Sun shines on JMSB building 

By Barbara Black

By next fall, when you drive down Ste Catherine St.,  you’ll see solar panels covering the top two floors of the new JMSB building. The project is led by engineering professor Andreas Athienitis (above). Magnifying glass

By next fall, when you drive down Ste Catherine St., you’ll see solar panels covering the top two floors of the new JMSB building. The project is led by engineering professor Andreas Athienitis (above).

The new John Molson School of Business building will be partly heated and powered by the sun. Solar technology is being developed at the university to make it the first office building of its kind in the world with this application.

The Solar Buildings Research Network, headed by Andreas Athienitis, of Concordia’s Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, just got a $900,000 grant from the federal government to finance four demonstration projects. Two are houses in rural Quebec and one is a retrofit of a municipal building in Toronto, but the biggest is our own business school.

The school, currently under construction at Guy St. and De Maisonneuve Blvd., will be one of the tallest buildings in the area. The side of the building Montrealers think of as the west side actually faces south south-west. The façade of its top 10 metres will be clad in solar panels.

The panels will cover a huge expanse, approximately 300 square metres, on that side of the building, where the top two floors with the mechanical systems have no windows. The panels will be perforated and connected to electrical and thermal systems that will ultimately heat and light the building, provide solar-heated fresh air, run the computers, and so on.

“It’s really not very complicated,” Athienitis said. “There will be virtually no maintenance of the panels, because they have no moving parts.”

The electrical system will be integrated with Hydro-Québec’s grid. On sunny days, the building will get some of its electric power from the sun, and any excess will go back to Hydro for credit. On cloudy days, the building will tap into the public grid. These innovations will make the JMSB building a unique demonstration project that will put Concordia on the map as an innovative Canadian university. Graduate students supervised by Solar Network researchers will work on related projects as they monitor the performance of the system.

Seven students will be monitoring the two demonstration houses, located in Hudson and Eastman, Que. One of these houses is described as zero-energy and the other as zero-plus; in other words, it generates more power than it needs. The houses look conventional despite the solar panels on their roofs and/or walls, but they’re “smart.” They’re equipped with predictive capacity to stay ahead of the weather. Thermostats will monitor weather changes and the display panels will give the residents advice on maximizing the use of the solar heating and electricity productional systems.

A ceremony attended by politicians from several jurisdictions was held in Eastman on Nov. 13 to introduce one of the the houses, which was built by Alouette Homes, and articles subsequently appeared in La Presse and the Gazette. The houses are open for display to the public on the weekends; they won’t be put up for sale for their first year.

The Solar Buildings Research Network was established in 2005, mainly by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, to the tune of about $6 million over five years. The recent grant of $900,000 is from Canada’s Technology Early Action Measures program, with additional support from Canadian Mortgage and Housing, the Agence de l’éfficacité énergetique and Hydro-Québec.

In-kind contributions were made by Conserval Engineering, Day4Energy, Sustainable Energy Technologies, Regulvar, the building owners, Aluminerie Alouette, Sevag Pogharian Design, the City of Toronto and Concordia University. They bring the value of the project to about $2 million.


Concordia University