Building Green and Beyond

Building Green and Beyond
Building Green and Beyond
Providing an ecological balance for
commercial and institutional building in the Yukon
B uil ding
gre e n
a nd
b eyond
In the 21st century, nobody should consider designing a commercial or institutional building in the Yukon without planning for
insulation or thinking about heating costs.
But how many builders think about the sources of energy used for lighting, space heating and hot water? Who thinks about the
amount and kind of energy required to produce the construction materials in the first place? Who considers the impact of the
building on transportation energy costs, or the
impact it may have on its site, or how much water
(cold and hot) the occupants of the building will use?
Also, it has become more apparent in recent years
that the quality of air and light in commercial and
institutional buildings can affect the health and
attitudes of the people who spend time there. These
conditions affect workplace productivity, sociability,
and perhaps even costs to the health care system.
Healthy workplaces pay big dividends for employees,
employers, building owners and society as a whole.
Supposing one wanted to consider all of these
factors, how would they go about it?
More and more Yukon businesses, building owners
and designers are addressing these questions because
the answers can help them plan for a better bottom
line and a cleaner environment, as well as make
indoor spaces more comfortable for those who use
If the right questions are asked up front, it is possible
to produce buildings that consume fewer resources,
use renewable energy, offer improved indoor air
quality and more appropriate lighting, and minimize
environmental impacts. On top of all that, properly
designed ecological buildings will cost less to operate
than “conventional” buildings, making potentially
higher upfront costs pay off during the lifespan of the
Commercial and institutional buildings consume
about one-third of the energy used annually in
Canada. They are also responsible for a fifth of the
greenhouse gases produced in the country, so there
are good reasons to design and build greener.
Yukon College, designed in the late 1980s by CJP Architects, uses pleasing
methods to bring natural light into the hallways, creating a relaxing green
space complete with trees, benches and artwork.
Yukon Development Corporation
Box 2703 (D-1)
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2C6
Telephone: (867) 393-7069
Fax: (867) 393-7071
Energy Solutions Centre
206A Lowe Street
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 1W6
Telephone: (867) 393-7063
Fax: (867) 393-7061
[email protected], www.nrgsc.
Yukon Energy Corporation
Box 5920
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 6S7
Telephone: (867) 393-5300
Fax: (867) 393-5323
©Yukon Development Corporation, December 2003.
This publication is a product of the Canada-Yukon
Energy Solutions Centre, an initiative jointly sponsored
by Yukon Development Corporation and Natural
Resources Canada. It is part of a series of publications
on the Yukon’s energy resources.
Cover photo: J.V. Clark School, Mayo, Yukon was
designed by Kobayashi + Zedda Architects. Photo
courtesy of the architect.
Writing and research by Alsek Writing
Production by K-L Services, Whitehorse, Yukon
After an early morning fire in 1997, Yukon Energy took the opportunity to construct an
energy efficient administration and technical services building in Whitehorse.
Working places and public spaces
ommercial and institutional buildings in our communities are the stages upon
which we act out our public lives. In a time of tight budgets and increasingly
clearer impacts of human activities on the environment, new buildings can
provide models for better structures and systems that cost less to operate and maintain,
and are easier on the earth.
Commercial buildings provide the space for retail sales, manufacturing, and distribution
of products and services. Stores, restaurants, hotels, offices and government buildings
usually make up the bulk of any downtown core. Service and supply depots, garages,
dealerships and warehouses dominate industrial areas.
Institutional buildings house public services including schools, colleges and universities,
places of worship, community halls, visual and performing arts facilities, recreation
facilities and hospitals. In the Yukon, most federal, territorial and municipal government
services are delivered from institutional buildings.
This publication tells the story of commercial and institutional building in the Yukon.
The main story examines the characteristics of commercial and institutional buildings,
the technologies and people that produce them, and some of the problems that they
encounter. It shows the potential for better building practices — practices that can
produce more efficient buildings that have lower impacts on the environment and
provide good working and public spaces.
The story in the brown shaded boxes follows the history of commercial and institutional
building practices in the Yukon and the forces that have shaped the Yukon’s “built”
The Whitehorse Travel building on Lambert Street was built in 1992 to accommodate
that business and Rainbow Tours. It made a design statement for its owners by
maintaining as many trees as possible on the site and using distinctive zinc siding.
Commerce from a tent at Bullion.
rade and commerce have
always been a part of human
existence. There are few
locations where all that people need
to live can be found right around
Before European traders and miners
arrived in the north, Yukon First
Nations congregated at trading
places to exchange goods with
What is now called Fort Selkirk
was a traditional trading place for
Northern Tutchone, Chilkat, Hän
and Mountain Dene. Artifacts
found on the site reveal that it was
used as a seasonal gathering place
for hundreds of years.
When Robert Campbell arrived
in the Yukon in 1848 in search of
furs for the Hudson Bay Company,
he built a trading post at Fort
Selkirk, one of the first commercial
buildings in the Yukon.
Campbell and other European
traders built with what was at
hand — first the tents they carried
with them, then more permanent
structures built from logs and poles
cut from surrounding forests. Later,
those who came with the 1887 gold
rush to Forty Mile and the 1898
Klondike gold rush followed this
Institutional presence
Even before the gold rush began,
the Canadian government had
dispatched members of the North
West Mounted Police (NWMP)
to the Yukon. These “builders-in…history continues, page 3
Commercial and institutional structures
are usually built on a larger scale than
houses and are designed for different
combinations of functions. Like houses,
they still have to keep out the weather,
safely support the structure, provide a
combination of natural and artificial light,
maintain appropriate temperatures and
good air quality, supply clean water, and
remove waste water. But they also have to
accommodate a variety of activities.
This often requires elaborate heating,
cooling and air handling systems to
maintain different temperatures and
good air quality in different parts of the
building. And it demands more durable
building finishes to accommodate high
traffic levels.
The size and complexity of larger
buildings, plus the wide range of
functions they serve, mean that a variety
of professionals are involved in their
planning, design and construction — and
ultimately, in their operation.
Commercial and institutional buildings
are investments for their owners. For
that reason, decisions about design and
operating features should be subjected to
detailed financial analysis.
of commercial
and institutional
Built in the early 1990s as a visitor reception centre, this building (now the Beringia
Centre) has several features that make it interesting from an energy standpoint. The
shell itself is quite energy efficient. The curved west wall contains maximum space with
minimum materials, optimizing surface to volume ratio. The four-element window
system on the east side of the display area controls solar heat gain while admitting
a large fraction of the visible light. This type of window is very energy efficient and
significantly reduces heating and cooling costs in this part of the building.
How well commercial buildings perform
— how much energy they use, and
how much it costs to operate and
maintain them — helps to determine the
profitability of the businesses that own or
occupy them.
Similarly, how government buildings
perform can make the difference between
dollars available for programming and the
need for increased taxes to finance high
operating costs.
Although a long-lasting, efficient building
can save the owner money, the top
priority in most commercial construction
is usually getting a building up and into
The Whitehorse aquatic centre is the first building of a multiplex being built as part of
the city’s commitment to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
service as inexpensively as possible.
Builders want to get the most out of their
capital outlay.
