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Westwind Elementary School
Stittsville, Ontario

A sustainable low-energy school: doing more with less

Westwind Elementary School opened its doors September 4th 2011, just in time for the start of classes for the 2011-2012 academic year. The school, named after one of Stittsville’s first developments in the region (Westwind Farms), is a 2 storey, 4600 sq. m. Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 elementary school with a capacity for 600 students.

Click on the video link to view how thermal storage works in the school.

Built below budget, the school includes Termobuild’s advanced integrated engineered design that is skilfully combining 3 mechanical systems in one: radiant heating, radiant cooling without wet systems and energy storage to produce a sustainable low-energy facility, and is a prime example of how to do more with less.

The building incorporates hollow core slabs (precast concrete slabs manufactured by Coreslab) linked with the mechanical systems producing ‘smart’ floors; thereby benefiting from simple and instantly rewarding energy-saving solutions at a conventional construction cost. This new school draws on the successes and lessons learned from the Mundy Bay LEED Gold school in Midland, Ontario, a school that was championed ‘Top of the Class’ in Enerlife’s survey of Best Performing Schools in North America and sets a new standard in environmentally-conscious school construction.

The decision to use precast concrete hollow core slabs was based on a cost-effective design approach which not only reduces expenditures but improves on the quality of life and operating costs. As Robert Matthers of ema Architects points out, “The novel approach to design and construction that was used was conceived to shorten the construction time-frame and to reduce the capital expenditure while improving the building environment and lowering the operating costs.(quote taken from


Vibrant colours highlight the interior of the building; greens around the library and main entrance, red at the exits, wood frames and benches in the meetings areas, even “pencil people” to indentify the boys and girls washrooms, all of which will serve to enliven the atmosphere come the winter season. Floor to ceiling windows connect the interior spaces to the exterior, allowing students and faculty alike a better connection to the natural and architectural landscape surrounding them.

Hidden between the first and second floors is Termobuild’s ventilation system - a strategic method of using hollow core slabs in a hybrid-metal-to-concrete air delivery system. The Westwind School’s design offers a plethora of benefits from providing fresh air ventilation to quiet indoor comfort. This method taps into the thermal properties of otherwise dormant concrete floors and converts them for use as energy storage and standby heating/cooling; a method that combines three systems in one: radiant heating; radiant cooling; and energy storage driven by its intrinsic ventilation system via the cores in the slabs. Without the use of wet systems, the building comes equipped with built-in and free radiant comfort that is usually found in more expensive green buildings; radiant comfort will slowly make its way from the ‘smarter school’ designs to the mainstream institutions.

Not only does this system reduce cost and eliminates 40% to 50% of the mechanical ductwork normally used for the heating and ventilation systems, and increased clear floor to ceiling heights instead of having to deal with limitations due to mechanical restrictions. A precast system tied into the heating and ventilation system producing a low-cost and sustainable institution. The future is promising!

ema Architects Inc
Precast Supplier:
CORESLAB Structures
Construction Manager:
McDonald Brothers Construction
General Contractor:
McDonald Brothers Construction
Energy Consultants:
Structural Consultants:
Cunliffe & Associates
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