University of Waterloo Environment 3 building, A\J Photos by Brian St. Denis \

I'M NOT THE KIND OF PERSON to say, ‘Look at this great space to share ideas in’,” admits André Roy, Dean of Environment at the University of Waterloo. “But this building is different.”

With Environment 3 (ENV3 for short), UW aims to create the first LEED Canada Platinum building on campus, and one of only a handful of Platinum buildings in the country. ENV3 partly envelops the existing Environment 2 building, houses a two-storey biowall, and uses high-tech metering systems to track energy use. But what is outside is just as important: Solar panels will generate 60,000 KWh per year; a 5000-square-foot green roof garden doubles as an outdoor classroom; there’s substantial bike parking; and a constructed wetland system treats wastewater.

The main atrium and its surrounding offices, meeting spaces and labs are filled with natural light, a choice that not only saves energy but also reflects the environment faculty’s values and forward thinking. “You marvel at the brightness when you enter,” said Roy. “This faculty is bright, and we have bright ideas.”

The faculty expects a decision on ENV3’s LEED Canada Platinum status by mid-2012.

For photos and a video of the construction of ENV3, visit the Alternatives' Flickr set.

Brian St. Denis is the audience development manager at Alternatives. His photographs have appeared in a number of publications, including on the cover of The New Quarterly.

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