The Cooperative Freshwater Ecology Unit is in the process of designing a centre of excellence facility on Ramsay Lake for its ongoing studies on human impact activities on lakes, streams and wetlands in Northern Ontario.
Estimated at about $10 million, the Living With Lakes Centre will be strategically built into the landscape along the shores of Ramsay Lake on the former Ontario Provincial Air Service base site, It will use geothermal and solar heat for energy savings. The conceptual phase is complete with the project entering the blueprint design. Tightening of provincial purse strings has forced John Gunn, managing scientist at the co-op unit, not to look too far ahead.
“It needs a political push right now,” Gunn says.
“If I saw the cash sitting beside me I could say when we are able to do this.”
Discussions are ongoing at the university and feedback from agencies and industry representatives who have seen the project presentation is positive.
“This would be a northern demonstration building, one of kind in Canada that could show how northern buildings can be built, in an energy expensive future.”
“(Due to the) deficit, the provincial government is looking at ways to save every penny. We need provincial support to bring this to Northern Ontario.”
The idea for the centre was discussed when scientists realized the air service base’s aging infrastructure had to be replaced. Some experts thought of building an environmentally friendly facility that promotes sustainable living. From water conservation, architectural design, technology and energy saving infrastructure, the facility could be one of the highest performance energy efficient buildings in Canada. Gunn wants to achieve the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum Certification for the Living With Lakes Centre. It would make it the first building in Canada to hold this mark of approval.
Meetings with experts in design, landscape and development sectors affirmed Gunn’s project could be done within budget.
“We have a magnificent simple design building... that can operate with a $5,000 energy bill per year,” he says.
The facility will be approximately 16,000 square feet, and though it is somewhat pricey, Gunn says the return on energy saving infrastructure will pay off in six years.
“Over a 25-year period the model suggests about $1 million in energy savings,” he says.
Experts say the new facility will only enhance the economic impact of Laurentian University’s co-op unit. Already youth are attracted to the research facility for its mentoring and bio-monitoring assessments. Gunn holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Systems at Laurentian University and was provided $800,000 through a Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant to build an aquatic restoration laboratory in the current facility.