Welcome to the Mosaic Centre: Alberta’s first net-zero commercial building
The gap from net-zero houses to large-scale net-zero commercial buildings has been bridged. The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce in Edmonton is the first commercial net-zero office building in Alberta. In a net-zero building the amount of energy used is equal to the amount of renewable energy generated on-site on an annual basis, allowing the Mosaic Centre to use 65% less energy than a conventional commercial building. What was once just a dream of co-owners Dennis Cuku and Christy Benoit has become reality.
“We said it was going to be beautiful. Check. Sustainable. Check. And affordable. Check,” says Benoit.
This 30,000-square-foot building cost $10.5 million dollars. It’s bright and roomy with beautiful exposed wood beams, feature stairs and a three-storey living wall in the foyer. It has large south facing windows, thermally massive concrete floors and as low an electricity demand as they could get away with.
They reduced that demand by getting rid of as many overhead light fixtures as they could. Instead, the workers get copious amounts of natural light and use task lighting when necessary.
There is much more energy demand per square metre in a bigger, commercial building than a net-zero home. The owners put together a team led by Vedran Skopac of Manasc Isaac Architects that used lean processes and integrated project delivery to build this first-of-its-kind building.
Typically, tradespeople just show up, do their job and leave it to the next crew to finish their part. With the Mosaic Centre crews collaborate to help eliminate the wasted time and materials that happens on a typical build. As a result, there were no change orders during the project, which is almost unheard of in a modern construction project.
“Sustainable and beautiful can co-exist. When you put affordability in there that’s where the real challenge occurs. But this is, I think, a living example of how the three can co-exist”
Mosaic’s heating and cooling system is a fully electric ground source heat pump system. The parking lot on the north side of the building is a geothermal field with 32, 70-metre deep boreholes.
With all of the south-facing glass and concrete floors, the building actually has a much larger cooling demand than a typical Edmonton office building. If the sun is shining brightly the building even has to run its cooling system in February.
Unusually for a commercial building, the windows can be opened. These help regulate the temperature in the summer and gives workers a measure of control over their environment.
The building achieved LEED platinum certification, the highest possible level of recognition for environmental stewardship on a construction project.
“Sustainable and beautiful can co-exist. When you put affordability in there that’s where the real challenge occurs. But this is, I think, a living example of how the three can co-exist,” says Benoit. Due to high savings on energy costs, the net return on investment, over 5 years, is the same as that of a conventional building.
They want to inspire other builders to follow in their footsteps and to make commercial buildings closer to net-zero. To that end the engineering and research reports on the building are publicly available. If you are a builder and you want to make sure your next commercial building is closer to net-zero, the recipe is out there.