Schlüter Systems is a 6,100m² building on a former brownfield site of 17,320 m² in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec. The company manufactures accessories and membrane products for the tiling industry, and the building is its Canadian headquarters. It includes office space, a studio showroom, training facility and a warehouse of products. The design incorporates Schlüter products throughout the interior, and, for the first time, utilizes a combination of their unique foam panel system and granite tiles for most of the exterior cladding. Overall, the spaces were developed for ease of maintenance, comfort, longevity, flexibility, and energy efficiency. Sustainable design strategies that were integral to the process were water collection and reuse throughout the building’s functions, a massive solar wall to reduce energy production, automated fresh air and heat exchange, and choosing durable and environmentally conscious materials. These factors together have ensured that for this $8 million building, the investment will be returned in 7 years. The project has obtained a LEED Gold certification, and has recently been awarded a Prix D’Excellence from the Ordre des Architectes du Québec.
1. STRATEGIC DECISIONS The company invests in long term sustainable solutions by developing quality materials and systems to give longevity to tile and hard surface material installations. Schlüter’s own unique products were used intensely; granite clad foam panels were developed for the facades, and their own geothermal radiant floor system was used throughout. In addition to interior energy conservation strategies, the project benefits from passive energy systems such as a massive solar wall and a ‘’Canadian tunnel’’ acting as energy exchange buffers to further reduce demand from the grid. Rain water harvesting is also used in order to minimise demand of water supply from the city. Furthermore, working spaces are flexible in anticipation for expansion and changes in the indoor environments. All building systems work in harmony in order to maintain an efficient use and management of energy and an intelligent incorporation of materials and technologies. The integration of all of these elements significantly reduces cost, and facilitates future maintenance and monitoring.
2. COMMUNITY The building is located in Sainte-Anne-de- Bellevue, a rural part of Montreal. In aiding in reducing pollution, Schlüter Systems introduced a corporate carpooling strategy so employees can efficiently commute to and from work. The site is 30m away from a bus stop making public transportation a good option as well. Furthermore, hybrid car parking spots were provided in keeping with the LEED requirements. In terms of the internal community, the building has a generous roof terrace overlooking the surroundings as well as a generous atrium space for coordinated and impromptu socializing.
3. SITE ECOLOGY The project site was originally a brownfield and was decontaminated to construct the building. The surrounding vegetation requires no special irrigation system as all green spaces are indigenous to the immediate site, and therefore are adapted to the climate. The design maximises pervious surfaces in the site to reduce water runoff to the city`s systems, and allows groundwater recharge to occur.
4. LIGHT AND AIR Immediately when entering the building, users can feel the soothing fresh air that circulates within the fully-glazed central atrium. A 60m long ‘’Canadian tunnel’’, located 3m below grade at the rear of the building, is used for fresh air intake. Depending on the season, air is cooled or warmed by traveling through this encased 3ft. diam. underground pipe. There is a gain or loss of up to of 7deg. Celsius before the air enters the air handling system located in the basement. A 1000 square foot passive solar wall, which also acts as a distinct architectural feature, screens a chamber in which outside air is warmed. Both systems are fully automated and are designed to never be operating simultaneously as the solar wall is switched off, on overcast days. Beyond this, a 360 square foot green wall and pond in the atrium humidifies and purifies the air. Within the working spaces, exterior sun shades and interior shading devices maximize daylight and reduce glare. Skylights with diffusing lenses add natural light to the warehouse, and ultimately the building benefits from ample natural light and a steady flow of fresh clean air. In addition to an optimized mechanical system, the artificial lighting is high performance, using T-5 tubes, LED and fluocompactlights, and motion sensors are used to control them. After completing their first year of operation, users have spent a mere 80ȼ per square foot on the global energy consumption.
5. WATER CONSUMPTION Reservoirs lying underneath the atrium store 6000 litres of rainwater, which is used to flush the water closets. Waterless urinals are installed in the men`s washrooms. Gray water is used to irrigate the green wall in the atrium. Photovoltaic and automated sensors were used with the reduced flow water closets and faucets to further enhance water conservation. An irrigation system was not necessary for the exterior vegetation as native species require no special care therefore eliminating the use of potable. Compared to a standard reference building, Schlüter Systems has reduced water consumption by over 50%.
6. ENERGY PRESENT AND FUTURE All of the building’s heating and cooling energy is generated by nineteen geothermal wells bored into the ground, and the fresh air intake and heat exchange is entirely automated. The energy is transferred to water-filled pipes lying underneath the ceramic floors on each level, as all floor surfaces, including the underground car garage, washrooms, and office spaces, are tiled. The tiles store and distribute the energy, and ensure efficiency in radiant heating and cooling. A cleverly designed insulation board integrating the piping system has the ability to a change of temperature by up to 3˚ Celsius in 45 minutes as the heat is stored and diffused by the tile surface. In addition, the project profits from passive heating and cooling through the use of the 60m long Canadian tunnel. In contrast, all hot water demand for the building users is generated by solar panels located on the roof. Air handling equipment that would normally sit on the roof is instead located in the basement for ease of maintenance and prolonged service life. Another manner that the building conserves energy is through motion sensors for lighting that are automatically turned off via a delayed timer. With all of these measures, the projected annual electrical energy consumption for the building is 404.82 MJ/m2.
7. MATERIALS AND RESOURCES The physical composition of the building is environmentally kind, with a steel structure that uses post-industrial building steel and fly ash in the concrete mix. Low or no VOC emitting materials and adhesives were exclusively chosen to minimize chemical impacts, and materials contain no formaldehyde. There was a strong emphasis on specifying local materials to reduce costs and transportation necessities, and over 30% were taken from an 800 km radius. FSC wood was delivered from renewable and ecologically managed forests. Overall, approximately 22% of the materials used in the building contained recycled content, and over 60% of waste materials were recycled during construction.
8. LIFE CYCLE CONSIDERATIONS Schlüter Systems is a company that is continually evolving and expanding, and therefore the building was designed for malleability and longevity. The office spaces are divided with floor-to-ceiling glazed interior partitions that are fully demountable and reusable. In addition, 60% of the façade has modular and demountable building panels. In terms of maintenance, hard tile floors throughout the building eliminate the need for chemical cleaners and reduce landfill waste, in contrast to the lifecycle of fibrous and resilient floor coverings.
9. EDUCATION AND INFORMATION SHARING Schlüter Systems is remarkable as a composition as it manages to incorporate sophisticated passive and active sustainable strategies and maintains an elegant architectural expression. A common misconception about sustainable design is that it may be complicated, or that it is not worth the investment. However this project clearly proves that intelligent, environmentally aware decisions can produce systems that are simpler to operate, and a building that is much more economical in the long run. Rather than operate based on tradition, Schlüter Systems is continually working towards progressive solutions. Furthermore, the building showcases these design decisions with features that visually highlight their functions. A sculpture is built on top of the Canadian tunnel, the green wall in the atrium is a reminder of the water use system, a glass porthole in the atrium floor hints at the water reservoir constructed below, the Schlüter accessories are clearly expressed everywhere users walk, and Schlüter patented shapes were incorporated in truss systems that brace the curtain walls. Users are stimulated by the design and the dialogue it creates with the natural surroundings, and therefore the building acts as a highly successful example of the future of sustainable construction.