Posts Tagged ‘geothermal heating’


Monday, January 11th, 2010

Modern form breaks chalet mould, delivers high performance

By Jim Taggart

Nestled in BC’s Coast Mountains, and one of the world’s premier skiing destinations, the Resort Municipality of Whistler [RMOW] has a resident population of around 10,000. Seasonal workers increase this number to more than 20,000 during the skiing season. Weekenders, who own recreational property in the area, constitute the third significant element of Whistler’s unusual demographic. When these weekenders are in residence and tourist accommodation is full, the town can reach a population of 55,000.

Since the establishment of the RMOW in the 1970s, the cultural life of the municipality has been strongly connected to the environment. Principles of environmental stewardship were formalized in 2000, when RMOW became one of the first municipalities in North America to adopt the ‘Natural Step [TNS] program’ as a way of guiding its policy-making and development toward the goal of community sustainability.

Developed in Sweden in 1989, the overall objective of TNS framework is to maintain the natural balance of the Earth’s ecosystems through stewardship of resources and minimizing the negative impact of human activity – strategies dependent on social and economic systems that give individuals the power of choice. These strategies form the basis of RMOW’s community development plan known as Whistler 2020 that has been recognized internationally for its leadership in this area. Among its many attributes, Whistler has an extensive network of walking and cycling trails and a free public transit system.

The Whistler Public Library was established in 1984 and, in the absence of a suitable permanent facility, was located temporarily in two portable buildings near the town centre. After a long campaign to raise public awareness and funds for the project, the creation of a new 1,350m2 [14,500sf] library facility was designated as the RMOW’s millennium project.

The new building occupies a prominent corner location in the centre of Whistler, close to the main pedestrian route known as the Village stroll, and benefiting from unobstructed views of the adjacent park and distant mountains.

To give the building a civic presence on a site that slopes steeply down from Main Street, the-L-shaped library structure has been set on a podium that accommodates a parking garage and end of trip bicycle facility. To preserve the views, the remainder of the program has been arranged on a single level and maintains a low profile with  a shallow shed roof.

Low at the entrance lobby with deep overhangs protecting the south-facing windows, the roof rises to the northwest where a high performance window wall floods the reading room with natural light. Although the shallow roof fit with both the urban design and environmental objectives of the project, its departure from Whistler’s chalet tradition was controversial.

Designing the roof structure was also challenging as it was required to carry not only the 250kg/m2 [50lb/sf] of an intensive green roof, but an 815kg/m2 [160lb/sf] live snow load. A conventional glulam and purlin structure would have required a depth of more than 1.5m [5ft], increasing the internal volume and external surface area of the building, and impacting both capital and operating costs.

As an alternative, structural engineers Fast + Epp devised a solid wood solution using locally available 100 x 300 [4x12] hemlock timbers. These were staggered horizontally and vertically and lag screw laminated to form prefabricated panels that could free span up to 13.5m [44ft] across the library, with a depth of only 400mm [16in]. This solution appeared to address the structural and life cycle cost concerns, particularly as the material was locally sourced, processed and fabricated.

The soffit of the hemlock panels is left unfinished and exposed internally, part of a palette of natural materials and finishes that also includes local stone, western red cedar siding, low VOC millwork and paints. The north-facing window wall is composed of high efficiency double glazing that reduces heat loss while admitting copious quantities of natural light. This potentially reduces the building’s dependence on artificial lighting and reduces lighting energy consumption.

The library has a geothermal heating system that uses 17 boreholes to extract heat from the ground during the heating season, and to dispose of excess heat during the summer months. A displacement ventilation system introduces conditioned air through a raised floor, delivering heating or cooling directly into the occupied zone of the building. High efficiency hot water radiators add to the comfort of the study carrel areas. Cross ventilation is achieved through operable windows, controlled automatically by sensors.

In addition to its quantitative environmental benefits, the Whistler Public Library has made a qualitative difference to the community, and has quickly become a de facto living room for local residents and seasonal workers alike.

Jim taggart, mraic is the editor of sabmag


  • Client: Resort Municipality of Whistler
  • Architect: Hughes Condon Marler Architects
  • Structural Engineer: Fast + Epp Structural Engijneers
  • Mechanical Engineer: Stantec Engeneering
  • Mechanical Engineer: Acunem Engineering
  • Landscape Architect: Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg
  • General Contractor: Whistler Construction Company
  • Roof panel fabricator: StructureCraft Builders Inc.

Project Performance:

  • Projected heating energy [propane]: 92MJ/m2/year
  • Projected electrical energy 116.3kwh/m2/year: 418.7MJ/m2/year
  • Projected total energy consumption: 510MJ/m2/year
  • Projected energy savings relative to MNECB: 43.9%
  • Projected water consumption: 469litres/m2/year
  • Saving relative to reference building: 34%
  • Locally sourced materials [by value]: 32.8%
  • Recycled materials [by value]: 18.3%


  • Structure: 100 x 300mm hemlock timbers staggered horizontally and vertically and lag-screw laminated to form prefabricated panels that free span up to 13.5m across the library, with a depth of only 400mm
  • Exterior: High-efficiency curtainwall, and operable wood double-glazed windows controlled automatically by sensors for cross ventilation, rigid EPS insulation with air/vapour barrier, western red cedar siding; built-up roofing by Soprema carries 250kg/m2 of an intensive green roof, and 815kg/m2 live snow load
  • Interior: Low VOC paint by Benjamin Moore, carpet tile by InterfaceFLOR, raised flooring
  • HVAC: McQuay air handling units, geothermal heating and cooling, natural gas boilers,
  • building controls by Siemens

Langara college

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

A Sustainable Campus

The north elevation. By using passive solar design, indigenous materials, geothermal energy, enhanced air quality, energy and water efficiency, and sustainable landscape design, the project stands for the idea that resources are finite and that building design should respond to this fact. The College conducts tours for students, professionals, and the community to explain the sustainable features of the building

Library/classroom building combines sustainable architectural and landscape practices

The goal of Langara College is to create a sustainable campus that demonstrates environmental responsibility and stewardship for the student body and the community. (more…)