New or expanding businesses are often
strapped for cash. That means that when
they build they may have to fight for every
dollar they borrow from the bank. Banks
do look at both the upfront construction
costs of a building and the lifetime costs
of owning and operating it. However,
when companies have limited resources,
the banks look most closely at what the
companies can initially afford. Building
features that cost more to include at the
time of construction, but could reduce
operation and maintenance costs over
the lifetime of the building, become a
secondary consideration, even when the
owner realizes that they provide longterm benefits.
Governments, too, often focus on the
initial capital budget cost of new facilities
without factoring in the energy costs
that will show up year after year in the
operation and maintenance budget.
Life-cycle costing
Life-cycle costing looks at both the capital
costs of construction and technology, and
the operational costs over the anticipated
life of a building. Detailed life-cycle
costing can help build a business case for
energy efficiency.
In recent years, life-cycle costing has
included both behavioural and societal
factors. Low-cost buildings, with poor
Room was left in the Whitehorse aquatic
centre boiler room to accommodate
electric boilers. Once they are installed
in 2004, the centre will be able to use
“green power” — surplus hydroelectricity.
This will mean a reduction in carbon
dioxide emissions of 1,079 tonnes CO2
equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, as
well as savings in operating costs.
1 1898 NWMP detachment, Lindeman.
2 Northern Commercial Company store,
Dawson City, heated by a boiler built
into the river bank. 3. Administration
building, Dawson City.
…Institutional presence
uniform” represented Canadian
sovereignty in the face of an
invasion of American prospectors
and gold miners. The posts
they built became symbols of
government authority.
heating, ventilation and air quality
systems resulting in poor to bad indoor
air quality and environmental quality, may
create an end result of high absenteeism
and low productivity. The cost of this
phenomenon is many times greater than
the additional cost of a well designed and
energy efficient building.
The first Yukon NWMP post was
Fort Constantine, across from the
Forty Mile settlement. However, by
the time the post was completed
in 1896, prospectors and would-be
miners from Forty Mile had rushed
to the Klondike after the gold
discovery on Rabbit Creek — quickly
renamed Bonanza Creek.
Life-cycle costing should factor in societal
changes such as flextime schedules, family
structures, job sharing, work at home, and
satellite offices.
This comprehensive approach to lifecycle costing provides an ecologically
balanced building that is green, northern
appropriate, and climate sensitive, in
addition to being easier on the overall
costs of running it.
In a continuing bid to maintain law
and order, the Mounties moved to
Dawson City in the spring of 1897
and began to build Fort Herchmer.
When word of the gold discovery
burst on a world that was mired in
depression, thousands set off for the
Klondike to seek gold. The Chilkoot
Trail between Dyea, Alaska and
Bennett Lake in Canada was the
preferred route.
Energy efficient buildings
• Yield continuous savings by reducing
energy costs.
• Maintain superior comfort with less
noise and better indoor air quality.
• Increase resale value and
• Enhance the reputation of their builders and owners as environmentally
conscious professionals and business
• Offer a competitive advantage.
• Reduce production of greenhouse
By the winter of 1898 there was an
NWMP post at the summit of the
• Cut costs through the use of new
technology, more efficient materials,
and the downsizing of mechanical
St, Andrew’s
Church at
the gold
rush town
of Bennett.
Chilkoot Trail, a palisade log post
farther along at Lindeman, and
another at Lake Bennett.
Klondike commerce
Business people on the trail to the
Klondike operated commercial
enterprises — ranging from restaurants to brothels — out of tents.
Some had more faith and built with
logs, or milled timber and constructed wood frame buildings. As
the stream of goldseekers passed by,
many pulled up stakes and headed
up the trail for Dawson City, the
destination of the stampeders.
In Dawson City, businesses moved
from tents to log and frame
structures as fast as they got
materials. Gold flowed from the
creeks into Dawson City, which
became the centre for Klondike
commerce and a port for river
traffic supplying both the Yukon
and Alaska. White Pass and Yukon
Route’s British Yukon Navigation
Company steamboats plied the
waters from Whitehorse to Fort
Selkirk to Dawson City and on to
Yukon River towns in Alaska.
But, by 1901, even as the finishing
touches were put on a new
administration building, courthouse
and post office, Dawson City’s
population was shrinking. New
gold strikes in Alaska and prospects
in the Mayo area drew away many
who had failed to find riches in the
…history continues, page 5
Planning and
Recent experience with energy efficient
buildings has revealed that the secret to
high efficiency is not necessarily high
technology, although it has its place.
Consistent results show that the most
efficient buildings are those in which all
the design elements work well together.
When they do, the performance of the
whole building is greater than the sum of
its parts.
To produce these kinds of results,
Natural Resources Canada’s C-2000 high
performance building program promotes
a method called an integrated design
process. Right from the beginning, it
involves the building owner, architect,
engineer and energy-modelling specialist.
This means that as members of the
team develop design options, the whole
group can see the impact on the energy
efficiency of the building.
Architectural firm Maurer Kobayashi
and its successor, Kobayashi + Zedda
Architects, were the first in the Yukon to
use the formal integrated design process,
as well as the Commercial Building
Incentive Program. Their first C-2000
building, the Yukon Energy administration
and technical services building, was
Architects, engineers and building owners
all agree that the best buildings are
produced when planning starts early.
When new technology is considered, this
becomes even more important.
The J.V. Clark School in Mayo, which opened in 2002, was one of three buildings
nominated to represent Canada at the Sustainable Building 2002 conference held
in Oslo, Norway. Designed by Kobayashi + Zedda Architects, it was built under the
C-2000 program and received the maximum grant under the Natural Resources Canada
Commercial Building Incentive Program.
designed by Antonio Zedda and Florian
Maurer. It received the 1999 National
Energy Efficiency Award for commercial
and industrial buildings, and helps Yukon
Energy to showcase the potential of
energy efficient technology and design.
system of the building. He says that the
early involvement of an engineering
consultant to conduct the energy analysis
on building design options helped to
identify efficiencies that might otherwise
have been missed.
Bob Baxter was one of the mechanical
engineers involved in the design of the
heating, ventilation and air conditioning
Kobayashi + Zedda Architects used the
same approach and programs to design
the new J.V. Clark School in Mayo.
Commercial construction incentive programs
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has a good track record of improving energy
efficiency in Canadian buildings. Several NRCan programs are pushing progress in
the Yukon design community.
C-2000 challenges participating designers and builders to improve on the energy
efficiency potential of commercial office buildings through use of the integrated
design process, energy modelling, the setting of energy efficiency and water
conservation targets, and the use of low off-gassing finishing materials.
The Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) provides a funding incentive
for commercial and institutional buildings designed to be 25% more efficient than
buildings constructed to meet the Model National Energy Code for Buildings.
The Model National Energy Code for Buildings (MNECB) sets higher energy
efficiency standards than the National Building Code. MNECB specifies construction
methods and components that have been found to save energy and have the lowest
life-cycle costs. Its individual requirements should save as much or more in energy
costs than they cost to implement.
Clerestory windows high in the walls of
Hidden Valley School provide lots of light
for open areas. This school design was
duplicated in the later Holy Family School
with plan changes to allow flexibility for
additions and expansions.
Builders who follow MNECB are factoring life-cycle costing into their design choices.
They are also building to a standard that is based on climatic information and tailored
to different parts of the country — with regional zones identified for the Yukon.
In 1996, the Yukon government adopted its own Yukon Design Standards for its
construction projects. The standards were built on the lessons learned from previous
government construction projects and the 1992 Yukon Architectural Guidelines to
encourage climate-appropriate design and construction.
