It’s ambitious, but the principals behind it are determined to develop the area’s first net-positive building at the David Johnston Research and Technology park by 2018.

The building would go far beyond current green building standards and LEED principles to contribute to the electrical grid, while recycling water and waste and actually going beyond zero emissions.

The partnership is between Sustainable Waterloo Region, which works with local organizations to put their intentions of doing something positive for the environment into action, The Cora Group and the University of Waterloo to build an iconic green building that puts ground-breaking research into practice. The goal is not just to exceed current environmental building standards, but to establish a new paradigm.

“It’s far beyond the standards,” said Tova Davidson, executive director of Sustainable Waterloo Region, who made the announcement at the environmental non-profit group’s annual recognition evening on April 30.

“A lot of people see LEED as a green building, and that’s a building standard and it’s how it’s built and then you get the certification. The next step is to go to net-zero, and there are examples of that across Canada, but this is going to be a net positive.”

Davidson said she envisions the project as a tree that gives back to the ecosystem.

“It gives more than it takes,” said Davidson. “We’re striving for not just net positive energy, but also water and air so it would clean the air as it goes through and it

would clean the water.”

Ready to take up the challenge of building the project is Adrian Conrad, president of Cora Developments, and a major proponent of LEED standards for better building. The Cora Group has already developed three LEED certified projects including the gold-certified Innotech Building at the R&T Park, which is already fully leased. It helped attract environmentally attuned companies like Stantec to the site.

“There are technologies to do this out there,” said Conrad. “What are the new available technologies out there to do this?

“Even at the University of Waterloo, I’m sure, there’s research being done on these things as well.”

He already has a lot of those green practices in place, from how to sort out and recycle everything from building materials to the steel used in construction. “It might take a little more time to do it, but it’s worth it,” said Conrad.

In addition to establishing new environmental best practices, it’s also hoped the building can spark the kind of innovation and tech development the partners are looking for. “The building can be a living lab,” said Davidson.

That can include green technologies that are already on the market, as well as things that are just on the cusp of development.

Carole Stewart, manager of the David Johnston Research and Technology Park, said the new building would support green-tech development in the R&T Park and make it a hub for those emerging technologies. “It would bring that research into the park,” she said.

Everything from the building’s location in the park to its ultimate design and function will go into the development.

It will be right on the LRT line and will be the first thing that

people see when they get off at the R&T Park’s Ion stop.

“The are going to be certain companies that will be attracted to an iconic building like this,” said Stewart. “Whether that’s a

technology company that has

environmental technology or one that works with the university

and has this as part of their culture.”

Stewart said she hopes it will be a magnet for the people who want to set up shop in the park, and ties into their environmental and sustainability philosophies. She said a lot of the park’s tenants are already acutely attuned to those standards, so this would reinforce those principles.

The development has already attracted its first tenant, with Ernst and Young Waterloo Region looking to set up shop.

“We’re looking forward to participating in the planning and development of this project,” said Greg McCauley, office managing partner, EY Waterloo Region, in a statement. “It’s important for our local businesses to be able to work and meet in a space that encourages collaboration and innovation.

“This building will meet those needs and more.”

Davidson said changing the typical office culture is key. It will mean smaller office spaces with shared meeting rooms, and perhaps a fleet of electric vehicles powered by the building itself that can be signed out and taken to meetings around town.

The final component is funding, and getting all levels of government to partner in the project.

“That is something we’re now focusing on,” said Davidson. “Because there hasn’t been an example like this, nobody can exactly tell us how much more it would cost to build this building to this high sustainability standard.”

Waterloo Chronicle Bob Vrbanac