Kirchoffer – Environmental Design Strategies

On March 5th, our residential project, ‘Kirchoffer’, was granted a LEED Platinum designation! We are incredibly excited with this designation because although some of our other projects also have LEED designations, Kirchoffer marks Linebox’s first LEED Platinum project. This home is also only the 12th LEED Platinum residential project in Ottawa.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Certification is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. This rating system details 4 tiers of sustainability: LEED certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum designations. This certification is given to designated buildings which achieve outstanding sustainability measures, while efficiently reducing environmental impact.

Working with the client, we came up with and implemented various environmental design strategies aimed at tackling these challenges. These strategies are focused on two key areas, water, and energy.

Water is an underappreciated resource, especially in Canada, which has the highest renewable water per capita score in the world. Compared to Cape Town, South Africa, which experienced a water crisis mid-2018 as it neared “Day Zero”. Despite our lack of urgency for this resource, the architectural implementation of water efficient strategies plays a large part in achieving sustainability.

Rooftop deck with hot tub, patio and panoramic views of the Ottawa River.

One of the ways that we can reduce water usage is through greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting. Grey water is the term given to water which has been used in the sinks, showers, and washing machines. This water contains vital nutrients which are used to irrigate Kirchoffer’s intensive and extensive green roof system. Beyond the benefit of fertilization for the green systems, greywater harvesting also keeps greywater out of the septic system which may prevent pollution of local bodies of water.

Master bath with custom made concrete sinks, glass-walled shower and separate soaker tub. 

Another water efficient strategy implemented in Kirchoffer is through rainwater harvesting. This self-explanatory strategy collects rainwater which is then stored in a cistern underneath the deck. This water is then used for flushing toilets, laundry, and irrigation. While not implemented in this project, harvested rainwater can be treated for drinking and showering, further reducing the environmental impact.

Side view of the home.

A comparatively small strategy that we use in all of our residential projects, is specifying a permeable paving material. This allows water run off during storms to be absorbed into the pavement and ground below, instead of being directed into the street and increasing the load on storm sewers.

Energy conservation can be as simple as changing out filament light bulbs for LEDs, to as complicated as installing an entire green roof system. At Kirchoffer, we explored strategies ranging in complexity and scale.

One of the major problem areas for heat loss in residential housing is through windows. To combat this, we specified triple-glazed, high-performance windows. Instead of 2 panes of glass, like in a double glazed solution, triple-glazed windows have 3 panes of glass. Space between the glass panes is often times filled with a mixture of argon gas and the captive air. Because of argon’s density, it increases the thermal insulation capacity of the window when compared to a non-argon solution.

Back view at Kirchoffer. Large glass doors can be opened to the back patio and allow the outdoors inside the living area. The pool is tucked off to the right beside the home. 

 

In addition to being the most energy efficient glazing option, triple-glazed windows are also incredibly durable, long-lasting and a safer option compared to double glazed windows.

Some aftermarket strategies that were used were making sure all lights were LED and installation of an electric car charger.

The largest, most involved environmental design strategy, the green roof system, provides both water and energy benefits. This system is comprised of two parts, the extensive green roof system, a thin layer of vegetation that lays ontop of the roof system, and the intensive system, a thicker layer which can grow larger plants.

A green roof system helps to capture rainwater as it flows into the lightweight soil layer versus onto the street. The water which is captured is released back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration, the process by which water evaporates from the soil and plants into the atmosphere. The evaporation reduces the ambient temperature of the area, a great benefit in the hot summer months. In winter, the roof system acts as amazing insulation because of the thermal properties of dirt.

The backyard and deck are private, nestled among the trees with ubobstructed views to the Ottawa River.

 

Some other non-environmental benefits of a green roof system are the psychological benefits of being surrounded by nature, the reduction of air pollution and the ability to grow larger plants on the intensive green roof system. The owners of Kirchoffer, are currently growing blueberries on their roof!

All of these strategies create an amazing final build that not only acts as a home to those who inhabit it but also as an environmentally conscious entity. In addition to sustainability, these strategies also aim to reduce the cost of the home in the long run. By thoughtfully integrating these strategies, we were able to achieve LEED Platinum status as well as making a strong statement about Linebox’s continued commitment to environmental best practices.  

Looking onto the back of the home from the bike path separating the home and the beach.