Some say that Yukon designers already
had an effective approach to energy
efficient design. Established Yukon
architect, Charles McLaren, and
engineers, Ross Dorward and Bob Baxter,
say that they have always worked closely
on projects. Small firms and a limited
number of practitioners make it necessary
— and relatively easy — to get together to
brainstorm. And the result has been Yukon
commercial and institutional buildings
built to a high energy efficiency standard.
…Klondike commerce
Mayo region
In the years following the gold rush,
dredges replaced individual miners
in the gold fields. Construction
shifted out to the Klondike valley
where mining companies built the
Twelve Mile power plant in 1907,
the North Fork power plant in 1911
and, later, the Bear Creek industrial
In the years after the Klondike gold
rush, some disappointed miners
moved up the Stewart River to
prospect its tributaries. By 1903,
there was enough activity in the
Mayo River area for the government
to survey a townsite near its
confluence with the Stewart River.
Dawson City dwindled even more
in the 1920s when downriver traffic
to Alaska and the coast ended. But
it remained the Yukon capital until
1953, and gold dredges kept working
until 1966.
For example, Whitehorse’s Hidden Valley
School, built in 1992, shows up very well
on the Energy Solutions Centre’s Public
Buildings Energy Tracking System, with
energy consumption figures equal to
the C-2000 Mayo school. McLaren, the
architect for Hidden Valley, says that it
was designed to suit its program needs. It
features an efficient floor plan, reasonable
air handling volume, a tight envelope and
lots of natural light — all the basics that
he builds into each of his projects.
The Cassiar Asbestos mine at
Clinton Creek on the Fortymile
River, which operated from 1967
to 1977, helped to sustain Dawson
City’s faltering economy.
In the meantime, Parks Canada and
the Klondike Visitors Association
worked together to develop a
tourism industry for Dawson
City. Parks Canada and businesses
rehabilitated 60- to 70-year-old
commercial buildings, and new
hotels were built to accommodate
increasing numbers of visitors.
McLaren likes the idea of C-2000 and
appreciates the value of computer energy
modelling. However, he believes that
In 1904, the same year the
government completed a winter
road from Dawson City, the
Mounties established a detachment
to police the 80 or so miners who
worked creeks in the district.
A silver rush in 1919 brought many
prospectors to the Keno City area.
The hills were soon dotted with
mines and mine buildings.
For the first few years, ore was
shipped to Dawson City and then
downriver to outside smelters. In
1922, the S.S. Keno paddlewheeler,
designed for shallow draft
navigation, was placed in service on
the Stewart River. The ore could now
be shipped upriver to Whitehorse
where it was transferred to the
White Pass and Yukon Railway to be
transported to tidewater.
…history continues, page 7
The multi-storey Yukon Energy building
points south. Two narrow wings allow
natural lighting throughout the structure,
reducing the need for electrical lighting.
With one wing facing southeast and the
other southwest, solar heat gains are
split, distributing the building’s heat gain
over the course of the day and cutting
peak cooling demands by half. A high
water table allows ground water to be
used to cool the building. Siting options
were limited by existing powerlines and
the need for a clear line of sight to the
hydro dam control structures.
1 Power house at Bear Creek. 2 Over 100 years after the gold rush, the Arctic
Brotherhood Hall is now Diamond Tooth Gertie’s gambling hall. 3 Gene Binet
bought the entire town-site of Mayo after it was surveyed in 1903. His hotel was
one of the first commercial buildings in the region.
McLaren would like to see five-year followups on buildings with designs based on
computer energy-use simulations. This
would allow the comparison of the energy
consumption predicted by the modelling
to actual performance in the Yukon
McDonald’s, one of the first franchises
in Whitehorse, was built in 1986 by
Malamute Construction. Mel Olson,
one of the builders, says that the
U.S. designers were not interested
in adapting the design to the north.
His crew could only “shove in extra
insulation where it was possible.”
Gordon Clark and Karen Russell, who
have brought three franchise restaurants to Whitehorse — both of the Tim Hortons
outlets and Boston Pizza — also have found it difficult to negotiate design changes.
Clark says that franchisers work with cookie-cutter plans, a strict project management
time schedule, and sometimes their own builders. Because he owned the land for
the downtown Tim Hortons, he was able to use a local builder, Cardinal Contracting.
The result is an upgraded design with better insulation and triple pane windows. The
building uses 50% less energy than the first Tim Hortons, which was built by a Calgary
In the case of Boston Pizza, Clark and Russell were able to convince the franchise
architect of the need to eliminate a large deck access door and to improve insulation
levels for the Yukon climate. But other energy improvements are being made after the
fact because further change approvals would have delayed the whole project. Retrofits
include electrical heating to take advantage of surplus hydro power sales and a twospeed kitchen make-up air fan so that less cold outside air has to be heated — a major
energy drain in restaurant operations.
At the new Ricky’s All-Day Grill, owners Carson Bell, Setnam Rai and Ken Eby worked
with the Energy Solutions Centre to tweak the design so that it qualified for the
Commercial Building Incentive Program. Energy efficient features include a specially
designed low-volume kitchen exhaust fan, a “heat wringer” to recover heat from
refrigeration compressors, and an air-to-air heat pump.
To encourage better planning, use of
energy modelling tools and adoption of
the integrated design process, the Energy
Solutions Centre conducted the Green
Building Design Competition in 2002. This
competition challenged Yukon designers
to develop conceptual designs for an arts
education building on the Yukon Arts
Centre site. The judges recognized three
firms which submitted designs: Sinclair
and Associates for best technical solution,
Kobayashi + Zedda Architects for best
artistic solution, and Ferguson Simek Clark
Engineers and Architects for best integrated
design solution. (A workbook about the
process and the submissions is available
from the Energy Solutions Centre.)
Franchise designs
The Silver Centre, on Black Street at Second Avenue, has a torched-on membrane over the structure and insulated curtain walls
over that. It features lots of natural day-lighting and operable windows, and has no automatic light switches — although the lights
do have lots of switching so that users can light just the areas they are using. Dan Shier, whose law offices are in the building, says
that the building has given them “...a much better environment, with better air quality and more natural light” than their previous
accommodations. “Everybody has a window, including staff,” he says. “It’s a cheerier environment.” The architect, Charles McLaren,
maximized the net interior space by using only 10% to 12% of the interior for public space, washrooms, service areas, stairwells and
corridors, compared to a usual 25%. So a smaller building produces more revenue space.
the modelling programs used by C-2000
and the Commercial Building Incentive
Program rely too heavily on reducing
lighting loads to save energy through daylighting and automatic controls. “In the
north,” he points out, “Ventilation is also
a major factor to consider.”
A design gap
“A set of plans for a small commercial
building used to be 20 pages long,”
says Todd Hardy, former Carpenters
Union business agent. “Now plans are
more general.”
Today, in an increasingly competitive
design climate where budgets are tight
and few institutional and commercial
buildings are being constructed,
designers sometimes bid low to get
Larry Turner, a project superintendent
with Ketza Construction, says that when
architectural firms bid too low they
sometimes scrimp on design details.
This poses a dilemma for the contractor.
Calls to the design firm to seek
clarification or detailed drawings may
hold up the project. On the other hand,
moving ahead without approval from
the architect may make the builder
liable for future problems. To cover
themselves, contractors often seek
approval for specific change orders that
document “as-built” details.
