The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce
By Candice G. Ball
Cost: $11.6 million
Companies involved: Manasc Isaac Architects, CHANDOS Construction Ltd., Fast + Epp, Clark Engineering, Manasc Isaac Consulting
The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce is more than a building—it’s a green-building game changer. Alberta Construction Magazine’s choice for the Sustainability category is targeting net-zero energy use—producing as much energy as it consumes over the year—targeting LEED Platinum standards, and striving to become the very first Living Building Challenge petal-certified building in Alberta.
Located in the Edmonton community of Summerside, the 30,000-square-foot centre will house the Mosaic Family of Companies. The progressive organization is committed to “doing good while doing well.”In part, that means providing staff with amenities such as a child-care facility, wellness centre, lounge areas, game rooms and a restaurant. It also means raising the green-building bar in Alberta and setting new standards for doing business.
The Mosaic Centre for Conscious Community and Commerce is also Canada’s first triple bottom line (TBL) commercial building. TBL captures the essence of sustainability by measuring the impact of an organization’s activities on the world, including both its profitability and shareholder values and its social, human and environmental capital.
From the outset, both the head of design on the project, Vedran Skopac, an architect from Manasc Isaac Architects, and Jennifer Hancock, director of innovative construction at CHANDOS Construction Ltd., knew this project would be different.
For starters, they weren’t presented with a budget and a timeline; they were presented with six values, one of which was that the project changes the way buildings are built in Alberta.
“The project will only truly be considered a success if there are other buildings like it 10 years from now. This is a legacy project—it is a way of designing and building that is replicable,”explains Skopac.
Skopac recalls that when Dennis Cuku, the building owner, learned that there was a green-building standard more stringent than LEED Platinum, Cuku said, “This is where we need to go.”The Living Building Challenge three-petal certification is a rigorous performance standard that requires the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment today.
“There is no such building in Alberta,”says Skopac. “There are only a couple that have this certification, but they are not in a cold climate. This project is a first in Alberta.”
DIFFERENT ALL AROUND
Early on, Hancock realized they would have to do something very different to make the project work. “We’d been talking a while about trying to do integrated project delivery [IPD]. We knew it involved high collaboration,”she explains.
The team embarked on what they thought was an IPD, but then took a step backwards to assess the situation. After talking with Howard Ashcraft, an IPD legal guru who practises law at Hanson Briggett, a firm in San Francisco, Hancock came to see the value of properly drafted IPD contract. Ashcraft drafted the contract and had it reviewed locally for a Canadian legal perspective.
The team was advised that with an IPD, you should first create a budget and design to that price. “The contract helped us move in that direction. The way the owner runs his business is very unique. We knew the traditional construction method wouldn’t work for him,”says Hancock.
Although the process was clunkier than usual because they were doing something entirely new, the results made it worth it. “The environment is different than any other job I’ve ever been on. It required more work at the outset, but it has paid off,”says Hancock.
Skopac concurs. “The working environment is so different. I’m spending so much more time sharing the physical space. During construction, I was there twice a week spending half a day there,”he says. He adds that the positive energy and collaboration led to emotional connections and a sense of friendship. “The assumption is that we build our relationship on trust.”
By bringing in all of the relevant subtrades early in the process, the group was able to form a well-coordinated, tightly knit team able to rise to the project’s lofty goals. “Trades are one of the most important stakeholders,”explains Skopac. “Whatever we design, it is going to get into their hands. Why should they be surprised? Why should they feel they have been excluded? We wanted them to help us design it.”
Hancock notes that there were times when some of the subtrades stepped back into more traditional roles. “Some of them totally stepped up, but some had a little more trouble accepting that they had a really strong voice on our team.”
The strategies for achieving the stringent green goals include a high-performance building envelope and minimal mechanical and electrical systems that will work together to form an integrated response to the building’s physical environment. The project implements cutting-edge technologies in geothermal, photovoltaic, control and electrical systems. The ecology of the building is being carefully monitored and the technology is designed to respond to its needs.
To comply with LEED Platinum building standards, 95 per cent of the materials used will be diverted from a landfill.
Although the project had its challenges because it was an entirely new approach with unprecedented goals, the team is targeting to be under the $12-million budget and three months ahead of schedule, with only three months remaining in construction. “The vibe on site is amazing,”says Hancock. “One of the envelope workers said that if all his jobs could be like this one, he would love coming to work every day.”
The goal is to ultimately inspire others in a better way by design. Throughout the IPD process, the Mosaic team has been documenting and sharing its lessons with the green-building community. Upon completion, the centre will be opened to the construction community and general public for tours. The Mosaic Centre aspires to be a catalyst in a larger green-building movement and strives to show achieving commercial net-zero at a conventional cost is possible.