NAIT's first all-LED construction site

How the Productivity and Innovation Centre is redefining sustainable construction

LED construction lighting at NAIT's Productivity and Innovation Centre

If a new building includes the word innovation as part of its name, shouldn’t its design and construction reflect that as well?

NAIT and general contractor Clark Builders answered that question with a resounding yes before breaking ground last fall on the Productivity and Innovation Centre.

Now under construction on Main Campus, the 17,650-square-metre (190,000-square-foot) building will be where industry comes to succeed.

When it opens in 2018, it will be equipped with labs and spaces to provide services related to productivity enhancement, acceleration support including prototyping and product validation, and applied research – all under one roof.

But the centre’s pursuit of innovation has actually already begun. In partnership with NAIT, Clark Builders identified an opportunity to radically cut power demand and costs by launching its first all-LED construction project. For the contractor, it was a way to lower long-term costs for the polytechnic and lessen environmental impact from Day 1.

“It was a smarter way to start the project on the right foot,” says Dominic Ries (Cooking ’89), Clark Builders’ sustainable innovation manager.

“For us, it was a fairly easy decision,” says Greg Topinka, the polytechnic’s director of capital projects. “The additional cost of the LED lighting was modest relative to the energy savings.” It also had clear environmental benefits, he adds.

LED lighting at the construction site of NAIT's Productivity and Innovation CentreThe LED impact

As you read this, a ticker on a webpage dedicated to the initiative endlessly counts kilowatt hours of electricity saved by using LED lighting on construction cranes, in shelters covering adjacent sidewalks and elsewhere on the site.

Ten months in, there’s enough savings to power about 15 average homes for a year.

Carbon dioxide emissions – the major greenhouse gas – are also drastically cut. For a sense of how much, envision a line of cars idling at a busy intersection, then remove roughly 21 of them.

The change in lighting also increases safety, security and productivity on the site, says Ries. Lights can stay on longer (particularly in the darker months) with minimal power usage and, compared to conventional construction lights, require no warm-up time if accidentally unplugged.

For Ries, realizing these benefits at the NAIT site represents another step forward in what he calls an “LED movement” that could help redefine sustainability, a buzzword he believes can still be meaningful – if there's action to back it up.

“We want to make sure that we don’t fall short on our promise to build a sustainable building,” says Ries. “This partnership on technology and innovation will continue to establish a standard for construction practices and leadership in built-green construction in Alberta.”

The Edmonton-based company intends to include the LED lighting in its bid to certify the centre under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, an international measurement of a building’s environmental performance.

For NAIT, such innovation in environmental sustainability fits the current approach to all campus projects. “New renovations are going to LED lighting as a permanent install, so taking that same efficiency initiative for temporary lighting also makes sense,” says Topinka.

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