New Brunswick is breaking the mould of traditional government infrastructure by adding greener, more sustainable design and construction practices to their public buildings.

What’s making New Brunswick buildings green? Many of the province’s current key projects revolve around the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system, allowing buildings to be their friendliest when it comes to environmental considerations.

“Examples can include basic options such as low-emitting carpeting to high efficiency heating and lighting systems, to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent or more,” said Wayne LaRochelle, project manager for the New Brunswick Department of Supply and Services, which is responsible for major government construction projects. “Every step brings us closer to our goal of reducing energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

The purchase of local lumber and construction materials is also encouraged. This buy-local approach can mean fewer emissions from the time materials are purchased, to the moment when a new school or hospital is constructed.

In the spring of 2010, New Brunswick took its next step in implementing greener standards. With the announcement of a Provincial Green Building Policy, the province committed that all new and renovated provincially funded buildings would incorporate green building practices into planning, design, construction and operation. This also includes social housing.

Under the first phase of the policy, large buildings are required to achieve a minimum certification of LEED silver. The policy has also introduced Green Globes certification to the mix, an alternative green building rating system. Green Globes is operated and maintained by ECD Jones Lang LaSalle Ltd., and has been used in federal buildings.

“The use of two certification systems allow designers to explore a wider range of options, enabling new construction as well as renovated buildings to meet their fullest potential for energy and environmental performance,” said LaRochelle.

The policy insists that buildings may also meet criteria through a rating of 3 Green Globes, equivalent to a LEED silver rating.

Green construction practises go beyond the buildings themselves, often taking an environmentally friendly approach to the entire construction cycle where building supplies and waste materials are considered. Doors, wiring, old flooring and other renovation leftovers are often reused or recycled, with additional by-products such as ceiling tiles being donated to Habitat for Humanity.

Taking a leading role in green building practices is nothing new for New Brunswick. In 2006, the province achieved the first LEED certified building in Atlantic Canada – the Department of Natural Resources District Office located in Bathurst.

Designed in-house by government staff to showcase the requirements of LEED buildings, the state-of-the-art office replaced the previous building while expanding to accommodate employees from another regional office.

Achieving a LEED silver rating not only shows the office’s environmental purpose, but also offers more efficient services and overall savings in how it operates.

“This pilot project helped set the stage for future green buildings, and also encouraged a certain standard for other sectors to follow suit,” said LaRochelle.

In the past few years, green schools have topped the list of new construction projects in New Brunswick. Green schools share a two-fold objective: a commitment to sound infrastructure that offers future savings, and the promise of designing more productive and healthy learning environments.

A key component to these innovative schools is the importance of making the best use of quality natural daylight. Eleanor W. Graham Middle School in Rexton boasts a gymnasium completely lit by natural light. Similar to offices built for the pilot project in Bathurst, classrooms at École Sainte-Thérèse in Dieppe were designed to face either north or south for optimal day lighting, balanced with energy efficiency. New schools are also designed to place occupied areas along the school perimeter, with less-used areas centrally located to make the best use of daylight.

The next phase of New Brunswick’s Green Building Policy will extend the effort to renovations and retrofits of existing government buildings, as well as leased space used by the provincial government.

By considering all aspects of design from the ground up, New Brunswick has become a leader in building a greener province.

Sheri Strickland is with the New Brunswick Department of Supply and Services.

Adopted by the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC), the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system encourages worldwide adoption of sustainable green buildings and development practices by creating and implementing universally understood and accepted criteria. LEED certification is designated and achieved following an independent review and audit, and is based on five key areas: sustainable sites; water efficiency; energy and atmosphere; materials and resources; and indoor environmental quality.