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Our new Tower: so green, it’s gold
March 10, 2011
Once completed in 2013, The Research & Learning Tower will achieve LEED Gold certification for environmentally-friendly design and construction. While the building has been designed to be as green as possible on the outside, SickKids staff members are already at work planning ways to “green” operations inside the building.
SickKids Foundation recently sat down with SickKids research scientist Brent Derry, one of the co-chairs of the Tower’s green ops committee, to find out about how staff plan to increase sustainability inside the Tower.Listen to the interview with Brent Derry:
Q: Why is it important for the Research & Learning Tower to operate with sustainability in mind?
A: We have to send a message to Canadians that we are doing everything we can to help children – not just through our research, but also by reducing our impact on the environment. We have to lead by example.
Q: Can you describe some of the energy efficient features of the Tower?
A: Cisterns on the roof will collect rainwater and use it for toilets and urinals; this should reduce potable water consumption by 50 per cent. We’ll reduce our dependency on electric lighting and take advantage of natural light coming into the building. We’ll cut phantom power by unplugging instrumentation and equipment when they’re not being used. We’re also pushing very hard for staff to take alternative transportation like TTC and biking. We are creating a building that’s very forward in that it reduces a lot of energy consumption. We’re going beyond LEED in terms of energy efficiency and trying to change the culture. Little things like these add up and reduce the amount of energy the building consumes.
Q: What is your favourite “green feature” of the Tower?
A: The materials – we’re using about 23 per cent recycled materials in the construction of the Tower. We’re also using a lot of locally sourced materials. In the future, all buildings should be built with mostly recycled material.
Q: What is the purpose of the green ops committee?
A: The green ops committee tries to get a good cross-section of the SickKids community – from cleaning staff to scientists – who can bring creative ideas to the table on how to reduce our carbon footprint. For example: unplugging lab equipment at night that draws phantom power, reducing the amount of chemicals that we clean with, reducing paper consumption and bringing our own mugs to Tim Hortons.
Q: Why did you decide to lead the committee?
A: I’ve been very vocal about green practices and I see myself as the “champion” of the committee. If we’re going to represent children’s health and improve children’s health, we should make the environment a part of that.
Q: What can researchers do to be “green”?
A: We can consistently reduce our waste: light, power and garbage. I tell my kids that recycling is important, but that consuming less is even more important. In the Research Institute, we use an awful lot of plastics. There may be opportunities to re-use some plastics or find alternative materials.
Q: How will these green operations standards make an impact on the Tower and the environment in the long term?
A: We can demonstrate to our neighbours that we’re serious about the environment. Even if we were to bring down energy consumption by 10 per cent – that would be a significant effect.
Q: Will this set a precedent in the scientific community?
A: I hope so. We may stimulate other research environments to do some of the same things.
Q: Will green practices help to reduce operating expenses?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s a win-win. If you reduce your energy consumption, you save money. A building like that consumes a lot of energy and costs a lot of money to run. It’d be really nice if we could turn that savings into more research, which would lead to better cures for kids. That’s what I really dream about.
Q: If you were making a case for supporting the Tower, what would you say?
A: Researchers are your future. We’re here to make a better world for children and adults alike. I’m working hard to put myself out of a job.