SEN Hero

Sustainable Buildings

Saskatchewan's first sustainable buildings conference "Building Saskatchewan Green" was held at Innovation Place in November 2004. A range of green building topics were covered, including some Saskatchewan examples from which to draw inspiration.

Organizers were hoping 45 architects, engineers and builders might attend. They got 100. At the beginning of his keynote talk on the benefits of green building design, Raymond Cole of the architecture school at the University of British Columbia reviewed the remarkable growth of the green movement.

Today, green building design has reduced energy and water use, made buildings more healthy and people-friendly, and become cost competitive. There are now thousands of examples, including several in Saskatoon, proving that sustainable buildings are more than a good idea, they are economically viable too.

Cole points to the design of the massive new New York Jets stadium, which will be a self-reliant building, producing its own power from solar panels and wind turbines, with all its water coming from rain.

Cole showed documented evidence, in slide after slide, that green buildings are more economical that conventional buildings. They are generally more expensive to build, but the average capital cost difference is now down to about 2 percent. However, these buildings reduce energy use by 30-40 percent. As energy costs rise, long term savings in operating costs over conventional buildings mount, making green design an excellent long-term investment.

The value of green buildings goes far beyond cost savings. Evidence also shows green buildings are healthier and make people feel better about being at work, mainly due to the use of natural lighting and fresher air. That translates into healthy, happier workers, which means less time lost to sickness and higher productivity. A Centre for Building Performance study shows that productivity gains for green buildings are not consistent, but improvements of up to 18 percent have been documented.

Cole believes the benefits of green building will multiply when sustainable design is approached on a regional rather than a building-by-building basis. For example, using area heating and cooling systems instead of placing expensive equipment in every building is highly efficient and cost effective. One projection of using a regional green design approach in the Vancouver area suggested that aggregate savings of $20 billion were possible.