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Net-zero carbon plan presented for the Junction East project

A receptive city council was presented various options for making the Junction East building environmentally friendly, including a net-zero carbon emissions option
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The Junction East project will be a net-zero carbon building, pending city council approval.

The Junction East project could be a net-zero building in keeping with the city’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan goals.

This, according to a Sustainability Feasibility Study Report for Junction East presented to city council by Fluent Group Consulting Engineers Inc. representatives during tonight’s meeting.

The main catch is that the plan, if realized to its full potential, would cost approximately $6.1 million and wouldn’t necessarily reduce costs enough to recuperate the expense, at least not with electricity and natural gas prices of today. The building would be fully electric.

“This is going over and above building code, over and above the types of standard approaches anyone would do in present-day construction,” city executive director of Strategic Initiatives, Communications and Citizen Services Ian Wood said during a media conference that followed tonight’s meeting.

The recommendation for a net-zero carbon building would “be a statement from council and something for them to consider,” he added.

The $6.1-million price tag for Junction East’s environmentally minded components was not built into the building’s initial cost estimate because city council’s declaration of a climate emergency and adoption of a Community Energy and Emissions Plan came later.

“This project is coming up on a six-year history since council decided to move forward with it,” Wood said. “It has changed locations in terms of site … and in between the beginning of the project and the present time. … We have a different perspective today on climate change and the need for action with regards to climate change”

The Junction East project is slated to include a new central downtown library, art gallery and accommodations for the Sudbury Multicultural Folk Arts Association and Sudbury Theatre Centre. It’s to be located on the east side of Shaughnessy Street in downtown Sudbury.

The original cost was projected to be $46.5 million, although at the latest update last year it was estimated that the construction costs had increased by 21 per cent.

Tonight’s city council meeting saw Grant Peters and Michael Pelton from Fluent Group Consulting Engineers Inc. report on the findings of their sustainability feasibility study for Junction East. The city enlisted them to produce the report with the assistance of $62,000 in funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Their study was conducted during the summer and fall of last year and included public engagement sessions and workshops with community organizations, staff and partners. 

Although the Fluent Group representatives presented a few options for the building, the one they recommended was the most robust when it comes to environmental standards. It would reduce energy consumption by 41 per cent and greenhouse gasses by 90 per cent compared to a build that simply meets minimum requirements.

Although a net-zero carbon emissions building was deemed realistic, a net-zero energy build was not. To offset the energy the facility requires, they would require more roof space for solar panels than the building will actually have available. As such, only approximately 15 to 18 per cent of the energy use can be offset by the use of solar panels.

Triple pane windows, a ground-source heat system, state of the art insulation and a shift from natural gas to a full electrical operation join other eco-friendly options in rounding out their proposal.

In addition to carbon emissions and electricity-centred environmental measures are a handful of other sustainability features being proposed. These included reducing irrigation water use by 50 per cent, minimizing light pollution, adding bicycle infrastructure, reducing indoor water use by 30 per cent, reducing construction waste and various other efforts.

Nothing was decided by city council during tonight’s meeting, with the presentation intended as a precursor to a special city council meeting scheduled for April 5, which will exclusively centre on Junction East.

This meeting will find city council presented with “a very comprehensive picture of the project, where it stands in terms of design, in terms of cost, in terms of options such as what we discussed this evening on energy efficiency and sustainability,” Wood said.

“It’s a large and complex project … and there’s a lot of moving parts and we’re trying to pull them all together to give as comprehensive a picture as possible to council.”

The Fluent Group Consulting Engineers Inc. Sustainability Feasibility Study Report for Junction East will be available later this week at overtoyou.greatersudbury.ca/imagine-the-junction, where people will be able to submit feedback for city council and staff consideration.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.