The institute held an open house for the public from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 15. About 90 people gathered for tours and to hear about and see recent renovations to the field station.
MTRI is a charitable organization that operates a field station for research and education within the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve. The institute is in Kempt, just north of Caledonia.
MTRI recently added a two-storey addition on the southeast side of the main building. The Atlantic Coastal Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the ecoNova Scotia Environmental Technology Program (ETP) were the primary funders of the $250,000 project. The project also got private donations.
Jesse Saroli, MTRI’s green technologies coordinator, was also the project coordinator.
The mild autumn day began with tours of MTRI’s renovated building and green technologies.
The first stop for Brad Toms’ group was the geothermal ground source heat pump in the basement, which has 2,000 feet of pipe and 20 per cent methanol (also known as wood alcohol). The cold pipes absorb the heat.
“It’s the initial cost of these units that deters people from these systems,” says Neil Mader, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning installer.
Although difficult to estimate, Saroli says the units cost about $20,000 and has an estimated payoff of 25 years. Saroli emphasized the estimates are rough because cost and payoff depend on many factors, but those interested in getting a more accurate quote can contact an installer.
Next, the group went to the room next door to learn about the solar hot water unit. Circulating in the unit is a mix of water and glycol. According to Toms, it’s on a south-facing aspect to get the best sun.
Toms says the payoff is five to eight years but says smaller systems have a quicker payoff.
Outside on the roof are evacuated tube solar collectors for the solar hot water unit. The tubes heat the fluid for the solar hot water unit.
The wind turbine on the lawn in front of the building is fairly small compared to others, says Toms. Saroli says the output power is one and a half kilowatts.
Saroli says small turbines range from 100 watts to four kilowatts.
To work, the turbine needs 10 to 15 kilometres per hour of wind and can handle up to about 80 kilometres per hour. When the wind is higher than 80, the turbine is shut off.
A supplementary solar heater sits on the side of the building. The lens is made out of UV stabilized polycarbonate. Sun shines through the lens and hits black aluminum pop cans, which have been modified for air to circulate through them.
“It’s not something that you would use for your main source of heating because it’s got no capacity to store heat,” says Saroli. “It basically only works when the sun’s shining on it.”
It’s the cheapest form of green technology that MTRI put in, adds Saroli.
“It seems to be quite affective so far, and it’s also a Canadian invention,” he says.
The heater, which comes from Newfoundland in a little wooden crate, has a payoff of three to five years, says Toms.
Originally the building was a log cabin. After an energy audit with thermal imaging, MTRI learned the building was losing heat through cracks in the log walls.
The exterior of the building was sprayed with a soy-based spray foam product, says Saroli.
“That gives us extra insulation on the outside, but it also provides an air barrier,” he says.
The siding, which was donated to MTRI, is Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) certified and is a composite (wood chip and glue) siding.
The SFI certification is similar to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
The project began in 2009 and was envisioned by Amanda Lavers, executive director, and the board, says Saroli.
Saroli became project coordinator when the fundraising of about $200,000 was almost complete in the fall of 2010.
Some of Saroli’s responsibilities included assembling a working group, beginning the design phase and integrating the green technologies.
“The project from its outset was an intent to showcase the different kinds of technologies that were available to the general public,” he says. “Rather than concentrate on any single one, we went for five kinds.”
Saroli says overall the project is exactly what was envisioned.
“The only things that remains to be seen is the affect on the local community,” he says.
Despite the project’s successes, Saroli says some of the challenges included managing the finances and doing the design.
One of MTRI’s goals is for the addition to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.
Originally an American program, LEED now has a Canadian version under the jurisdiction of the Canada Green Building Council.
“There’s a whole booklet on aspects that you can put into your building and a point-value system assigned to it,” says Saroli. “We chose things we would incorporate into our existing building and into the addition to work up enough points.”
Depending on the building’s square footage, a certain number of points are required to be LEED certified. If a building exceeds the minimum number points, there is silver, gold and platinum.
MTRI is set to have an energy audit today. The EnerGuide for houses rates buildings between one and 100 on how energy efficient they are.
“The auditor will come in, give your house a rating and then you have a year to make any changes that are suggested,” says Saroli.
After a second rating, building owners may be eligible for provincial and federal rebates.
Once MTRI has its energy audit number, it can finish the paperwork for LEED and submit that, says Saroli.
Saroli says LEED is split into eight categories, of which energy conservation is one.
“The higher we score on the EnerGuide, the more points we get for LEED,” he says. “Until we get out EnerGuide audit, we can’t really say for certain which level of certification we’re going to get, but we are aiming for platinum.”
The project coordinator says it feels good to see the changes that have gone on.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with MTRI,” he says. “It almost feels like family after this long.”