McIntosh becomes national leader in sustainable renovation

It’s a unique-to-Canada status worthy of “the most beautiful building on campus.”

As of last month, Western’s McIntosh Gallery is the nation’s first building to be certified under the new, more stringent green building guidelines, LEED NC-2009. The building was certified officially on Oct. 9.

“Isn’t it quite an achievement that one of our most historic buildings on campus can attain a LEED Silver certification on the renovations,” said Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president (resources and operations). “It is great news and continues to mark our commitment to sustainability.”

Leading up to its renovation, the gallery had its issues – temperature and humidity controls, important to the display of art, were temperamental at best; a long-standing problem of drafty doors; and leaky windows.

“Basically, it’s a 70-year-old building with 70-year-old building issues,” said James Patten, McIntosh director. “So that’s no surprise. But we still have the most beautiful building on campus.”

Federal and provincial government funding requires strict controls for the display of art. So in response to the issues, Western started the renovation process in 2009, and culminated the paperwork last month.

The McIntosh Gallery was “typical for campus,” said Randy Van Straaten, Facilities Management, sustainability and energy engineer. The campus boasts many “beautiful buildings,” each with their own challenges. For instance, the gallery’s tight spaces for mechanical systems are fairly common across campus.

For the McIntosh renovation, energy efficiency was key. The building’s windows were replaced with high-performance double- and triple-glazed windows. Sensors were installed to control lights and ventilation. And it’s now only the second gallery in the country with LED lighting.

“With regular light bulbs, they change colours over time. So you would be showing under several different colours – including brown,” Patten said, noting the aesthetic benefits that came with the environmental. “Now they are consistently white, a beautiful white.

“I tell all my colleagues you have to switch.”

The renovation efforts also inspired McIntosh staff to develop some of their own green initiatives – like targeting paper use to using only locally sourced walnut frames for art.

Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in 1988, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system for the design, construction and operation of green buildings.

In 2003, the Canada Green Building Council created LEED Canada-NC 1.0, which was based upon LEED-NC 2.0 in the United States. Canada updated its standards on June 21, 2010 to LEED Canada NC-2009.

Until now, no building in Canada had achieved LEED Canada NC-2009.

The LEED Canada NC rating system applies to new construction and major renovations of commercial and institutional buildings. It also applies to retail, mid- and high-rise multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs), public assembly buildings, manufacturing plants and other types of buildings.

The latest version ups the requirements in many areas. For instance, the new system re-weights credits so the number of points that may be earned for each credit has been re-evaluated using a more scientific approach, resulting in greater emphasis on preventing climate change. It’s all about setting a higher bar for development, Van Straaten said.

Now, the McIntosh renovation has paved the way for others across campus.

“Getting ahead of the system and being the first one to get this certification, lets us do a good job planning for future projects,” Van Straten said. “There is always uncertainty operating under new certifications. This project allowed us to ease some of that uncertainty.

“We really wanted to get an in-depth understanding of how it (the new requirements) work – the costs, how different practices lined up with what LEED was expecting. It’s difficult to capture the complexities of these buildings without really going through them.

“Now we have and have a better understanding.”

The McIntosh Gallery will not be the last on campus to shoot for LEED NC-2009. Western’s new residence as well as the Family Medicine building will target the new standards as well.