To help workers in the construction
trades who have been affected by this
trend, the Carpenters Union has offered
its members training in computer
drafting. With that training under their
belts, they can work with the contractor
on-site to develop drawings for building
details where specifications are not
1 The Elsa mill was destroyed by fire in
June 1949. A new mill was rebuilt and in
production by October that same year.
2 Today’s Keno City mining museum is
housed in the historic false front building shown in this 1920s photo.
…Mayo region
These developments brought
stability to the Mayo region. During
the 1920s and 1930s, about 1,000
people worked the mines which
were a mainstay of the Yukon’s
After the second world war, more
than half a dozen mines were
in production in the Keno Hill
area. In 1952, the Government of
Canada had enough faith in the
future of mining here that it built
a hydro dam on the Mayo River
to supply power to the mines and
communities in the Mayo district.
United Keno Hill Mines Limited
continued to operate until 1989.
Several efforts to revive the mine
since then have failed. The mine
buildings still stand, empty and
quiet. Much like Dawson City in
recent years, the Mayo regional
economy today relies less on mining
than it has for 100 years.
The Mayo dam and power plant,
no longer needed for mining, now
supply hydropower to Dawson City.
In 1900, the White Pass and Yukon
Railway completed a 110-mile line
from Skagway to the Yukon interior.
The terminus was Whitehorse, a
brand-new company town located
at the end of steel and the head of
Yukon River navigation.
Whitehorse became an important
distribution centre. The town
featured a mix of commercial and
institutional buildings, including an
elaborate wood frame railway depot.
Although much of the downtown
core was destroyed by fire in 1905, it
was swiftly rebuilt.
Whitehorse was also a mining
centre. From 1900 to 1920,
thousands of tonnes of high-grade
hand-cobbed (sorted) copper ore
from mines in the Whitehorse
Copper Belt were shipped to
tidewater by rail.
Whitehorse became a boomtown
in the second world war. Just as
the gold rush had been driven
by Americans, so too was the
…history continues, page 9
In the first half of the 20th century, the White Pass and Yukon Route’s warehouses
dominated the Whitehorse waterfront. Anything headed for the central Yukon
mining sites was transferred from rail to sternwheeler here.
FONDS, #5903
Territorial Auto Parts owner Chuck Suley
asked his contractor to build in any
energy saving features that would pay for
themselves in five years or less. The result
is a well insulated building with perimeter
insulation around the slab and a forced
air oil system that features two furnaces.
The secondary furnace only comes on
when the receiving door is open.
Land selection and site planning
As an urban planner, Ian Robertson of Inukshuk Planning and Development knows from experience that site planning is a critical
step in the building process. Everyone has a role to play, including the building owner, design consultants and regulatory authorities.
Robertson suggests the following as a basic site planning checklist.
Landscaping – interior, exterior
1What opportunities and constraints flow
from these bylaws?
1What will the landscaping look like in
different seasons?
1How do the bylaws affect site layout,
building massing and orientation?
1What are the right plant materials for this
climate zone and where should they go?
1Are the building setback requirements
restrictive or flexible?
1Is the proposed use appropriate for the
Site history
1If the property is being redeveloped, has
a thorough check for any environmental
liability been done?
1How was the site used in the past?
1Is the site contaminated?
1Was the site part of a larger site and
1Is the site in a floodplain?
1Is there a geotechnical report?
1If a building already exists, can it be
refurbished or can the materials be
recycled or salvaged?
Zoning and building bylaws
1What are the right plant materials to
enhance the building appearance and
property value?
1How and who will maintain the interior
and exterior landscaping?
The original Federal Building on Main
Street featured a well-used green space
in front.
1Can roof run-off be used for irrigation and
if not, where will it be discharged?
1Could graywater from the building be
used for irrigation?
1Does the site allow orientation of the
building for solar heat gain, better daylighting and energy cost savings?
1Does the slope of the site offer
opportunities for earth-sheltered
1How will wind affect heating costs and the
quality of air drawn into the building?
1Could access be obtained from multiple
1How will wind affect building doors, air
intakes and chimneys?
1Can site grading reduce drainage
problems and site maintenance costs?
1Can landscaping and screening diminish
the negative effects of wind?
1How do existing traffic patterns and
volumes affect access to the property?
1How will winter winds affect snow buildup
around the site and where will the snow
on the site be stored?
1How will the building’s orientation,
visibility and parking locations affect
Land clearing
1If access points are limited and good
access is the priority, how will this affect
other site plan elements such as buildings
or elevation?
1How will surface water and groundwater
be managed?
1Does a high water table offer an
opportunity to use groundwater heat?
1Does the entire site need to be cleared?
1Can roof surfaces and parking lots be
designed to capture, recycle, filter or
slow water discharge rates?
1Can any existing vegetation be salvaged
for future landscaping?
1How can blow-down be avoided and trees
be protected from construction damage?
1Where will the garbage dumpster go? Is
it accessible to building users and to the
waste removal company?
Water infiltration and run-off
The 1986 Andrew A. Philipsen Law Centre
in Whitehorse was originally designed for
the Hanson Street site where the Visitor
Reception Centre is now located, with its
main entrance to be on Second Avenue.
Rows of solar collecting office windows
would have faced south. However, time
pressures and lot development problems
on Hanson Street led to the building’s
relocation to Wood Street. To maintain
its main entrance on Second Avenue,
the building was rotated 180° from the
original plans. As a result, most of the
windows in the building now face north,
losing the opportunity for light and solar
Yukon’s wartime burst of activity.
In 1942, thousands of American
troops arrived to construct the
Alaska Highway as a defensive
measure. The U.S. Army surrounded
the small downtown core with
airport hangars, office buildings,
warehouses and barracks.
After the war, the Canadian
military took over operation of
the highway and airport, and
the federal government began
transferring its offices from Dawson
City to Whitehorse. In 1950, the
first year-round road built north
from Whitehorse tied Mayo, but
not Dawson City, to the new Alaska
Highway. In Takhini, Canadian
military officials and government
bureaucrats moved into the
imposing new Northwest Service
Command buildings on Range Road
as they took over responsibility for
the highway.
The building where Yukon Housing is
located on Jarvis Street uses rainwater
captured from the roof to water plant
boxes at street level.
Site lighting
1Could timed or graduated intensity
parking lot lighting save energy costs?
1Does the lighting plan create problems
with glare for neighbours or night
lighting for wildlife?
Whitehorse grew into its new role
as a government town. Two new
schools were built: Christ the
King School (now the Wood Street
Fencing, shading and screening
1Where and how can fencing, shading and
screening be placed to mitigate wind,
reduce air conditioning costs, enhance
security, and screen utility pedestals and
garbage dumpsters?
Centre) in 1948 and, in 1952,
Whitehorse High School (now
Whitehorse Elementary). By 1954,
a new federal building housed
the post office, courthouse and
government offices.
In the late 1950s, a steady flow
of federal money helped build
the bridge to Riverdale, a new
hospital, the Whitehorse hydro
dam and government housing. This
construction activity, along with
several mining projects, boosted
the confidence of the private sector.
Military families and government
employees living in Takhini,
Valleyview and Hillcrest helped
support the development of retail
Prosperous times
The 1960s were a busy period for
mining and construction in the
Yukon, but the Faro mine, which
came into production in 1969,
overshadowed them all.
