The north end's environmental showpiece

Green: Somerset Square shows how creative thinking can lead to big energy savings

SAINT JOHN - John Irving used to drive by and look at a property that was more or less an eyesore. The president of Commercial Properties Limited and the builder of Somerset Square - the first LEED gold building in Atlantic Canada - always hoped someone would do something about it.          


"I was pleased that it turned out that we were the ones that did something," Irving said.

"Most of the people I work with feel the same way because they've done something that's a little different, a little special, and pushed the envelope."

And what Irving and his company have done is vault Saint John into a very exclusive club. There are only 18 such environmentally efficient buildings in the country with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, gold certification.

The certification is based on criteria that includes sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

It's estimated the overall design of the 25,000-square foot building will save 45 per cent in energy costs.

Somerset Square has reached the second highest level of certification, with platinum being the pinnacle. Energy Minister Jack Keir was on hand Tuesday to recognize the achievement and take a tour of the building.

He grew up in the north end and recalls the old gas station that used to sit on the corner of Somerset Street and Wellesley Avenue.

"This was our playground," Keir said of where the building now sits.

"It's near and dear to my heart to see the revitalization, especially in the north end."

Elizabeth Weir, president and CEO of Efficiency NB, presented Irving with a plaque in recognition of the achievement.

"It is built to the highest efficiency standards," Weir said, calling it a landmark day.

Matthew Peachman, of Jacques Whitford Stantec Limited, is not only a tenant but a member of the Canada Green Building Council.

He presented an award on behalf of the Canada and U.S. councils that oversee LEED certification.

"This is certainly a tremendous day," Peachman said. "It's not a small feat. It takes effort. It takes work."

The building is an environmental showpiece with such green features as rainwater collectors on the roof leading to a 40 per cent reduction in water usage, low water flow fixtures, a computer controlled boiler system that reduces energy consumption by 33 per cent and a white roof that reflects the sun's rays.

"We have less heat gain on the building," Irving said of having a white instead of the traditional black roof.

The building is narrow, allowing 75 per cent of the workspace to receive daylight and further reduce energy consumption. There are more light standards in the parking lot, but each one is of a low wattage leading to less light pollution. Unlike many modern buildings, the windows also open.

"In Saint John, there's lots of times you don't need air conditioning," Irving said. "The trick is to run it only when you need to run it."

Ron Outerbridge's firm Coast Tire is one of the building's tenants. The president and CEO said not only do his employees love coming to work in the building and take pride in the environmental leadership it shows, but it's also a source of pride for the residents in the north end.

"It's not all about cost," Outerbridge said. "It's about doing the right thing."


Published Wednesday October 7th, 2009 - Telegrpah Journal