Sustainable business conference presents the future of construction 

By Karen Herland

When the initial plans for the JMSB Building were drawn up in 2002, no one realized it would become a LEED-certified example of sustainable construction – or that it would integrate the most innovative solar panel configuration for a non-residential building in the country and the largest one in Quebec, courtesy of the Concordia University-based NSERC Solar Buildings Research Network (SBRN).

But when the building opens its doors this fall, it will likely claim a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a step up from the initially proposed basic certification.

This represents a step forward in what Genivar Senior Project Manager Gilles Desrochers characterized as Concordia’s ongoing “commitment to energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly design.”

Desrochers was the first speaker at a panel devoted to presenting the sustainable design of the nearly-completed building at Building Our Future, the fifth annual Sustainable Business Conference held on Feb. 13 in the Hall Building.

The conference organizers included the John Molson sustainable business group, the graduate and undergraduate business student associations and Sustainable Concordia.

The panel was the centrepiece of the event, dedicated to sustainable architecture, construction and design. The keynotes and panels featured representatives from environmentally-minded businesses in the morning and from residential projects in the afternoon.

The JMSB Building session began with Desrochers who has managed two major construction projects for the university since 2000, the EV and JMSB Buildings downtown. He has worked closely with fellow panelist Yves Gilbert, Director of Engineering and Building Performance Development and responsible for the incorporation of sound engineering and sustainability features in new construction and renovation projects.

Gilbert has overseen not just the integration of energy-efficient measures in new constructions, but also a recent energy audit of the Hall and LB Buildings, which has identified $5 million worth of upgrades allowing an annual reduction of over 1000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’m always looking for improvements and ways to increase efficiency,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert has ensured recent construction projects surpass the Model National Energy Code for Buildings by at least 25%. Our last three major construction projects have exceeded the national standard by over 30%.

Although plans for the building began in 2000, they accelerated when government funding was secured a few years later. Once the JMSB project was greenlighted, both Gilbert and Desrochers made LEED certification an easy choice by detailing how the cost would be a fraction of 1% of the entire $118.5 million budget for the project.

But it wasn't until specialist in green construction and LEED standards Lyse Tremblay (also a conference panelist) was brought on board did the planners realise silver designation was attainable at reasonable cost.

Tremblay spoke of the five areas considered when evaluating LEED certification. Each construction is allocated points for attention to site selection and management, water use, energy efficiency, materials, indoor environment and innovation. As with any third-party accreditation system, early planning is essential since each decision has to be painstakingly documented for evaluation.

“Some things, like indoor air quality, can only be tested at the end,” she explained.

The installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout the building did not affect costs, and reduced water consumption by 45%. Tremblay also mentioned bike parking will be available, as well as plugs for electric cars in the parking garage of the LB Building.

The icing on the cake is found in 300 square metres of solar panels atop the structure.

Andreas Athienitis of the Solar Buildings Research Network presented his JMSB Building demonstration project. Magnifying glass

Andreas Athienitis of the Solar Buildings Research Network presented his JMSB Building demonstration project.

“This is a demonstration project of SBRN funded by the Canadian government and in particular NRCan,” said Andreas Athienitis, the fourth speaker on the panel. Athienitis heads the SBRN and is the Tier 1 Concordia Research Chair in Solar Energy. The SBRN is also involved in two residential demonstration projects, but this non-residential project is a first.

“This is where construction is going to be in 2030, this is a landmark that will distinguish Concordia as a research leader in solar energy and buildings.”

Over the period of the construction of the JMSB Building, the university has decided to incorporate LEED certification into every construction and major renovation project involving over $10 million, including the planned Loyola Sports Complex.


Concordia University