Visit a Marvel in Energy Efficiency

By Joshua Rapp Learn

The Manitoba Hydro Place building from the outside.

Image Credit: Eduard Hueber, Manitoba Hydro Place

The building is so efficient in heating that even in the dead of winter in Winnipeg, the building still needs to be cooled if the sun is out.

Manitoba Hydro Place — the headquarters of the province’s electric power and gas utility — is one of the most energy efficient buildings in North America, and it accomplishes this in a capital city with some of the most extreme temperatures in the world.

“It uses less than 70 percent of an energy efficient building,” said Tom Akerstream, the energy adviser for the 21-story structure that opened in 2009. “The building saves over a million dollars in energy cost per year.”

The building is streamlined in order for the windows to get the maximum exposure possible from the sun. In fact, the building comes to a point on the north end — the only side which never receives sun rays.

A diagram showing the amount of natural daylight that reaches different parts of Manitoba Hydro Place. The white represents the most daylight while the blue represents zero percent.

A diagram showing the amount of natural daylight that reaches different parts of Manitoba Hydro Place. The white represents the most daylight while the blue represents zero percent.

The heating and cooling is provided by a geothermal system which maintains the building more or less at ground temperature, which never gets as cold or warm as the outside air during the winter or summer.

“We take the temperature out of the ground and use it to heat the building,” Akerstream said.

Fresh air also enters the building through vents on the south side. The air is regulated by passing through areas with more controlled temperatures and becomes humidified by passing through a waterfall.

The buildings are also equipped with three six-story indoor winter gardens complete with plants, working spaces and a huge sunny window that allows heat and light to enter. The offices are designed so that the natural sunlight reaches them through the windows.

“All of the offices are in the core, and the work spaces are in the loft area,” Akerstream said.

The natural light may be having an effect on the work ethic as well — he said that since the new building opened in 2009, Manitoba Hydro has had 20 percent less absences among its employees on average.

“Manitoba Hydro Place proves that to be the most energy efficient building you have to have the highest quality of space,” he said.

Sixty conference attendees can sign up for The Wildlife Society’s free field trip to tour Manitoba Hydro Place during the 2015 TWS Annual Conference. An orientation talk and overview of the building and its construction will be provided from 1:30-2:15 at the Convention Centre. Tours lasting 45 minutes will then begin at 2:45, 3:00 and 3:15 at Manitoba Hydro Place, just a five-minute walk from the Convention Centre. To pre-register, email Nick Wesdock at nwesdock@wildlife.org, or sign up on-site at Registration (space permitting) during the conference.

Joshua LearnJoshua Rapp Learn is a science writer at The Wildlife Society.

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