Retrofitted North Rustico apartment complex earns LEED silver status

Mary MacKay
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What does a small rural apartment building in North Rustico have in common with the large urban federal Jean Canfield building in Charlottetown?

They are sister structures in a way, because both are leading the way in the province in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

LEED is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighborhoods.

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The Jean Canfield building was certified LEED Gold in 2011.

The seven-unit apartment building was certified LEED silver just a few weeks ago.

“It’s the first retrofit in Atlantic Canada and first apartment building in P.E.I. that’s been certified as a LEED building (on P.E.I.),” says Charlottetown developer Kelvin McQuaid, who conducted the project with his Living Earth Construction team.

McQuaid purchased the harbourside property, which is the former North Rustico legion, two years ago with the intention of transforming it into a super-insulated, airtight structure that would qualify for LEED for Homes certification.

“The reason I was interested in this project was because of the view. It’s an unbelievable view and it’s only a two-minute walk to the lobster boats or to the wharf where you can fish. They’re actually fishing smelts right now. It’s a seven- or eight-minute walk to the beach.

“When it’s a full moon it comes right down in the harbour. Every day it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful for different reasons — almost every hour,” he says.

“So I thought it was a beautiful site and a big, big, big building — what could we did it with it? I felt like it would make a really good apartment complex.”

The idea was to pretty much start from scratch and work up using solid wood board instead of soft particleboard.

“It’s basically totally retrofitted. It’s totally redone. We took out all the walls right to the studs. . . . There were only four-inch studs on the walls so we built them out to six inches.

“And then after we did another wall — a horizontal wall — so it’s double wall, so now it’s nine inches,” McQuaid says.

The plumbing and electrical wiring were installed in the second wall so that the high-performance vapour barrier in the first insulated wall would not be compromised.

The oil-fired in-floor hot water heating system is the Cadillac of heating systems for its type.

There are thermostats in every room in each of the units, allowing residents to customize their heating preferences.

“So if you want to have your bathroom at 85 F you can have it at 85. If you want your bedroom at 60 F you can have it at 60,” McQuaid says.

“I find that whenever we do that our actual energy consumption drops because people want to have their bedrooms cooler and their bathrooms warmer, and the bathroom is a lot smaller unit. So this way it’s more comfortable. You can make it exactly the way the resident wants it, and you’re actually saving a lot of energy.”

The electric bill for the seven-unit property works out to be anywhere from $375 to $400 per month, which is 25 per cent more than a residential bill would be because the property is billed a commercial rate.

“For this seven-unit apartment building the average use for each apartment is nine kilowatts a day, which works out to be about $1 a day for electricity. So that’s really low,” McQuaid says.

“All of the appliances are Energy Star, which again consumes the least amount of energy possible, but still have all the convenience.”

To provide good air quality to residents, McQuaid went with an HVAC ventilation system and as many inert materials as possible, such as ceramic tile instead of vinyl flooring and solid birch cupboards rather than pressed wood cabinets to reduce off gassing.

Water consumption was also a major factor in the apartment building’s design, so low-flush toilets, low-flow showers and taps were installed.

A LEED property is conducive to the health of the resident, McQuaid says.

“It’s always nice to have a first designation, but also it encourages other people to do it — not to leave everything in the hands of government,” he adds.

“We as entrepreneurs and business people on P.E.I. are leading government, which is good for business and good for everybody.”

Organizations: Environmental Design, Cadillac

Geographic location: North Rustico, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Atlantic Canada

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