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A Green Machine Which Teaches Sustainability
Editorial by: Morteza Hazbei

B+H Architects designed the Beamish-Munro Hall building (also known as the Integrated Learning Center), which was completed in September 2004. This three-story building is located on Queen’s University campus in Kingston, Ontario. Constructed between two existing buildings on the campus, it serves as a connection between these two buildings. The central atrium makes up the heart of the building and six faculties of engineering organized around it.

In their 2005 Canadian Architect article [1], Jen names this building “green machine" – a name not only based on the building’s various energy saving systems but also because it incorporates green features such as a large green wall in the central atrium. Torres in their 2004 Canadian Architect article [2] indicated that the green features of building touch upon the themes of energy, water, resources and material, site effects and emission, and indoor environmental design. The building energy features include a focus on renewable solar energy use (through the photovoltaic planes), radiant flooring, temperature sensors, as well as other heating and ventilation technologies (such as the heat recovery wheel, variable-speed fans, and the convective air movement design, and steam-heating system). The building received “Four Green Leafs" out of five offered by BREEAM’s Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program – a certification that indicates “national industry- leadership in terms of eco-efficiency design, practices and management commitment to continuous improvement and industry leadership."

The pedagogical function of this building is the clear example of a structure that teaches sustainability: where building elements and systems are presented to students and act as active learning tools [1]. This is vividly exemplified by the visible system and structure cut-outs, as proposed by Torres [2]. For example, a wall in the student lounge is cut to reveal the various layers of material that compose it. One of the main learning instruments in the ILC is the green entrance wall, which also improve the air quality by removing up to 90% of air pollutants [1]. The building’s pedagogical role is not limited to its structure and systems, but also extends to its performance. In fact, Torres names the building a “live building" since the students can monitor the building performance through live screen and metrics, which show how much carbon dioxide is produced and how much the building’s green component mitigates this emission. This valuable feature compliments regular classroom activity and improves building design.

Jen [1] describes that the education role of the building was one of the factors in the initial phase of building design.

“Both the client and the architect agreed that the building should educate and increase awareness of environmental and sustainable issues, such that the students may take the valuable lessons learned with them to their careers in professional practice."

Torres [2] mentioned that this teaching ability is not only focused on the students in their classroom but is also aimed at larger university community and broader society – including staff, faculty and visitors.

“The students’ learning capacity and the building’s innovative-technologies teaching characteristic creates an integrated learning experience that enriches not only ILC’s students but the entire Queen’s community in an environmentally responsible manner. […] The building itself promotes sustainability and teaches engineering concepts to the entire community; not only engineering students are affected by its presence, but also staff, visitors, and the general public are becoming subject to interaction with the ILC’s outstanding standards in education and building performance."

One can imagine that the building, and its teaching targets, as a platform for educating various stakeholder (faculty and staff, students, and community). The real question remains whether the didactic features of buildings can indeed offer “valuable lessons” about sustainability that will affect their professional practice and future behaviours.

[1]    L. Jen, “Green Machine,” Can. Archit., vol. 50, pp. 16–18, 2005.

Project Title: Integrated Learning Centre, Beamish Munro Hall
Bregman + Hamann Architect
Kingston, Ontario

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