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Innovation Hub at Kortright Centre


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Already considered Canada’s largest environmental education facility, the Kortright Centre in Kleinburg Ont. is now on the cusp of also becoming the country’s first-ever BRE (Building Research Establishment) Innovation Park and an integral part of a global web of similar parks.

To be known as “Innovation Park Canada, part of the BRE Innovation Parks Network”, the seven-building campus will be used to test and monitor innovative and green building products, materials and technologies, many of which have not been released on to the commercial market.

“This has been three years in the making,” says Glenn MacMillan, a senior water and energy manager with theToronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).

The authority owns Kortright and is developing the park in a venture with the Building Research Establishment, a British-based non-profit building science research organization with a mandate to improve the built environment.

Kortright is already the home of the Archetype Sustainable House — which will be incorporated into the park as one of the seven buildings. Built a few years ago in partnership with theBuilding Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), it is a green home demonstration facility.

“That (project) has been a great success and the authority asked itself ‘who else can be partner with to be a centre of environmental excellence’?”

Eventually, that search led to establishing contacts and entering into negotiations with the BRE which has spearheaded the development of innovation parks around the world.

“It had also been exploring the possibility of establishing a park in Canada,” says MacMillan, who visited BRE’s innovation park headquarters at Watford just outside of London and a second one in Scotland.

As part of the lengthy planning process in establishing the park, the authority also reached out to the private sector and universities for support and participation.

Project partners include numerous businesses and industry groups, as well as 13 Ontario universities which have signed Memorandums of Agreements to conduct research there, he says.

A site plan for the park has been created by the TRCA in partnership with Sustainable.TO Architecture and each of the seven demonstration buildings have to meet various themes and performance targets. However, the houses will be designed by different architects who will not be bound by an overall design concept, says Macmillan.

Some of the research to be undertaken at the different buildings will include low pact construction, net zero buildings, net zero water consumption, accessible living, living off the grid, passive home design, and DC (direct current) microgrids.

Other activities will include product monitoring, training programs, post-secondary research and technical tours, he says.

As well, existing structures such as a cottage which is used to teach solar and other educational workshops will be also utilized to enhance the research initiatives.

Although construction of the houses probably won’t get started until next year and will continue in 2018, the first phase of a major two-phase water and sewage project is underway, says MacMillan.

TACC Construction Ltd. is the phase-one contractor installing connecting links with existing City of Vaughan and York Region services. A tender for the construction of two watermains (one 200 mm diameter and one 50 mm diameter) and 150-mm sanitary sewer park right into the park area was recently released.

“Those services should be completed by the end of the year.”

Once the park is operational, it will provide a springboard for Canadian companies to demonstrate how they can deliver sustainable buildings, not only to the Canadian market, but to the BRE’s global network of parks, says MacMillan.