The Cyprus-Anvil mine
development included an openpit mine, mill, industrial service
…history continues, page 11
The Watson Lake municipal building,
shown here under construction, illustrates
the tradeoffs that may have to be made
when siting a building. The decision to face
the building with a view over Wye Lake put
most windows on the north side. An earth
berm on the south side of the completed
building now rules out solar gain.
1How can building location and
landscaping, as well as the choice of
lighting and parking layout, affect safety
and security on the site?
Safety and security
1 U.S. Army barracks at Whitehorse. 2 Main Street and Third Avenue corner
of the 1954 Federal Building. 3 This building at 200 Range Road, part of the
Northwest Service Command complex, still houses federal government offices. It,
and other buildings in the complex, were once heated by a district boiler plant.
4 Rolf Hougen began to build his company in the 1940s, working out of his parents’
business. By 1949, the Hougens store was located between Third and Fourth
avenues, on Main Street. The business expanded in 1952 by taking over the bowling
alley next door. In 1960, construction began on the two-storey, 10,000-square-foot,
concrete building seen here beside the then-Taku Hotel.
The building
The building envelope is the combination
of air-vapour barrier, windows, doors,
insulation and wind barrier that keeps
heat or coolness inside and weather out.
Ferguson Simek Clark Engineers and
Architects designed the Chief Zzeh Gittlit
School and the administration building
(below) in Old Crow using similar designs.
The school uses less heating and electrical
energy per square foot than any other
school in the Yukon, despite Old Crow’s
severe climate.
Smaller-scale, stick-frame commercial
construction generally uses a combination
of insulated 2x6 walls and an air-vapour
barrier, with 2x3 strapping on the studs or
2x3 steel studs set 19 mm inside the 2x6
wall. The air-vapour barrier inside and an
exterior air barrier keep moisture out of
the building structure.
Todd Hardy, long-time Yukon builder
and Carpenters Union business agent,
offers an explanation for what Youso
has observed. He says that the trend in
the project management approach to
commercial construction contributes
to a “breakdown” of the trades into
narrower specialities. Workers with highly
specific skills move in and out on strict
schedules and journey carpenters with a
full understanding of how the pieces work
together are not as common on the job.
In his view, this approach blurs
accountability on the worksite, leads to
missed details, and places a heavy onus
on inspectors to ensure that construction
details are properly executed. “Inspectors
are not able to see everything that
happens,” he notes.
He worries that workers with limited
specialized skills may not understand the
importance of building envelope integrity.
Subtrade workers may not appreciate that
leaks left around a mechanical installation
may actually sabotage the operation of
the systems they are installing.
In the course of his work in commercial
buildings, energy specialist Mike Youso of
Arctech Associates often finds unsealed
openings around mechanical vents, ducts
and chimneys, and around electrical
penetrations. He points out that air testing
(depressurizing the structure to identify
envelope air leaks) is done on R-2000
houses and during residential energy
audits but seldom happens on commercial
level buildings.
Typical wall section
Since 1990, Ferguson Simek Clark
Engineers and Architects, known for its
work in severe climates, has used what
it calls an “exoskeleton” on all of its
buildings. A single membrane, which
acts as both an air and vapour barrier, is
applied to the exterior of the structural
elements and then covered on the outside
by layers of foamboard insulation.
Building envelopes on commercial
buildings vary, depending on construction
materials. On larger, steel-framed
buildings, torched-on membranes can
form an air-vapour barrier between the
structure and the insulation that is applied
to the outside of the building.
The structure of the Thompson
Centre ceiling and roof featured many
intersections that complicated installation
of the air-vapour barrier. This, combined
with a change in building use that
generated higher humidity levels,
resulted in moisture buildup in the roof’s
structure and serious deterioration.
Northerm Windows, established in
Whitehorse in 1985, builds high-end
windows for the north. According to
president David Borud, “They are the
best tested window you can get for the
Their product tests out so well that it is
being considered for the internationally
used ENERGY STAR® rating which
recognizes energy efficient products.
The Yukon’s own window
The Faro mine drove the Yukon economy through the 1970s and 1980s.
Northerm windows rate at the top
of the class for insulation values and
structural strength. Under the Canadian
Standards Association window rating
system, they also score top ratings for
airtightness, watertightness, wind load
resistance and resistance to breakage.
…Prosperous times
complex, small shopping centre and
an entire townsite, complete with
recreation centre. Its construction
brought a wave of workers to the
territory. At its height, the mine
employed over 1,000 workers.
Overnight, Faro became the second
most populous community in the
These windows easily meet the energy
conservation requirements for climatic
zones C and D — the colder parts of
Canada — as set by the Model National
Energy Code for Buildings.
White Pass, by then the Yukon’s
major transportation company,
scaled up to handle the Faro mine
ore haul. It shifted activity to the
Marwell industrial area where it
moved its truck maintenance facility
from downtown.
From its plant in Whitehorse, Northerm
supplies markets in the Yukon, northern
British Columbia, the western Arctic
and southeast Alaska. The balance of
the Alaskan market is served from its
production facility in Anchorage.
In Marwell, steel-framed metal-clad
buildings went up, manufactured
by companies such as Butler or
Permasteel. Local contracting
companies built the foundations
and outside steelworkers erected the
structures. Quick to put up, they
were costly to operate. The buildings
leaked heat through their steel
frames, even when the walls and
ceilings were insulated.
By 1972, the Government of Canada
had invested more than $28 million
in infrastructure support for the
Faro mine, including construction
of the road from Carmacks to Faro
and the powerline from Whitehorse
to Faro.
The power needs of the Faro mine
led to expansion of the Whitehorse
Rapids generating plant’s capacity
and, in 1975, the construction of the
Aishihik hydro dam and powerline.
The commercial and institutional
sectors in Whitehorse grew to
meet the demands of construction
activity and infrastructure
The Yukon government building
on Second Avenue expressed
the confidence of the 1970s in
architectural terms with its bigscale, open concept office design.
…history continues, page 13
By 1976, when the Yukon government building (seen here under construction)
was fully commissioned, it accommodated almost all Whitehorse-based Yukon
government employees. Built with an open concept, it was later carved up into
office spaces with permanent partitions that challenged the heating, ventilation
and air conditioning systems and generated concerns about air quality.
Windows and
values also allow designers freedom to
use more of them to increase day-lighting
and reduce a building’s electrical lighting
energy needs. Those daylight savings can
be increased by the use of complementary
electrical lighting systems.
The R-value of windows has improved
exponentially since the end of the 1980s,
making them heavy-duty performers in
energy efficient buildings. When installed
on southern exposures, they can mean
a net energy gain allowing a building to
capture solar energy, and thus reduce
heating costs. Their good insulating
Designing for day-lighting in the
Yukon poses special challenges. Drastic
differences in the sun’s angle from season
to season, long winter nights and long
summer days all have to be factored into
design decisions. Windows that work well
Sunshades and windows
Electrical systems
According to electrical engineer Ross
Dorward, workplace and technology
changes have created opportunities for
more efficient use of electrical energy for
lighting in commercial and institutional
buildings. Paper-oriented offices used to
have lighting levels of up to 100 or 120
foot-candles. Today, with most offices using
computers, light levels between 40 and 50
foot-candles offer better energy efficiency
and improved workplace atmosphere.
In the early spring and late fall, the
shades allow solar gain during days of
low-angle sun. Combined with light
shelves and a reflective ceiling, the
sunshades can bounce natural daylight
(again, during spring and fall) through a
south-facing room.
