As Redeemer’ enrolment numbers rise, its campus must grow as well. The environmental science program is taking advantage of this opportunity by researching green buildings with a view towards informing future decisions. A green building is one that, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts, and can create positive impacts for the climate and natural environment.
Last fall, fourth-year environmental science student Jordy Meijering worked under the supervision of Dr. Edward Berkelaar, chair of the departments of chemistry, environmental studies and geography, to explore the different features of green buildings. His research included the full life cycle of a building from site selection, design and construction to maintenance, renovation and deconstruction, and the more sustainable methods and materials that can be employed during each phase.
“I love the image of a perfect world where everything functions in harmony.”
“We have to move beyond doing things the way we’ve always done them,” says Berkelaar. “Our reformed identity compels us to operate in a way that is more sustainable, and shows our commitment to being good stewards of God’s creation.”
Many Canadian universities are making greener building choices because of the numerous benefits they provide. The perks go well beyond the obvious environmental aspects like lower energy and water use and lowered disruption to surrounding waterways and ecosystems. The reduced costs to building operation can also add up over time. In addition, research is pointing to increased productivity and better mental health for both staff and students who work and learn in buildings with more natural light and features like living walls.
The Canada Green Building Council administers LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Meijering feels that gaining LEED certification for newly constructed buildings will help to establish Redeemer amongst larger post-secondary institutions. There are four levels of certification available: certified, silver, gold and platinum. Nearby McMaster University has multiple LEED gold and silver buildings and University of Waterloo was the first university campus in Ontario to construct a LEED platinum building. Many other Ontario campuses are following suit.
With enrolment growth and Redeemer’s new strategic plan on the horizon, plans to construct a new residence, and later, a new academic building, are imminent.
“For me, the timing is quite delightful,” says Berkelaar. “To see any of it implemented is consistent with our calling to not only talk about these things, but to do them.” A Redeemer degree allows students to explore how their faith and learning apply to real-world scenarios.
The project report has been submitted to Redeemer’s administration with a number of recommendations for consideration when planning new buildings. These include using a thermal or green roof, incorporating low-flow plumbing and low energy appliances, creating a living wall and building to Passive House standards. Passive House buildings consume up to 90 per cent less heating and cooling energy than conventional buildings by constructing a well-insulated and tightly sealed building envelope and introducing fresh air via a high-efficiency heat recovery ventilation system.
This is not the first time a Redeemer student has made recommendations around green building techniques. In 2011, Redeemer installed a solar power system on the entire roof of the academic building. Berkelaar says the project was originally proposed by a Redeemer student in the mid-2000s. Redeemer also executed a sustainable lighting project in 2017 that saw 1,000 new 18-watt LED lighting tubes replace the 32-watt fluorescent lighting tubes on campus, leading to a 44 per cent reduction in electricity use.
Meijering says he has always had a passion for sustainable architecture. “I love the image of a perfect world where everything functions in harmony.”
“It’s great to have this level of flexibility in a program. We can tailor it to a student’s passion,” says Berkelaar. It allows students to bring a Kingdom perspective to any vocation in any place where they are called. “There’s a real life aspect to this, to see administration influenced in a certain way, with resources offered to them. It’s a great way to achieve that.”