When the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre initiated plans for its most expansive revitalization in its history, the cultural institution envisioned an innovative, sustainability-centred venue that would showcase aquatic life within the natural setting of Stanley Park. In 2014, the ribbon was cut on the new Aquarium Entrance Complex and visitors can now see the product of this vision from the moment they set foot in the immersive space. On October 11, 2016, it was announced that our goal to meet and exceed some of the highest sustainability standards had been achieved—this first phase was awarded the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification from the Canada Green Building Council, an international mark of excellence in sustainable design.
Reflecting the organization’s long-standing commitment to sustainability, this is the second time the Aquarium has received this prestigious designation. In 2008, the Aquaquest building, home to the organization’s conservation, research and education programs, became the world’s first aquarium or zoo in the world to receive LEED Gold certification.
LEED Gold sustainability standards have been applied to 5,110 square metres of expanded space that serves a variety of purposes. Included in the expansion is a welcome plaza, which hosts the iconic sculpture Chief of the Undersea World, created by renowned Haida artist Bill Reid; the outdoor Ocean Courtyard; the new Ocean Wise Café; as well as a seasonal Waterfall Café, which features a picturesque outdoor seating area for Stanley Park visitors. Inside, it encompasses the upstairs Teck Connections Gallery with its 360-degree digital screens that come alive with stunning aquatic imagery, the lower-level Teck Engagement Gallery featuring amphitheater-style seating, and the Changing Exhibits gallery, a space dedicated to housing new and temporary exhibits.
The Honourable Dr. Hedy Fry, Member of Parliament, announced the LEED Gold certification in the Teck Connections Gallery. “The Government of Canada recognizes that investing in green infrastructure is essential to protecting our environment, growing the middle class and equipping municipalities with the building blocks they need to support a high standard of living for Canadians and their families,” she said on behalf of the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.
John Nightingale, president and CEO of Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, noted that creating a green complex was the goal from day one. “Sustainability was at the core of the new building’s plans from the day the blueprints were drawn. From installations that significantly minimize water use to our energy-efficient heat exchange system, the exploratory visitor complex represents some of the most innovative applications of green design.”
Sustainability was integrated into each step of the complex’s development. As part of the Aquarium’s commitment to preserving the local environment, the complex was designed to preserve and enhance the existing Stanley Park forest character and ecology, selecting timeless, long-lasting, simple materials compatible with Stanley Park’s environment. The curvilinear shape of the Aquarium’s walls fit into the organic environment and topography of Stanley Park. Conifers and other infill native trees and shrubs have been planted to restore the native forest. Ninety per cent of construction waste was diverted from landfill and salvaged and recycled materials were sourced and incorporated into the project wherever possible.
Some of the sustainable features are less obvious to spot but are equally as important. Landscaping and civil design was developed to optimize storm water management, and protect and restore open spaces. Water use is minimized through a number of features, including 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.
The requirements developed to guide LEED standards encourage the design and construction of green buildings that reduce their environmental impact. The LEED rating system is organized into six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental air quality, and innovation and design process. The Aquarium’s Entrance Complex received LEED Gold status under the LEED Canada Rating System for New Construction and Major Renovations, version 2009.
The Entrance Complex is the first phase of a major expansion and revitalization project to engage more and more people to aquatic life. The infrastructure enhancements were made possible with the generous support of the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and community partner Teck.