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Sustainable
Design

Sustainability is fundamental to our practice and we challenge norms with every project. Climate change and the Paris Agreement bring urgency to reducing human impact on our planet. Diamond Schmitt embraces this imperative and our role to facilitate change by setting an ecological agenda for every project.

Sustainable design means more than creating a high performance building. At its essence, our objective is to mitigate environmental impacts with whole system thinking by considering context, landscape, building form, skin and systems. We engage with our clients and team of experts to define the opportunities and goals. Our holistic approach is founded on a collaborative and integrated design process, where the most appropriate technologies, building systems and innovations are evaluated through energy modeling and life cycle costing.

 

LEADING THE EVOLUTION

Our portfolio features projects delivered at the highest degree of sustainable design – Net Zero, LEED, Living Building Challenge, 2030 Challenge, Green Globes. Our staff of LEED accredited professionals and Passive House have expertise across a spectrum of sustainability initiatives. Diamond Schmitt has delivered more than 35 LEED certified projects, including three LEED Platinum and 25 LEED Gold certified buildings. Our Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Carbon projects give us first-hand insight into the methodologies necessary to achieve these ambitious targets.

Fundamental to the success of all our projects is our expertise in creating safe, healthy environments that support wellbeing and productivity. Our staff is trained in the latest human health and wellness programs including WELL and Fitwel to bring currency and value to our designs.

LIVING WALLS + BIOPHILIA

Research points to an inherent human need to connect to nature, with links being drawn to human health and wellbeing.

This powerful connection is demonstrated with the biofilter living wall. We integrated the very first large-scale living wall at University of Guelph-Humber in 2003. This successful prototype triggered its commercialization and to date, Diamond Schmitt has incorporated living walls in the atria of more than 20 projects. The School of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa is one of five projects to receive a Green Wall Award of Excellence from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

These visually striking installations contribute to place making and provide many added benefits. Living walls are active filtering systems that improve air quality by removing up to 90% volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) from indoor air. The plant wall absorbs airborne pollutants as nutrients and outputs benign components water and carbon dioxide. Connected to the building’s return air system these hydroponic walls deliver high levels of fresh air to augment a building’s fresh air supply at a fraction of the cost of traditional mechanical systems. Anecdotal evidence underlines the positive effect of a living wall and enhanced fresh air to higher productivity, lower absenteeism and improved wellbeing.

Indoor gardens and outdoor green roofscapes also provide biophilic advantage. In addition to mitigating the heat island effect and storm water flows, these roofs increase biodiversity. Diamond Schmitt has created green roofscapes that create park settings, biophilic places of refuge, allotment gardens and overlooks with greened vistas instead of customary roof surfaces as embodied at One Cole Condominium.  

We have also used biophilic solutions to remediate stormwater for regenerative contribution to the local environment and the enjoyment of community. At the University of Ontario Institute of Technology our masterplan integrates bio-swales, wetlands and landscaped retention basins to manage and cleanse stormwater before it feeds into the river. These initiatives operate at whole system scale to also provide resilience to the watershed.

ECOMETRICS

Diamond Schmitt created ecoMetrics, a live interactive database to visually summarize the complex arena of energy reduction targets and metrics. This powerful database unpacks the energy simulation models for more than 70 of our projects across a range of building types to reveal energy use projections in simple visuals and provide valuable insight into energy use.

ecoMetrics fosters energy literacy for everyone, equipping us with an understanding of this rarefied topic following the adage, ‘if we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it.’ This database reveals energy performance through a variety of energy benchmarking lenses – Energy Use Intensity (EUI) in kWhr/m2, carbon emissions (GHGI), LEED, 2030 Challenge, Code – and establishes a common language to engage our clients, consultant and project teams in an informed dialogue on energy and carbon reduction targets. ecoMetrics’ greatest asset is the ability to compare our projects in a consistent fashion and quickly reframe data in lockstep with the evolving energy conversation.

The research we developed to support our practice has contributed to advancing the building industry’s understanding of energy metrics and the power of data.

 

PASSIVE HOUSE

Passive House (PH) is emerging as the new gold standard in environmental efficiency and sustainable building development. PH is rapidly evolving from the domain of small scale to large scale projects and our codes are revising permit requirements to phase in PH and PH equivalent solutions. Our growing collective of in-house PH designers position us to deliver this enhanced approach to building envelope design for all our high performance projects radically reducing energy needs for long-term benefit.

 

MASS TIMBER

Wood is extensively featured in our projects both as interior finishes and, increasingly, as mass timber structure. A renewable building material, mass timber offers multiple benefits, adding quality to the indoor environment, accelerating construction through pre-fabrication, sequestering carbon and contributing to a low carbon footprint. The Technology and Trades Renewal and Innovation Project in Lethbridge is a recent example incorporating locally sourced and manufactured timber.

We continue to push the boundaries of mass timber and its many compelling attributes. The growing body of research on the beneficial effects of wood on health and well-being on our indoor environments reinforces our commitment to develop mass timber design solutions.