Sustainability and energy efficiency are top of mind for municipalities and their constituents. In 2020, Canada ranked as the 11th largest GHG-emitting country in the world, with 28 per cent of those emissions coming from the oil and natural gas industry. Those numbers have continued to rise, with many recent government taxes, initiatives, and policies aimed at curbing these statistics.

Geothermal energy offers a solution that is weather-decoupled, more efficient than air-source heat pumps, and provides a viable alternative to the natural gas industry that dominates the Canadian landscape.

Geosource Energy is an Ontario-based geothermal company and a pioneer in the geoexchange industry. The company has completed over 400 projects, utilizes a patented and trusted process, and since its inception in 2004 has led the charge in Ontario’s geothermal space.

Geothermal projects and heating options not only reduce our fossil fuel consumption, but also reduce peak demand on the electrical grids, and the need for investing in larger electrical infrastructure.

An example of a new project Geosource has worked on is the newly reimagined police headquarters building, Toronto Police Services – Division 41. Located at 2222 Eglinton Avenue East in Scarborough, TPS41 pushes the boundaries of what a police station typically looks and operates like. Designed by WZMH Architects the project is an ambitiously eco-friendly, modern build, aimed at meeting the Zero Carbon Building Standard.

“While the large green roof and photovoltaic roof panels indicate the building’s sustainability, many features are not readily visible such as the subgrade geothermal and electrical heating and cooling systems. A holistic design process is required to achieve true sustainability. ‘Big moves’ such as an architectural exterior that is thoughtful about window locations and sizes, combined with high performance exterior walls, reduce the amount of energy used by the building in the first place,” says Terry Huang, an architect with WZMH Architects.

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“Currently under construction, Division 41 is tracking to be TPS’s first building that will target Net Zero Carbon Emissions and one of the earliest municipal buildings achieving this goal in the City of Toronto.”

The two-storey, 60,000-square-foot facility is slated for completion in 2026 and is poised to be the first green government facility in Toronto targeting net zero emissions. Right in time for Version 5 of the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) to come into effect, a version with carbon mandates that any new building proposals from May 2025 onward must be Geothermal or fully electrical (to come into full effect May 2026).

“The design is influenced by TPS’ goal of integrating with its community. The main entrance and plaza face the main intersection to create a civic meeting place that is adjacent to a new LRT transit stop,” explains Nicola Casciato, design principal with WZMH Architects. “An engagement process was undertaken and involved several community groups, including the Aboriginal Committee, to develop the public-facing areas. The result is a highly transparent community room that is connected to a landscape of plantings that are culturally relevant to Indigenous folks. This project demonstrates that as approaches to law enforcement evolve, the architecture of police buildings must evolve in parallel.”

Features include a first-of-its-kind community room created for public events, ceremonies and gatherings, along with a dynamic exterior that boasts ballistic glass cladding and a sloped roof retrofitted with 260 solar panels generating more than 100,000 kWh of energy annually, the building creates a welcoming and transparent environment and achieves sustainability by incorporating green design features, including:

  • Utilizing geothermal energy, enhanced energy recovery air handling systems, solar PV generation, and a high-performance envelope in support of net-zero emissions. A combination of solar and greenery is incorporated into the design of the roof to address stormwater retention, and a biodiverse green roof covers more than 80% of the total project roof space. The building envelope design is approaching “Passive House” levels.
  • The project contributes to local air quality by providing priority parking options (LEV and EVSE parking spaces) and increasing the landscape green area. Large growing shade trees were proposed at Eglinton Avenue and Birchmount Road frontage to provide sufficient tree canopy on the project site. The importance of softscape and trees is also acknowledged throughout the surface parking interior at a ratio of one tree planted for every five parking spaces supplied, as per TGS Tier 2 requirements. The design also contributes to the enhancement of native/ indigenous plants, habitats and ecosystems.
  • To minimize light pollution and reduce nighttime glare, the exterior lighting is Dark Sky compliant, and the rooftop and facade architectural illumination was designed to be directed downward and turned off between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Additionally, the elevation design accounts for more than 85 per cent of the surfaces to be treated as per the City of Toronto’s Bird-Friendly Guidelines for bird collision deterrence.
“TPS41, an important community presence, is leading by example and demonstrating that clean energy can be prioritized while providing a resilient and reliable building. TPS41 is aligned with the Toronto Police motto of ‘To Serve and Protect’ by protecting the environment through a low carbon, clean energy facility and serving as an example to the community of what can be achieved through collaborative and innovative design,” states Nuno Duarte, executive vice president of the Quasar Consulting Group.

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The following are the key building performance features:

1. Ground Source Heat Exchanger providing heating, cooling, and domestic hot water
2. Highly insulated opaque walls
3. Triple glazing with low window-to-wall ratio
4. Energy recovery on all ventilation
5. Efficient Lighting Design
6. Variable speed pumping for building heating and cooling loops
7. Low-flow plumbing fixtures

Featured images credits: Geosource Energy and WZMH Architects via Idea Workshop.

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