The spacing of the shading “blades”
prevents snow build-up and reduces
Interior lighting in the building is
controlled by daylight-sensing switches
that turn lights off when there is enough
natural light, and on again at dusk.
In practical terms, this often means that
four-tube, T-12 fluorescent fixtures can be
replaced by more efficient two-tube, T-8
lamps with electronic ballasts.
Building owners who upgrade their
lighting often find they can recover their
costs within three years.
Other electrical improvements can
generate savings. When Dorward
conducts an electrical energy audit, he
completes an analysis of a building’s
electrical system and provides
recommendations for changes. These go
to the owner, along with estimated costs
and calculated payback periods.
The lighting system itself uses a
combination of direct and indirect
fluorescent fixtures that bounce light off
the ceiling to provide more even, diffused
light in the workspace.
On the south face of the Mayo school
(bottom), triple pane low-e windows
have a “Solar Cool” coating that reflects
85% of the sun’s rays so that the building does not overheat during long spring
days. The windows are equipped with
large exterior one-piece sunshades. Photo
and occupancy sensors maintain minimum light levels throughout the building.
Clerestory windows, set high in interior
walls, can assist solar gain at appropriate
seasons and limit it during the peak of
summer when the sun is high overhead.
They can also diffuse glare with the
selection of appropriate glazing.
Northerm Windows worked with the
architects designing the Yukon Energy
building to develop windows that would
complement that building’s daylight
sensing lighting system.
The Yukon Energy building (top) features
external sunshades, or “brise-soleil,”
mounted a quarter of the way down the
windows. These sunshades are designed
to limit sun penetration into the building
when the sun is most intense between
mid-May and mid-August. In the heat of
summer, this helps to ease the load on
the cooling system.
Low-e soft coatings on two of the six
triple pane window surfaces offer a twoway benefit. In the winter, they bounce
heat back into the interior. In the summer
they reflect incoming solar energy to
keep the building from overheating.
for lighting during the middle of summer
may let in too much heat and glare in
spring and late summer when the sun’s
angle is lower. Skylights that diffuse light
during spring and fall might overheat an
interior in the summer or be covered by
snow during the winter.
In new construction, good engineering
design requires the use of energy efficient
products whenever possible, within the
limits of the client’s budget.
A range of new technology is available to
the designer. Occupancy sensors, daylight
sensors and low voltage control systems
for lighting are all part of contemporary
lighting design for energy efficient
The interior of the workers’ compensation
building on Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse
has clerestory windows high in the southfacing wall. They have translucent glazing
that allows for solar gain and natural
light without creating hard shadows. The
building is built for expansion upwards
with a roof insulation system that can
be removed to allow construction of
an additional floor. The glue-laminated
beams could be re-used if the building
were ever demolished.
…Prosperous times
Times change
By the end of the 1970s, with the
Faro mine well established and
expectations of an Alaska Highway
natural gas pipeline running
high, Whitehorse witnessed the
construction of some substantial
private sector buildings as well,
including the Optometrists Building
on Second Avenue and the Keith
Plumbing and Heating building on
Burns Road.
The Faro mine, combined with
government spending, appeared
to offer the Yukon unprecedented
economic security. But in 1982, a
new mine owner shut down the
mine in the face of a strike, pulling
the plug on the territorial economy.
In the early 1980s, the Yukon
government built the Mayo
administration building, and by the
mid-1980s, Whitehorse banks all
had modern buildings.
The construction of the Financial
Plaza Building on Second Avenue
at Lambert Street mirrored the ups
and downs of the Faro mine. The
first floors were built in 1980, prior
to the shutdown. Additional floors
were added in 1987 following the
restart of the mine in 1986. The
…history continues, page 15
Dorward says that in other areas of
electrical systems, high efficiencies are
already being realized. When he worked
with CBIP on the Yukon Energy building
and the Mayo school projects, he could
only make improvements to his standard
design practices by bringing in new
technologies such as the daylight sensors.
As someone who cares about how power
is used, Dorward is delighted with the
Renewable Power Sales Incentive Program,
which sells surplus hydroelectricity at
discount rates. He calls it “the most positive
thing in five years” and says it has meant
major savings for owners, as well as work
for contractors and engineers. Best of all,
hydropower is not being wasted by spilling
it over the dam. It is being put to work.
A low voltage control system can be
programmed to switch on building lighting
at the start of the working day and switch
it off after working hours. A key in an
entrance door might be programmed to
trigger hallway lighting. Manual overrides
or occupancy sensors allow janitors or
employees working late to light just
the areas actually used. Systems can be
programmed to do timed scans of a
building through the night to shut down
any lights left on.
Occupancy sensors turn on or shut off
lights depending on whether a building
space is being used or not. Daylight sensors
vary light levels in a given area according
to the natural lighting available. Low
voltage control systems allow for computerprogrammed remote control of the lighting
in a building.
1 The Optometrists Building, looking more sophisticated than most downtown
buildings, is a steel-framed structure with concrete floors. Built in 1978 at the
peak of the first Alaska pipeline frenzy, it showcased the cultured stone that
Wayne Richardson, one of the building owners, was selling at the time and
features bronze trim ordered from Winnipeg. Energy improvements made over
time include installation of more efficient lights and oil-heated service hot water.
After a second-floor fire in 2001, low-e windows were installed on the second
floor, as well as a better insulated roof. 2 A series of improvements made to the
1978 Keith Plumbing and Heating building make it an efficient energy performer
today. Direct digital controls for the HVAC system were installed in 1996. A lighting
retrofit in 1998-1999 reduced energy use by 30%. The roof was renovated in 2000
with a torched-on membrane and four inches of rigid foam insulation. In 2003,
antiquated walk-in freezers were replaced with ozone friendly new units that may
reduce energy consumption by 25%. 3 In the early 1980s, government buildings
were constructed in a number of Yukon communities. This administration building
in Mayo shows as having good energy performance on the Public Buildings Energy
Tracking System.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning
(HVAC) systems have evolved significantly
over the last 20 years, as have the
challenges faced by mechanical designers.
At one time, designing for the north
meant coming up with systems that could
economically heat buildings during winter
extremes. Today, building envelopes are
efficient enough that northern designers
also have to give consideration to cooling.
This is especially true when buildings
are designed to collect passive solar heat
— a plus during the winter months, but a
possible problem during long spring and
summer days.
Good air quality and make-up air for
combustion and exhaust appliances also
require more attention in today’s tighter
heat pumps, and hybrid systems are
now economic options for heating and
cooling commercial buildings. Surplus
hydroelectricity at discount rates also
makes electrical boilers and heating
systems a greenhouse gas reducing
Air quality
HVAC designers have to plan fresh air
input and stale air exhaust to maintain
good interior air quality. In the Yukon’s
cold climate, heating outdoor ventilation
air is one of the greatest energy costs.
The direct digital control system for
the Whitehorse aquatic centre can be
adjusted from this computer.
Heat recovery ventilators that use heat
from building exhaust air to pre-heat
incoming fresh air can lower energy costs
in two ways: by reducing the amount
of energy that has to be used to heat
incoming air, and by allowing for smaller
heating units. These heat recovery
ventilators significantly reduce the cost of
winter ventilation air and maintain indoor
air quality.
The community centre in Haines Junction
uses this type of ventilation control.
