Waste & Recycling

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Moving Mountains

Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) recently completed construction of a new store in Ottawa that's the first retail building to comply with Canada's C2000 Green Building Standards. These...


Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) recently completed construction of a new store in Ottawa that’s the first retail building to comply with Canada’s C2000 Green Building Standards. These are part of the C-2000 Advanced Commercial Buildings program designed to challenge Canada’s construction industry to demonstrate higher levels of environmental performance. One goal of the project was to cut energy consumption in half (in comparison to the same building constructed in compliance with Canada’s Model National Energy Code for Buildings). The Ottawa store achieve this goal.

MEC’s vision statement offers that, in addition to helping people achieve the benefit of self-propelled wilderness recreation, it will be a leader in social and environmental responsibility. That means the business strives to operate in a sustainable way beyond its commercial mandate. To this end, the Board developed a “Green Building Program” to boost the environmental performance of its facilities. The program has greened its building program for six years.

“We started with modest aspirations that included the exclusion of ozone-depleting substances from our buildings,” comments Corin Flood, MEC’s facilities planner. “As our understanding evolved we took a more holistic approach to the design and construction process and decisions based on environmental considerations throughout the project.”

MEC’s newest store is the result of a move from an old site in Ottawa. The existing building was deconstructed to reuse as much as possible and divert non-reusable materials from landfill. A waste management work-plan was developed and implemented by a team under the direction of a waste management co-ordinator.

The plan aimed to reuse a minimum of 75 per cent of the existing structure and shell, recycle 50 per cent and salvage 10 per cent of the total building materials (by weight). The existing foundations, floor slab, concrete block, structural steel and glass block were reused. The concrete that was removed from the site returned as backfill and slab underlay and parking lot fill. Rock excavated from the site was used as cladding material for a portion of the north faade. The terrazzo floor from the old building was retained and restored. “By providing sufficient time at the front end for detailed analysis and planning,” states Flood, “we were able to reclaim 86 percent of the building.”

The project owed part of its success to an open house at which demolition contractors and end-market users were invited to consider reuse and recycling opportunities. Also, some materials not slated for reuse and recycling were sold onsite.

The plan challenged architects, engineers and buildings, since reclaimed materials generally don’t show up at the ideal time or in the right amount or dimension. Keeping the design and materials compatible is a juggling act — especially when the materials are structural. (The roof and floor systems were redesigned three times in order to accommodate available materials.)

The integrated design team overcame many challenges and made terrific innovations. For instance the ground-floor post and beam structural frame was made from old Douglas fir log booms found in tributaries of the St. Lawrence River. The roof’s steel columns, beams and joists and the concrete and steel-post wall on the facility’s eastern side were rebuilt entirely with materials reclaimed from the original building. This saved money and cut transportation distances for raw materials (and the accompanying exhaust pollution).

All the concrete (except the coloured floor slab) contained 50 per cent blast furnace slag (a by-product of steel making) and the walls are insulated with cellulose (i.e., old newspaper). A portion of wall is insulated with straw bales — an effective, environmentally friendly insulation. The building was also designed for disassembly; screws were substituted for nails and panels were used where possible.

Bob Matheson, MEC’s Manager of Operations, believes the Green Building Program can meet environmental and financial performance objectives.

“By using existing materials from the site, MEC gets three wins: we pay less, we help our community and the environment, plus we meet our customer-owners’ expectations.”

Denise Taschereau is MEC’s social and environmental responsibility co-ordinator based in Vancouver, British Columbia.


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