Editorial Feature

A Closer Look at evolv1: Canada's First Zero-Carbon Building

A three-story office building in Waterloo, Ontario, is the first building to achieve a net-positive energy rating in Canada. The building, evolv1, was designed by the architecture firm Stantec and built by the development company Cora.

evolv1 – Canada's first net-positive building

Video Credit: VCT Group 

evolv1: Canada’s First Zero-Carbon Building

The project was co-developed with local sustainability organizations, Sustainable Waterloo Region, international consultancy firm Ernst & Young (EY), and the University of Waterloo’s David Johnston Research and Technology Park.

The building was constructed according to LEED Platinum sustainability principles, and developers say it is the first multi-tenant building of its kind to achieve a net positive energy rating in Canada.

The office building covers 104,000 square feet over three stories in the science and innovation district of Waterloo. It boasts sustainability features including a living wall, charging stations for electric vehicles, and a smart dimmable 1-10 V LED lighting system throughout.

The project was designed in response to a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the built buildings – which are growing faster than in any other sector apart from transportation.

Commercial developments still tend to apply traditional and unsustainable design and building processes, but evolv1 was designed to disrupt these conventions from the outset.

The successful completion and occupancy of the building is a testament to the fact that building with sustainability principles in mind can no longer be considered an expensive and commercially unfeasible ambition.

At full theoretical capacity, evolv1 will not only consume no more energy than it produces, it will actually become a net contributor of renewable energy to the local electric grid.

Only completed in 2018, evolv1 is already the first office building to achieve a Zero Carbon Building Design Certification from Canada’s Green Building Council, having demonstrated its ability to operate with a zero-carbon balance utilizing on-site renewable energy generation.

Four Principles of Development

The primary objective of the evolv1 design process was to ensure alignment among all stakeholders, from the building owner to the architectural and engineering teams, sustainability consultants, contractors, and sub-trades. This was achieved through a highly integrated design process that facilitated collaboration among everyone involved.

The evolv1 concept was derived from a collaborative and innovative process that was based on four fundamental principles.

Firstly, the building was designed to be regenerative, such that it contributed positively to its surrounding environment.

Secondly, the design and construction of the building had to be financially viable, thus inspiring the creation of other regenerative buildings across Canada and worldwide.

Thirdly, the building was made to promote sustainable solutions and deepen the Waterloo region's role as a sustainability leader at both the provincial and national levels.

Finally, the evolv1 building sought to foster a culture of sustainability by working with a team of leading behavioral psychology researchers and embedding a contextualized engagement strategy.

Building on the Building’s Legacy with Evolvgreen

EvolvGREEN is a collaborative initiative between SWR, the Accelerator Centre, the University of Waterloo (UW), and Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU), which was inspired by the evolv1 Zero Carbon Building project. Its mission is to promote a community-based approach to driving the clean economy by spearheading efforts to reduce environmental impact and enhance overall well-being.

Image Credit: Verticalarray/Shutterstock.com

EvolvGREEN is founded on a three-pronged mission. Firstly, it seeks to inspire change by providing a platform for big thinkers to access big problems, big research, and big data. Secondly, it aims to lead innovative research by leveraging the evolv1 building and partnering with UW and WLU to advance sustainability and well-being in close collaboration with community, industry, and government partners. Finally, EvolvGREEN is committed to accelerating commercialization by fostering entrepreneurship.

Exploring the Psychology of Sustainability

A new report authored by Manuel Riemer, a researcher at VERiS, delves into the story of how the evolv1 building project came into being and how psychology, in conjunction with technology, is shaping the path toward a sustainable future.

Dr. Riemer, who is a Professor of Community Psychology and Sustainability Science at Wilfrid Laurier University, and Director of The Viessmann Centre for Engagement and Research in Sustainability, focuses his research on understanding how people interact with buildings.

Using evolv1 as a living lab, Dr. Riemer and The Viessmann Centre, in collaboration with the University of Waterloo and York University, conducted research and produced a report titled Collaboratively Disrupting the Building Industry: The Unique Story of evolv1 in Waterloo Region.

As with any building, there are multiple factors that impact how tenants engage with the space. The layout of floor plans can influence how people utilize their workspace, including the placement of workstations, offices, kitchens, and other amenities.

Dr. Riemer conducted research on the use of space at evolv1 using a grant to purchase different office equipment to experiment with various uses of space.

Building on this research, Dr. Riemer collaborated with his colleague Dr. Noam Miller and graduate student Jovan Poposki to develop a mathematical model of how individuals move through the space.

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References and Further Reading

Evolv1. [Online] Cora Group. Available at: https://www.coragroup.com/project/evolv1/ (Accessed on 20 March 2023).

Evolv1. [Online] Sustainable Waterloo Region. Available at: https://www.sustainablewaterlooregion.ca/programs/evolvgreen/evolv1/ (Accessed on 20 March 2023).

Evolvgreen. [Online] Sustainable Waterloo Region. Available at: https://www.sustainablewaterlooregion.ca/programs/evolvgreen/ (Accessed on 20 March 2023).

Kinsella, A. (2021). Disrupt and evolv: researcher explores the psychology of sustainability in evolv1. [Online] University of Waterloo. Available at: https://rtpark.uwaterloo.ca/news/disrupt-and-evolv-researcher-explores-the-psychology-of-sustainability-in-evolv1/ (Accessed on 20 March 2023).

Riemer, M., et al (2021). Collaboratively Disrupting the Building Industry: The Unique Story of evolv1 in Waterloo Region. [Online] University of Waterloo. Available at: https://researchcentres.wlu.ca/viessmann-centre-for-engagement-and-research-in-sustainability/assets/documents/evolv1story.pdf (Accessed on 20 March 2023).

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Ben Pilkington

Written by

Ben Pilkington

Ben Pilkington is a freelance writer who is interested in society and technology. He enjoys learning how the latest scientific developments can affect us and imagining what will be possible in the future. Since completing graduate studies at Oxford University in 2016, Ben has reported on developments in computer software, the UK technology industry, digital rights and privacy, industrial automation, IoT, AI, additive manufacturing, sustainability, and clean technology.

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