Green high rise in Edmonton. That project is 25 per cent more efficient than standard high-rise developments.

"This is not pie in the sky stuff. This is real," Turgeon said. "These guys want to take it to the next level."

"By pushing that envelope as hard as we have, we're going to get really creative," Scott said.

The project's total cost is estimated to be about $70 million to $80 million. The first phase is scheduled to open around 2013, with construction planned to begin in the summer of 2010.

Originally posted in Sherwood Park News on October 16, 2009.