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2006 Buildings

Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Emergency Medical Services Headquarters and Fleet Centre

Population: 438,515

Waterloo has constructed the first building in Ontario to attain a Gold rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The City's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) building is a model of energy efficiency, having cut energy use by more than 60 percent. The building uses an array of best practices including a super-efficient building envelope, improved ventilation systems, and water and lighting conservation measures. Oriented to take advantage of the sun, the building also has a new photovoltaic system, manufactured by an Ontario company. This system fulfills half of the building's peak electrical demand. This project's success has convinced Regional Council to require a LEED Silver certification as a minimum for all new municipal buildings.


In 2000, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo assumed responsibility for ambulance services from the Province of Ontario, creating the need for a regional ambulance headquarters and fleet servicing building. At the same time, Regional Council identified environmental protection, especially energy efficiency and clean air, as focus areas in its strategic plan for the next three years.

Staff identified the potential to merge these two issues early in the project. "We agreed that it would be a good idea to construct this building as an energy demonstration project and see how much energy we could save," says Ken Noonan, the Region's Director of Facilities Management. "So when we issued a Request for Proposals from architects, we identified a target of 50 percent energy savings. Then, as the design progressed, we realized we could do much more. Using the LEED standards, we could examine the whole concept of sustainable new construction."

So, instead of just constructing a building that saved energy, the Region created a model that demonstrates many sustainable construction practices of interest to both the public and private sectors.


  • The building has reduced energy consumption by 60 percent and water consumption by 85 percent compared to typical buildings of its size. The project has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 90 tonnes per year and saves $26,000 annually in energy costs.
  • The building provides non-potable irrigation water for other facilities on the site, reduces light pollution at night, eliminates the need for pesticides, reduces landscaping maintenance costs, and lowers the local "heat island" effect.
  • Three quarters of construction waste was diverted from landfill. One quarter of the building's new materials were made from recycled content, and 20 percent of the new construction materials were locally produced.
  • All paramedic crews now begin and end their shifts at the facility, which enables ambulances to be checked, cleaned and restocked before they are deployed to ambulance waiting stations. This reduces turnaround time and increases ambulance availability.
  • The radiant in-floor heating system in the ambulance garage melts snow and slush that falls from vehicles. It is expected to reduce employee productivity losses due to slips or falls.
  • On average, the building's features will pay for themselves within seven years. The timeline would have been shorter except for the $125,000 photovoltaic system; its estimated payback period is 50 years. Higher electricity prices, however, could speed up the payback time.
  • Because this project was so successful, the Region has adopted the LEED Silver standard as the minimum for all new municipal buildings.

Lessons Learned

  • LEARN FROM THE BEST. Rather than reinvent the wheel, the Region hired a design team experienced in green building and energy-efficient technologies that understood what other jurisdictions were doing throughout North America.
  • TAKE AN INTEGRATED DESIGN APPROACH. Before this project, the Region used a traditional "silo" design strategy, looking at each system individually. It now considers how ventilation, lighting, water use, and all other building components can work together to achieve savings and sustainability.
  • SEEK EARLY APPROVAL. There was a delay in approvals from the local electrical utility and the Electrical Safety Authority for the photovoltaic cells, due to safety concerns and possible feedback into the power lines in the event of a power outage. As a result, the cells were installed about six months after the building opened. An earlier approval process would have eliminated this delay.
  • BE PREPARED FOR GLITCHES. The EMS building had some problems with ductwork obscuring natural light in the ambulance garage, slow growth of some native landscaping plants, and drafty air diffusers in meeting rooms. These designs will be changed in future projects.

Partners and Collaboration

  • Internal
  • Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Facilities Management and EMS divisions
  • External
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Spheral Solar Power, a division of ATS Automation
  • Tooling Systems, Inc.
Page Updated: 21/12/2015