On new HVAC systems, digital controls
are frequently used to efficiently maintain
occupant comfort in distributed heating
and ventilation systems that supply
different zones in a building.
Digital controls are a sub-system
within the HVAC systems designed
by mechanical engineers. Electrical
contractors, such as Arcrite Northern and
Dynamic Systems, usually supply and
install direct digital control systems and
employ specialized electronics technicians
to program their controls.
To help ensure better indoor air, designers
can also specify finishing materials, floor
covering, adhesives and paints that emit
fewer, volatile organic compounds.
In the Mayo school, high indoor air
quality was a goal of the designers, so
they chose low volatile organic compound
finishes such as natural wood, linoleum
and latex paint finishes. Note the use of
clerestory windows to light the interior.
Commercial buildings that use electrical
heating and alternative heating
approaches that do not burn fuels offer
better air quality because they do not emit
particulates that could be drawn back into
the building’s supply air.
Andre Fortin, a partner in Dynamic
Systems, says that retrofitting existing
ventilation systems with digital controls
can be very cost effective. He says that
digital controls and a multi-speed fan
installed at Peak Fitness in Riverdale Plaza
reduced power bills by 50% and paid for
the installation in just three months.
Direct digital controls
Direct digital control systems (also
known as DDC) for HVAC systems are
an increasingly common component in
commercial and institutional buildings.
Installed as an integrated part of new
systems or as add-ons to existing ones,
they allow programmed operation of
HVAC systems. Heating and ventilation
can be programmed to drop down to
lower levels overnight and to come back
on-line when buildings are in use.
These controls can also modify the
blend of outdoor air and recirculated air
supplying the HVAC system, depending
on factors such as indoor/outdoor
temperature differential and the
concentration of carbon dioxide from
occupant respiration. CO2 control can
very effectively reduce ventilation costs
in buildings with intermittent, large
occupancy loads like community centres.
The Silver Centre has air-handling units
mounted on balconies to allow the use of
less expensive off-the-shelf units, reduce
the amount of ducting required and allow
individual control of the environment on
each half floor. Separate metering of both
HVAC units and lighting in the same areas
encourages friendly competition about
who has the best conservation ethic and
lowest utility bills.
The push for energy conservation during
the 1980s and 1990s encouraged the
development of more efficient burners,
boilers and air exchange units. It also
accelerated development of technology
that is not based on fossil fuels like oil
or propane. Ground source or air-to-air
ventilation and
air conditioning
To be effective, digital controls require
programming specifically adapted to the
changing demands of the climate and the
various activities within the building.
Complaints about comfort and air quality
in new buildings often stem from poorly
adjusted systems, not from their actual
design. These sophisticated control
systems can only work correctly when the
information on the control screen actually
matches what is going on in the HVAC
Mike Youso, who specializes in balancing
HVAC systems, also works with digital
controls. He advocates controls with user
friendly software and display screens
which clearly show the building operator
what the system is doing.
The Financial Plaza Building on Lambert Street was originally a two-storey building
erected in 1980. In 1987, new floors were added. The new construction featured
spray-on insulation and coated windows to improve energy efficiency. More
efficient lighting was installed in 2002-2003 and a SOLARWALL ® installation is
under consideration. This would use solar energy to pre-heat the air brought into
the building.
For example, especially in the north, there
may be problems if there is no budget
for commissioning and balancing. This
testing, fine tuning and tweaking of HVAC
systems ensures they are delivering what
the design engineers intended and what
the users need.
…Times change
new construction was more energy
efficient with better windows and
more insulation.
There was renewed confidence in
the second half of the 1980s, shown
by the construction of the Shoppers
Drug Mart and Sword buildings.
Heat pumps and earth
energy systems
In the 1990s, Yukon architects came
into their own. Locally designed
schools became the centrepieces in
a number of Yukon communities:
HVAC engineer Eric Albertini says that
although there has been a large push for
the use of heat pumps in the Yukon in
the last year, they are not a universal tool.
“They definitely have their applications
if you are designing for simultaneous
heating and cooling loads,” he says. In
that kind of situation, they are more likely
to generate energy savings.
Ferguson Simek Clark’s Chief Zzeh
Gittlit School in Old Crow, Charles
McLaren’s Ross River School and
Kobayashi + Zedda’s J.V. Clark
School in Mayo.
The Watson Lake School is connected to a waste heat recovery
system that uses heat generated
by The Yukon Electrical Company
Limited’s diesel power plant in that
community. This gives the building
…history continues, page 17
The Yukon Brewing Company uses a heat
pump to cool tanks in the building at the
same time it heats the interior air. Another
energy efficiency at the brewery is the use
of a fresh water coil to cool the beer wort
(malt extract). The heat removed from the
wort preheats water which is saved in a
tank for the next brewing batch.
Heat pumps can move heat between two
fluids or from air-to-air. Even if the inside
of a fridge is cold, it can be made colder
by removing additional heat. This is also
true on a larger scale. Even outside air
has heat that can be taken from it with a
heat pump and transferred inside to heat
a building.
Albertini sees good potential for the use
of heat pump technology in the new
multiplex where there will be heating
demands for the swimming pools and
cooling demands for the ice rink surfaces.
1 The Robert Service School in Dawson City was the first of a number of new
schools constructed in the Yukon, beginning in the late 1980s. 2 The Watson Lake
School uses waste heat from diesel electric generators. 3 The Shoppers Drug
Mart and Sword buildings on Main Street were constructed in 1986, joined by a
pedestrian overpass on Third Avenue.
Ten metres down, earth or ground
water remains at a remarkably consistent
temperature — with a value close to the
average annual air temperature. This
allows ground source heat pumps to work
efficiently year-round.
Earth energy systems can offer energy use
reductions of 30% to 70% when used for
heating and 20% to 95% when used for
Commercial earth energy systems can
feed a variety of systems: air-based or
hydronic (water-based) in either central or
distributed systems. Distributed systems
that use heat pumps connected in parallel
can allow one heat pump in the circuit
(say, on the north side of a building) to
pump heat from the loop into the room
while another (on a solar-heated side)
takes heat from that area, cooling the area
and feeding the heat removed into the
Centralized systems using larger heat
pumps can feed fan coil units in various
zones of a building. Four-pipe fan coil
systems can heat or cool different areas
simultaneously. During the summer, a
four-pipe system can use the cool ground
for free cooling.
Setnam Rai, owner of Yukon Honda, is
looking forward to the day when he will
have a water licence that will allow him
to use two wells drilled on his property
to heat his car dealership. He says he was
looking into being more environmentally
friendly when he planned the building. He
worked with the Energy Solutions Centre
to investigate options and earth energy
was the option chosen. Studies showed
Earth energy system benefits
• Lowest life-cycle cost.
• Lower operating and maintenance
• Small mechanical room.
• Aesthetic design with no roof
• Improved comfort with individual
room control.
• Even temperatures.
• Lower humidity.
• Renewable energy option.
• Lowest greenhouse gas emissions.
that an aquifer under the property would
more than meet his heating needs.
Ian Stallabrass, of True Scale Design and
Drafting, says “We should have started
talking about earth energy systems six
months before we did.” As it happened,
construction was well underway and heat
pump equipment was ordered before it
became apparent that the Yukon Water
Board approval would not be secured
before the building was commissioned.
The result is a crowded HVAC room and a
hybrid system that will generate savings
so long as discount surplus hydropower
sales are available.
