Beat The Heat: Toronto's YWCA Elm Centre Keeps Cool With Careful Design

Exterior southwest corner© RegionalArchitects

RegionalArchitects is inappropriately named; it works all over the world. Founding Principal John Van Nostrand knows something about building without air conditioning; he has done it in Africa and Latin America. So if anyone was going to figure out how to keep cool when it's 99 degrees in Toronto, it's them. They picked the hottest day of the year to send out a press release describing how cool their new YWCA Elm Centre is on a hot day: 75 degrees inside.

Where most buildings in Toronto are now glass towers, which they call "completely environmentally disrespectful", here the initial heat gain is reduced by limiting windows to 40% of the building envelope, with the balance having a high insulation value. It takes a bit of adjustment when one is used to looking at all-glass facades, but they have developed a playful pattern of colored glass to keep it light. It works; lead architect Paul Kulig says “It shows we can and we should build differently in Toronto.”

In addition, the building has central ventilation energy recovery, radiant heating and cooling, and "a ground source heat pump system to ensure the 300 residential units stay comfortable during the dog days of summer." Bless them for not calling it geothermal.

Interior Passageway© RegionalArchitects

The YWCA Elm Centre also differs from the typical condo tower with its environmentally sound ground source heat pump system….The building is equipped with a hydronic system that connects the geo-thermal well field, radiant heating and cooling tubes and the domestic hot water system via a series of heat exchangers. This allows heat to be transferred efficiently throughout the building. Yesterday for example, the excess heat in the suites was used to pre-heat the domestic hot water tanks.

On the hottest day of the year, the YWCA Elm Centre used no natural gas to heat their hot water and cooled their building at the same time. During a time where air conditioning units tax the city’s electricity grid, the YWCA Elm Centre’s heat pumps drew minimal power to operate the system.

Rendering© RegionalArchitects

The complex also integrates an historic building into it's north side. The whole project is a great example of how you build green and urban, mixing the new and the old. More at RegionalArchitects

Beat The Heat: Toronto's YWCA Elm Centre Keeps Cool With Careful Design
Ground source heat pumps help keep it comfortable without conventional air conditioning

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