Posted at 8:00 a.m.
What if we carried out a project that would set an example in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction for the schools we will build in the future, but also for this generation educated in this building? This is what the team of the firm gbi experts-advisers said to itself with the Curé-Paquin school, in Saint-Eustache, which welcomed its first students in 2019-2020. But it takes two to tango! Fortunately, his client, the Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles school service centre, was enthusiastic about the idea. This school became the first carbon neutral school in Canada. These efforts have paid off: last fall, gbi received the Building Excellence Award and the Engineering Award for a Better Canada for this project at the Canadian Consulting Engineering Awards.
Creativity to lower costs
How does a school become carbon neutral? “First, you should know that many commercial and institutional buildings still run on fossil fuels in Quebec because they are less expensive, but our job is to find innovative solutions that make it possible to mitigate the increase in costs when we switch to electricity”, explains Maxime Boisclair, mechanical engineer, director, sustainable development, at gbi.
For example, this school has installed a geothermal system, solar panels and a thermal accumulator to reduce the demand for power during peak periods, and therefore the electricity bill. The windows have also been strategically placed on the south side so that the interior of the building is heated by the sun’s rays to compensate for some of the thermal losses. Lighting is provided by light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which consume very little power.
Thanks to its efficiency, the building makes it possible to reinject a little energy into the Hydro-Québec network. This compensates for the low GHG emitted by hydroelectricity and solar panels.
Maxime Boisclair, mechanical engineer, director, sustainable development, at gbi
“This school is now a model that we offer to our clients in the educational environment, but also in the commercial and private sectors,” says Serge Beaudoin, president of gbi. And we keep going further. At the moment, the big challenge is to create energy transfer loops between the different buildings in a district. This is what we will do at Royalmount. »
Transform calls for tenders?
For more innovative projects to see the light of day in our increasingly complex world, it is ideally necessary that this will appear in the calls for tenders, according to Bernard Bigras, president of the Association of consulting engineering firms – Quebec.
“Everything comes from the client,” he says.
He is also of the opinion that the rule of the lowest bidder should be eliminated.
Doing what costs less does not add value.
Bernard Bigras, President of the Association of Consulting Engineering Firms – Quebec
He even dares to dream further. “We see more and more international calls for projects rather than calls for tenders that ask firms to find solutions that are truly adapted to the needs of the organization. We are then talking more about design thinking, with a lot of work done upstream to clearly define the needs. This is the key to innovation. »
The Association of Consulting Engineering Firms – Quebec is therefore impatiently waiting for Minister Sonia LeBel to table Quebec’s public procurement strategy in February, which will be accompanied by a bill.
Taking a clear turn towards innovation could have positive impacts on different levels. “While there is a labor shortage, several surveys tell us that it is the challenges to be met that motivate young school leavers to accept a job,” adds Bernard Bigras. Then, better designed and more energy efficient projects end up paying off financially and socially. Everyone will benefit if Quebec decides to innovate more. »