Hall Building enjoys a renaissance

Dawn Wiseman

Concordia’s Hall Building is aging gracefully and winning awards.

photo by IITS creative media services

When it opened in 1966, the Hall Building reflected contemporary architectural and engineering practices every bit as much as its newer campus siblings do today. Forty years on, it may look a little shabbier than Loyola’s Science Complex or Sir George’s Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex, but it is still the university hub, and in the ongoing dance of departments and facilities, the Hall Building is undergoing something of a renaissance.

While the changes are most evident on the upper floors, where renovations have markedly improved the building’s interior, major work on its mechanical systems have made the Hall Building one of the most energy-efficient on both campuses.

According to Yves Gilbert, Director of Customer Service and Operations Development at Facilities Management, the Hall Building is now about 12 per cent more energy efficient than the average Concordia building. That may not sound like a lot, but it translates to about “$400,000 in energy savings each year.”

The savings are a direct result of the $4-million, six-month infrastructure and energy overhaul that began in the summer of 2004.

The mechanical and energy redesign and renovation of the Hall Building was undertaken by the Quebec engineering firm Pageau Morel. Specialists in mechanical, electrical and energy design, the firm’s work has recently been recognized with two major engineering awards.

The Energia Awards are presented annually by the Association québecoise pour la maîtrise de l’énergie (AQME) to recognize institutions for their successful efforts in efficiently mastering and reducing energy consumption in various fields. Concordia and Pageau Morel tied for first place with Maison de Verdun – CHSLD Champlain in the institutional renovation category.

The AHSRAE Technology Awards are presented annually by the 55,000-member American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers. The peer-reviewed awards recognize exemplary work in the field. Concordia and Pageau Morel won the Regional Technology Award in the Existing Institutional Building category against numerous projects from Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

The changes in the Hall Building were possible (and necessary) due to the repurposing of the space.

“Labs use a lot of energy,” explained Gilbert. They also require a lot of air. “You can’t recirculate air in a lab, it has to be vented to the outside and replaced with fresh air all the time. That’s fresh air which must be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer.” The energy use, and subsequent related costs are therefore quite high.

With the recent move of most labs into newly constructed facilities, the Hall Building’s energy needs dropped substantially.

“The original boilers were now way too big for the building, and badly in need of repair,” said Gilbert. While the hot water heating system as a whole would have been too expensive to replace, new high-efficiency, high-temperature, high-pressure boilers were purchased and installed along with a stack economizer.

While smaller, the new boilers actually have enough capacity to heat both the Hall Building and a good part of the LB Building. The economizer captures heat from boiler exhaust and uses it to heat air and domestic water.

In addition, the Hall Building ventilation system was modified from constant to variable volume, so that it now adjusts its intake of fresh air based on building occupancy. The system is controlled in part by carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors. CO2 is one of the gases we exhale as we breathe.

As Gilbert explained, “Higher levels of CO2 indicate more people in the building, and the need for more fresh air. Lower levels mean less people, and no need to heat or cool that extra air, so the system adjusts itself as required.”