By Alison Rockley
The Integrated Learning Center, otherwise known as the ILC, was built in 2003 and is the home to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Queen’s. What makes the ILC unique is that it is a live building, meaning its mechanical, structural and electrical systems are monitored and recorded for people to view. In many areas of the building, systems are visible to students through glass sheets in the floors and walls.
The building is based on being energy-efficient. A complex system within the ILC monitors the building’s power usage, and can display exactly when and where power is being used. This allows students and faculty to track spaces of inefficient electricity use. The building is equipped with LCD monitors in the teaching studios, which give off much less heat than other monitors, and therefore saves energy (heat is simply lost energy). The ILC is also equipped with sensors inside a wall to demonstrate how insulation works, and how buildings leak and retain heat.
The ILC has six air-handling units; the first of which houses the enthalpy wheel that feeds air to the other units. These units provide a specific number of exchanges per hour, which depends on the amount of people using the space at that time. The enthalpy wheel exchanges heat and humidity from one air-stream into another. Instead of discarding used building air, the enthalpy wheel saves useful energy and transfers it into incoming fresh air.
The ILC has received awards for its environmental sustainability. There is a Biowall located in the main lobby, which acts as both a bio-filter and an aesthetic feature. The wall is an air filter which removes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon dioxide from the air as it passes through the wall into the building. Materials within the building are also environmentally friendly. The use of carpet was minimized in the design, since carpets give off a high amount of VOCs. Instead, a vinyl floor held with the least toxic glue available was chosen. It also uses high fly-ash and slag concrete to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The cast-in-place concrete in the ILC contains 50 percent supplementary cementing materials, meaning that it replaces a large percentage of cement with other materials which saves energy.
To build the ILC sustainably, it was divided into two sections and each side was built using a different construction method. This allowed engineers to analyze the environmental impacts of cast-in place concrete versus structural steel. They calculated the impacts using six criteria, including global warming potential and air toxicity. Cast-in-place concrete was found to be a more sustainable building method and as a result, the larger teaching wing of the ILC was constructed using this method.
The ILC also contains the first smart lighting system in Canada, which consists of lights connected to sensors that adjust to the required brightness. This is powered using solar panels on Goodwin Hall, the building immediately adjacent to the ILC. Solar panels convert light into electrical energy without any moving parts, noise or pollution.
Data recorded by the building, from the mechanical systems to the lighting, can be found on the live building website. There are also tips that people can use daily to reduce unnecessary energy usage. You may even find inspiration for your own ambitious design projects.