The Vancouver Aquarium features aquatic life from all around the globe. Some of the animals require cooler temperatures, such as the Arctic char featured in the Canada’s Arctic gallery, whereas other animals need warmer temperatures, such as the hyacinth macaws in the Graham Amazon gallery.

So as a “green” facility, how does the Aquarium heat and cool its various galleries where these animals live in the most energy-efficient way possible?

The answer lies in an innovative heat exchange system called the district energy system loop, or DES loop for short, one of the most significant sustainable developments of the newly expanded Aquarium (which opened new doors on June 13).

This innovative heat exchange system, consisting of 30-centimetre (12-inch) insulated pipes, pumps in natural sea water from the Burrard Inlet, then redistributes energy from that water throughout the building. The system removes heat from the sea water in areas requiring colder-temperature areas (such as the Treasures of the BC Coast) and applies that heat to galleries requiring warmer-temperature areas (such as the Tropics or the Amazon).

Sustainable building, Vancouver Aquarium

Sustainable construction from the ground up.

Of the many features in the expanded Aquarium, this new facility-wide DES loop is the one that perhaps best reflects the facility’s green commitment. Not only is this system facilitating energy efficiency now, but the loop is expandable, and can be extended in the future. Since energy sharing is always more economical on a larger scale, this expandable feature makes it possible to further improve the efficiency of the system in the future.

It’s not news that the Aquarium has always aimed to meet the highest standards for sustainability in its building design. But the revitalized facility provides us with the opportunity to extend our environmental commitment, with various elements that meet or exceed the standards required to achieve a LEED® Canada Green Building Design & Construction silver rating.

Some of the other green features of the expanded Aquarium include:

  • Features to minimize water use, such as water-efficient landscaping, use of harvested rainwater for irrigation and grey toilet-flushing systems, high performance plumbing  fixtures such as low flow or dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals and low flow shower heads and faucets.
  • Landscaping that optimizes storm water management, and protects and restores open spaces.
  • Reduction/elimination of light bleeding to improve night sky views.
  • Environmental strategies to limit or eliminate erosion and sedimentation to protect local ecosystems, including temporary mulching, earth dykes, silt fencing, and sediment traps and basins.
  • Landscaping that preserves landmark and heritage trees. For every tree removed during construction, two were planted in its place.
  • Diversion of seventy-five per cent of construction waste from the landfill.
  • Salvaged and recycled materials sourced and incorporated into the project wherever possible.
  • Stockpiling of boulders, rocks, wood and topsoil from construction for future use.
Composting at the Vancouver Aquarium

Composting helps us divert 86% of all waste from the landfill.

As part of its existing Environmental Management System, the Aquarium is also continuing its green practices already in existence, such as diversion of waste from the city’s landfills, and use of 100 per cent compostable serve ware and cutlery in all of its cafes and catered events.

So the next time you visit the Aquarium, you’ll be viewing animal habitats heated and cooled, as appropriate, in the most energy-efficient way possible. For more details on the green and other features of the expanded Aquarium, visit here.

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