Theatre company unveils new eco-friendly building

By Lidia Semrau

The most environmentally friendly stage in Canada was unveiled by the Great Canadian Theatre Company when it opened the doors to its new home earlier this month.

The new, sleek glass and metal structure is on target to be the first gold-certified commercial/residential complex in Canada under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Internationally respected, the program provides building industries with consistent and credible standards for what constitutes a green building.

“GCTC’s audience has always been socially aware,” said Leslie Turcotte, GCTC’s development director. “We think the patrons are going to love it!”

Designed by Ottawa-based Windmill Developments, the structure encompasses both the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre and The Currents residential tower and is located on the corner of Wellington Street and Holland Avenue.

Turcotte feels the environmental partnership with Windmill was a perfect fit with the theatre company’s mandate to “provoke examination of Canadian life and our place in the world,” she said.

Environmentally friendly features of the building include large-scale window panes made of thermal glass that will keep the building cool during the summer months and help keep the heat in during the winter season.

There is also a composting system, a large cistern located on the roof that recycles storm water for use in the bathrooms, and half- or full-flush options built into the toilets to save water.

These features would result in 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions and 60 per cent less potable water drawn from municipal water supplies, said Turcotte.

The GCTC has also set up an environment committee to determine what the company can do to be more environmentally friendly and conscious in terms of its future business practices and set constructions.

Its partnership with Windmill has already saved significant building and development costs up front. Windmill’s state-of-the art technologies suggest that operating costs for heat, hydro and water will be reduced by 40 to 50 per cent each year, according to the GCTC.

Despite the cost-effectiveness and long-term benefits of going green, the new complex will only be the third building in Ottawa to receive LEED certification, according to the Canada Green Building Council.

Of the four possible levels of certification – certified, silver, gold and platinum – the Ottawa Paramedic Service Headquarters achieved a certified rating, while the Callaghan Letellier Wiens Gibb office building scored silver.

“We’re hearing a lot more talk about green building and green activity then we’re actually seeing people deliver,” said Jonathan Westeinde, Windmill managing partner.

According to Nancy Grenier, spokesperson for the CGBC, all of that is about to change.

“We are looking at an increase of 15 to 20 per cent of new registrations for LEED certifications every month,” said Grenier. “People want healthier places to work, live and play which is why we’re seeing this awareness build up around sustainable developed buildings.”

The CGBC plans to hold its first national green building event, “Shifting into the Mainstream,” early next summer to attract all sectors of Canada’s building industry to focus on moving toward green building practices.

“What most people don’t know is that the buildings where we live, learn, work and play contribute more than 30 per cent of our national GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,” said Thomas Mueller, president of the CGBC.

“Improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings is crucial to helping the environment and it will save everyone a lot of money.”

In addition to being environmentally friendly, compared to its previous home, a converted truck garage at 910 Gladstone Ave., the new GCTC complex looks “sharp,” said Turcotte.

Along with the main stage, the GCTC now has an extra studio, both of which have more leg room as well as system listening devices for those who are hard of hearing.

Other improvements include a costume shop, separate dressing rooms for men and women, a green room, unique catwalks in the mainstage theatre, and a two-storey spacious lobby that includes an art exhibition space.

The first performance at the Irving Greenberg Theatre main stage is called The Man from the Capital and is a musical comedy about a corrupt municipal government set in a small British Columbia town. It is scheduled to run from Oct. 9 – 28.