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Ron St-OngeProfile: Ron St-Onge

Project manager works on efficient, environmentally friendly government office building

A new state-of-the-art building in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is setting new standards for innovation and sustainability in government offices. And Ron St-Onge is playing a key role in shaping the model for the next generation.

The Jean Canfield Building was made possible through the coordinated efforts of three levels of government. The federal government wanted to replace an older building, the province needed space to set up a new technology centre, and the City of Charlottetown wanted a new parking garage.

Three for the price of one

“In Charlottetown, at the time the Government of Canada was planning the new building, there were two other separate initiatives, one by the province and another by the city,” says Ron, a project manager at Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).

“At first, all three parties were competing for the same parcels of land. But they realized that, instead of competing with each other, they should work together on a cohesive development plan.”

Their co-operative approach made it possible for PWGSC to launch an ambitious project.

“The whole building is based
on sustainability and improving
the workplace, which in turn
increases productivity.”

Natural touches

According to Ron, “the whole building is based on sustainability and improving the workplace, which in turn increases productivity.”

From top to bottom, the Jean Canfield Building looks like a science exhibition; it showcases many new technologies that reduce waste and energy costs, and makes the workplace more comfortable and natural.

For instance, solar panels installed on the roof supply nearly 10 percent of the building’s electricity demand. And the building’s open concept design incorporates an atrium that allows lots of natural light, “a huge factor in terms of overall personal health and well-being,” says Ron. “The atrium also allows our ventilation system to work without mechanical aid.”

Everywhere you look, you see recycled materials put to good use. Even the carpet is recyclable and, to top it off, hypoallergenic.

“There’s no off-gassing from the carpet, which has contributed to the health of anyone who has sensitivities to glues or organic compounds,” says Ron.

Energy efficiency pays for itself

The energy savings have been considerable—better than expected, in fact. The original goal was for the building to become 50 percent more energy efficient than the norm.

“We’ve actually exceeded our benchmark,” says Ron. “We’re closer to 60 percent more energy efficient than the average Canadian office building.” What’s more, he adds, “on the site we’re not producing any emissions. We’re very proud of that.”

And the building’s interior walls won’t have to be torn down if the space needs to be reconfigured. “We have what they call a demountable wall system. All of its components basically snap together. We simply disassemble the space and reassemble it.”

Sharing space and technology

 Ron St-Onge

A key benefit to tenants, especially the smaller ones, is the abundance of shared spaces.

“We have shared meeting rooms,” says Ron. “Instead of individual departments having meeting rooms available only to them, we have shared boardrooms that everyone can use.”

This arrangement also gives all tenants access to teleconferencing equipment, a costly “must” for today’s boardrooms. “We can share not only some of the space, but also the technology.”

Incremental approaches

 Ron St-Onge

Ron is a civil engineer by training. He says it has been exciting to take on the role of project manager on such a groundbreaking venture.

“You’re basically coordinating a large project team and all its various components. My role covered everything from A to Z.”

Ron feels fortunate to have been part of the initiative as it was being developed. “The success of this project is a direct reflection of the project team and the professionalism brought to the table,” he says. “It was a real pleasure to work with everyone involved.”

Reflecting on the project, he says that creating a truly sustainable building doesn’t always require an elaborate master plan from the outset. “It’s all the little, incremental approaches.”

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