New Mohawk lab will be Canada's largest "net zero" energy use building

The largest net-zero building in Canada opens its doors in September 2018 at Mohawk Colleges Fennell campus.

The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation opens its doors in September 2018

Mohawk College's Fennell campus is home to the largest net-zero building in Canada. The facility will open its doors to students in September 2018. (Kandel Millward\CBC)

Mohawk College's Fennell campus will soon be home to the largest net-zero energy use building in Canada.

The Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation (JCP&I) will open its doors to students in September later this year. 

A net-zero building means the structure itself generates it's own clean-reusable energy and uses it as its main power source, says Tony Cupido, Mohawk College's chief building and facilities officer.

The building itself is a living lab to students who are going through engineering and clean technology programs.- Ron McKerlie, Mohawk College President

"We want to fight climate change as a college," says Mohawk College President Ron McKerlie.

"So having clean renewable energy to power our building means we are doing our part of not burning fossil fuels and not creating additional greenhouse gases."

The JCP&I will build on Mohawk College's applied research strengths in the areas of health, energy, and technology while offering programs that coincide with the college's existing technology and robotics courses, says McKerlie. 

"The building itself is a living lab to students who are going through engineering and clean technology programs," said McKerlie. "It will give students the chance to understand the equipment and the different parts and elements to the building."

The building will be run off reusable energy says Cupido, with absolutely no gas lines installed within the JCP&I.

Solar panels will meet demand 

"The way were going to [produce energy] is with solar panels of sufficient size and capacity to produce as much energy as the building needs," said Cupido.

"[The building will have] almost 2000 solar panels not only on the new building but on the adjacent building on campus so we will have enough energy to produce 500 kilowatts (kW) a power per day."

The solar panel system will produce 550,000 kilowatts kW of clean energy per year, that's enough electricity to power 45 Canadian homes for one year.

1980 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation at Mohawk College's Fennell campus. (Mohawk College)

In addition, the structure will feature 28 geothermal wells which will tap into the natural geothermal energy that's found beneath the Earth's crust. The geothermal wells will regulate the buildings temperature by transferring heat to or from the ground. 

Eco-friendly shape

Throughout the year, the wells will be collecting heat from the warmer months and storing it below the building, then when the colder months arrive the heat will be extracted and used within the building to keep warm.

As well, the shape for the structure — an L configuration — is designed to harness daylight, which will reduce the use of daytime electricity. 

The JCP&I will also become the Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk College, as well as Hamilton, Burlington, and the province of Ontario. The building will help the Bay Area (the geographical areas of Hamilton and Burlington) reduce their carbon footprint. 

The structure is designed to operate without producing negative emissions, meaning for every kilowatt of energy used a kilowatt of renewable energy is produced.

Another feature that will be used throughout the building is LED lighting. 

"It will be highly controlled and monitored, there will be sensors on all the lighting and within a matter of seconds of you leaving a room the lights will go off as well as the ventilation," said Cupido. "It wont go back on until you're back in that room or perhaps a schedule that's set a few minutes earlier before a class starts to get the room (at a comfortable temperature)."

The cost however came in about the same as a regular structure.

"We're pleased it didn't cost any more then to build a regular building," said Cupido.

All in all, the JCP&I costs just shy over $55 million dollars says McKerlie, that's including all the steps of preparation and construction. 

The funding came from a multitude of different groups including: the Government of Canada, the Joyce Family Centre, the college's private financial sources and debt financing. 

With the JCP&I's grand opening scheduled for this September, Cupido says the whole experience has been a thrill.

"It's always exciting to be involved with unique projects especially something that hasn't been done before or that is cutting edge, it's always a professional thrill to be apart of that," said Cupido.

"I'm looking forward to the next stages... and getting studies in there and learning about everything net-zero."