Glass-rich Nova Scotia Power Corporate Headquarters given LEED Platinum status
The Nova Scotia Power Corporate Headquarters by WZMH Architects is located on a 5-acre site at the southern end of the Halifax downtown waterfront with access from Lower Water Street. An existing decommissioned power plant occupied the majority of the site; the Water Street Coal Fired Generating Station began with the installation of its first generator in 1911.
Construction of the current building took place progressively with a series of modules beginning with the northerly most one in 1944 and finishing at the south end of the site in 1959. The plant operated from 1944 to 1986 and was finally decommissioned in 1999.
This project by WZMH Architects involved the retention and adaptive reuse of the former generating plant to become the headquarters for the provincial electrical utility, Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI). The facility houses over 500 staff in approximately 18,000 gross sq m and provides onsite parking for 150 cars.
The design team explains how early visits to the site were truly inspirational: “Soaring interior spaces with an exposed latticework of steel framework were reminiscent of the imagery of Russian Deconstructivism design. Investigation of archival photos of the site uncovered the image of a line of 4 chimney stacks. The design retains a memory of, and celebrates, the original structure.
“The free-standing structure in the Atrium frames interesting views to the waterfront. Transparent stairs and bridges that thread their way through the structure provide connectivity within the building. The memory of the chimneys is recalled in the Galleria - their bases becoming skylights. Interior finishes recall an industrial aesthetic - the polished concrete floor in the atrium and expanded metal mesh on the balustrades.”
On the exterior, the new envelope is expressed as a layer applied, and floating out from the original volume. The decommissioned power plant was a barrier to the waterfront. Over 36m in height, the large concrete mass with no openings prevented any visual connection between the City to the west and the waterfront between Morris Street and Marginal Road. A large transparent volume carved through the mass of the existing building, the Atrium, forms not only the main entrance to the building on Lower Water Street, but provides a visual link through the building so that the water is visible from the street.
As the provincial power authority, NSPI wishes to demonstrate environmental responsibility and show leadership in energy conservation. The unique adaptive reuse of the building is a visible statement of the corporation’s commitment to sustainability. The building was recently awarded LEED Platinum certification - the first building in Atlantic Canada to receive the designation.
Sea water cooling (and heating) is being provided utilising existing piping from the Halifax harbour originally used to cool power generating turbines. The building represents the first major use of ‘chilled beam’ technology in Canada. Located within the ceiling space, the system, more efficient than conventional systems, utilises (low energy sea) water rather than air to transport cooling thereby lowering energy consumption.