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New lighting for the ecosystems at the Biodôme.
Photo: Espace pour la vie

Energy efficiency: A very topical issue

In Canada, buildings’ energy consumption (heating in winter and air conditioning in summer) makes a major contribution to global warming, because of greenhouse gas emissions. The solution? Efficient energy consumption, to reduce emissions.

Energy efficiency goes hand in hand with environmental protection and quality equipment. It’s essential for the health and quality of life of the animals and plants at the Insectarium, Botanical Garden and Biodôme.

Accordingly, the Space for Life decided to make it a priority, and set up a wide-ranging energy efficiency program aimed at reducing our environmental footprint. We are focusing on sustainable development, using such renewable energy sources as geothermal heating and solar energy.

The energy saving program implemented by the Space for Life is intended to improve the environmentally friendly energy performance of the Biodôme, Insectarium and Botanical Garden through the use of renewable energy. It reduces the energy consumption at the three institutions by 40%, and their greenhouse gas emissions are now down by 44% (the equivalent of 680 fewer family cars on our roads), exceeding the goals of Montréal’s Strategic Sustainable Development Plan.

Winning on all fronts!

Both nationally and provincially, the Space for Life has received awards recognizing the quality of its energy saving program. The awards pay tribute to the bold initiatives that were implemented to ensure sustainable development, and highlight the originality, efficiency, and sustainability of the program as well as its economic, environmental and social impact.

  • The 2012 Sustainable Communities Award in the Energy category, from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
  • The 2011 Énergia award, in the Existing Buildings, Institutional category, from the Association québécoise pour la maîtrise de l’énergie (AQME)
  • An honourable mention in the ICI Buildings – Innovative Practices category, at the most recent Contech Innovation and Sustainable Development Trophies

An ambitious program

The program includes the installation of an open-circuit geothermal system at the Biodôme and a closed-circuit system at the Insectarium. The Biodôme system is one of the most extensive open-circuit geothermal systems in Canada.

The program also includes:

  • Optimizing the ventilation systems to adapt them to requirements, rather than running at full capacity 24 hours a day
  • Modernizing the lighting to make it more efficient
  • Recovering and transferring energy among the Biodôme’s ecosystems, to cool or heat other parts of the building depending on the season and needs
  • Installing an “off-peak” electric boiler at the Botanical Garden to reduce the use of natural gas
  • Replacing equipment that is outmoded or at the end of its useful lifetime, with an estimated value of $1.5 million.

Work to carry out these initiatives was completed on October 2011.

A program that pays for itself

The Space for Life’s energy saving program is funded by the city of Montréal, at a net cost of $8 million. Hydro-Québec, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Office of Energy Efficiency are contributing another $1.7 million to top up the project funding. Thanks to the different energy saving measures, the program is expected to pay for itself by 2017. These savings will be reinvested to continue to reduce the Space for Life’s environmental footprint.

While the work was being carried out, the Space for Life took the opportunity to explain the technologies used and their environmental and energy performance to visitors. All these initiatives fit in perfectly with the mission of Montréal’s Space for Life – to help people enjoy nature to the fullest and to promote environmentally responsible behaviour.

A longstanding concern for the environment

Since 1994, the Space for Life has taken many steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs. Simple and inexpensive though they may have been, they were the first phase in the Space for life’s environmentally friendly approach to energy conservation. They have allowed us to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1,100 tonnes (about 15%) per year, to reduce energy consumption by 40,000 gigajoules (about 13%) and save approximately $1 million.

A greener Planetarium, too

The Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium earned the LEED® NC 1.0 – Platinum standards, the highest certification level for sustainable buildings in North America.

LEED certification, standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED evaluation criteria measure energy efficiency, water efficiency, heating efficiency, use of local materials and re-use of construction waste.

Doing our share

With its energy-saving program, the Space for Life is taking concrete steps to reduce wasted energy and greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the environment. We encourage everyone, of every age, to do their share for the environment, too. We urge teachers to talk to their students about ways of doing things that protect nature and taking responsibility for protecting the environment.

The Space for Life approach is first and foremost a moral commitment. Everyone is invited to join this movement of solidarity with the environment, and to make a difference in their everyday actions.

 

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