Stallabrass says that Rai was an unusual
client in that he was willing to make a
bigger upfront commitment to install
energy saving components. For example,
make-up air for the shop exhaust system
is preheated by a large reversing flow
heat exchanger, which the manufacturer
claims is 85% to 95% efficient. In the
shop, where huge air exchanges take
place when the shop door is opened, oilfired radiant heat comes on only when
the door opens. That way, the normal
In the Yukon climate, earth energy
systems may have greater potential since
air-to-air systems decrease in efficiency as
air temperatures decrease.
Extra cooling was easily added to this
utility room at Yukon Energy. The building draws groundwater from a well at a
constant 5°C for building cooling, and
discharges the warmer water into a rock
pit. Four pipes, two hot and two cold,
serve fan coil ventilation units distributed
throughout the building. This allows the
building to be managed by zones, drawing heat or cold when and where needed.
balance of the primary heating system is
not affected.
The heat pump system in the building is
organized in zones that allow solar heat
gains in the showroom to compensate for
heat losses in the shop.
Rai believes that the energy costs
to operate his new building will be
significantly lower than those for other
car dealerships of comparable size. He is
convinced that his investment in energy
efficiency will pay off for years to come.
The Yukon Honda building, which opened in 2003, is currently heated with a hybrid heat pump system that can use either oil or
electric boilers for heat but is designed to work as an earth energy system when connected to a ground loop on the property. The
roof-mounted reversing flow heat exchanger is 85% to 95% efficient.
Hot water heating
Gold Rush Inn owner, Doug Thomas, is
sold on the merits of solar hot water. His
hotel has had a commercial-scale solar
water heating system for almost 20 years.
When the initial system reached the end
of its economic age, he re-invested in
efficient evacuated tube replacement
Solar hot water systems use roof-mounted
evacuated tube panels to pre-heat water
supplying a conventional oil, propane or
electrically heated hot water tank.
Seasonal swimming pools at Dawson City
and Haines Junction also use solar heating.
Ron Hatton, who has installed many
Yukon solar systems, finds them simple
and almost maintenance free. “Solar
hot water systems all work,” he says.
“Whether they’re cost effective depends
on the expectations of the user.”
Hatton recommends the following:
• Document the water use requirements.
Hot water use at the Gold Rush Inn was
monitored for six months and then
matched with occupancy rates to get
firm numbers to guide system design.
• Anticipate a 10- to 15-year payback
term. Solar hot water provides longterm economic benefits.
• Consider your seasonal hot water
• Orient your building and roof to take
advantage of solar gain and allow for
mounting of solar panels.
He found that high solar productivity
from May to the end of August was a
good match for his hotel which usually
experiences its highest occupancy rates
1 The 1992 workers compensation
building has a love-it or hate-it
“industrial” exterior with yellow
playmobile-like windows set off against
dark blue metal cladding. Space was
left on the site for trees and plantings.
2 The Elijah Smith federal building
on Main Street features a large open
courtyard backed by a wall of windows
on the atrium. 3 Home to l’Association
franco-yukonnaise, this French-style
building is a real eye-catcher.
…Times change
the best school energy consumption
figures in the territory.
The look of Whitehorse changed
significantly in the 1990s. A new
federal building gave Main Street
a more contemporary look, as did
local store owners who renovated
the exteriors of their buildings.
The Yukon Workers’ Compensation
Health and Safety Board building
on Fourth Avenue, the Whitehorse
Travel and L’Association francoyukonnaise buildings on Third
Avenue, the Silver Centre on Black
Street, and the new Yukon Visitor
Reception Centre on Second Avenue
all contributed to a new visual
The new century ushered in the era
of the box-store in Whitehorse with
construction of Wal-Mart on the
Argus site and the Real Canadian
Superstore on a site that used to be
a transfer yard for White Pass ore
A combination of economic
uncertainty and increased
environmental awareness has
led designers to factor more
energy efficient features into their
buildings. Today, nationally and
internationally recognized buildings
such as the Yukon Energy building
and the Mayo school provide
models for Yukon designers to
The Energy Solutions Centre worked with the designers of the new Real Canadian
Superstore, which opened in 2003, to incorporate some energy efficient features.
These included waste heat recovery from store refrigeration and use of secondary
electrical boilers to work with surplus hydroelectricity.
Doug Thomas showing off vacuum tube
solar collectors on the roof of the Gold
Rush Inn.
Energy Solutions Centre
The Energy Solutions Centre, established
in 2000 as a joint project of the
Government of the Yukon and Natural
Resources Canada, is a resource for
building owners, designers and builders
who are interested in constructing
energy efficient and ecologically
appropriate buildings or increasing
energy efficiency of existing buildings.
To do this, the Energy Solutions Centre
provides technical services, supports
the development of private sector
energy expertise, conducts research,
and supports demonstration projects
for efficiency and renewable energy
technologies. It also promotes energy
awareness and delivers territorial and
federal efficiency and renewable energy
programs that provide integrated energy
The integrated design process workshop
at the Green Building Design Competition
provided training opportunities for
Yukoners. The logo for the green building
design program is inset above.
Most popular among these today is
the Renewable Power Sales Incentive
Program, which encourages commercial
building retrofits to allow the use of
surplus hydroelectricity.
The Energy Solutions Centre also offers
comprehensive efficiency and renewable
energy audits for commercial buildings
to look at the operating efficiency of
current buildings, propose options
for increasing energy efficiency or
employing renewable energy, and
provide estimates of payback periods for
those options.
Through the Professional Development
for Sustainable Energy Solutions
Cooperation Agreement, Yukon
Development Corporation and the
Energy Solutions Centre have partnered
with the Association of Professional
Engineers of Yukon, to develop the
Yukon’s technical capacity by assisting
the professional development of Yukon
engineers, allied professionals and
technical occupations.
Putting it all
The Energy Solutions
Centre operates out of a
private sector building
that is acting as a test
bed for energy efficient
construction alternatives.
The dark panel on the
south face of the building
is a SOLARWALL ®. Even in
cold temperatures, it can
harvest solar heat. On the
roof are three solar array
panels which heat the hot
water for the building.
Energy efficient buildings with good
indoor air quality are especially important
in the Yukon, given the amount of time
we spend indoors during our long, cold
Building must begin with a solid plan. To
to work together. Using an integrated
design process will assure collaboration
amongst all the parties involved.
be successful, all the design elements have
From land selection and site planning,
to the way the building goes up, to the
electrical, heating, ventilation and air
conditioning systems, everything needs to
work together.
The plan for the building must also
include maintenance and upkeep of the
structure and its systems into the future.
The way of constructing buildings is
changing to take into account all of these
factors that contribute to green buildings.
In the process, Yukon designers, architects
and engineers are winning awards and
setting trends for the future.
Green building design support service
If you are planning a new commercial or institutional structure in the Yukon, you
can take advantage of the green building design support service offered by the
Energy Solutions Centre. Contractors are available to work with you investigating and
evaluating sites, including selection of northern-appropriate approaches to siting a
building. They will also help you with selection of a design team and can arrange for
an integrated design process. You can chose to continue contact with the contractors
for any questions or concerns that arise throughout the life of the project.
The service is currently working on a variety of buildings, including a co-op housing
project, the athletes’ village that will be part of the 2007 Canada Winter Games
complex, and a resort near Carcross.
This service is available at no charge to the public.
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