The Pomaria residential high-rise in downtown Vancouver brings together urban life and nature, and is one of the first residential towers to pursue the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

The inspiring 30-story tower features large open homes and lush sky gardens, a welcoming retreat for city dwellers looking for a sanctuary.

The Pomaria has been described as a green building, not only because of its gardens but also because it has pursued a Silver LEED rating.

There are many benefits of being a LEEDcertified building including improved ventilation as well as improved energy efficiency. The Pomaria has an improved envelope efficiency to decrease heat loss and gain and has a geothermal groundsource heat pump system that provides energy for heating, cooling, and hot water.

Typical A/C in suite

Sheet Metal and Air conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) member, Summit Sheet Metal of Port Coquitlam, B.C., was the HVAC contractor selected for the Pomaria job. They were responsible for all of the ventilation in the bathrooms, kitchens, dryers, central systems, and the three levels of underground parking.

In addition, Summit also installed air conditioning in every unit, which is not always standard in Vancouver residential high-rises.

All of the ductwork for the tower’s ventilation is embedded in the concrete — slab duct construction. This process is a standard in Vancouver, according to Jim Kapitza, the owner of Summit Sheet Metal.

What’s further notable about the construction of this 300- foot tower is the fact that the ductwork for ventilation is embedded in the concrete-slab duct construction.

Summit used a product called the ECCODUCT system, which is a rectangular spiral seamed duct that has a threehour fire rating on all encased components. Generally, the duct is manufactured in 10-ft. lengths, which makes it easy to install, and also allows for flexibility in design and layout, and is strong enough to resist deformation under the direct impact of the heavy concrete.

Embedding all that ductwork underneath the concrete may worry some contractors, but not Kapitza.

“Theoretically, there should never be a problem with it,” says Kapitza. “Sometimes cement can seep into duct, or maybe the concrete or rebar workers step on it, but that’s pretty rare. We’ve had a few cases where we had to reroute the duct, but not often.”

In addition to the ECCODUCT, Summit purchased its other materials from various suppliers. Since they’re not a fabrication shop, Summit depends mainly on non-custom, purchased products. All of the elbows and vents are prefabricated and cut to fit.

The systems that Summit installed were common area ventilation, ductwork, grilles, hallway pressurization, belowgrade parking exhaust and supply, and emergency stairwell ventilation. In addition, they also installed a custom architectural enclosure on the roof of the building.

LEED Benefits

What are the benefits of being a LEED-certified building? Not only does it ensure that the construction of the building has a reduced impact on the environment, it also improves the quality of living at Pomaria, with features such as improved ventilation for frequently circulated fresh air and opportunities for natural cross-ventilation.

“We didn’t know when we started the job that it was a LEED project,” Kapitza says. “We were a bit concerned about it at first, but it worked out for us.”

Kapitza says that he’d read some articles on LEED, including materials that were sent to him by SMACNA, but the Pomaria project was Summit’s first project where the building owners were actually pursuing a LEED designation.

“Until you get on the job and understand what you have to do, it’s really a mystery,” Kapitza says. “For us, it was more about trying to keep everything clean, than it was about using specific materials. “Also, to disperse our waste material in a manner that was different than what we had normally done.”

In terms of energy efficiency, Pomaria has an improved envelope efficiency to decrease heat loss and gain, and has a geothermal ground-source heat pump system that provides energy for heating, cooling, and hot water.

According to a recent survey, 90% of Canadians living in major urban areas want to buy condominiums that are energy efficient. In addition, 45% of the respondents in that survey said living in an “environmentally friendly, energy-efficient building” was very important, while another 45% said it was somewhat important.

What does this mean? It means that for contractors proficient in LEED qualifications, business will come to them.

The Pomaria

And while sheet metal companies often just supply the sheet metal, Summit is also providing all the fans, equipment, and controls on this project.

“We provided all the air movement equipment and all the duct systems,” Kapitza says. “We didn’t provide the air conditioning in the suites — we did provide all the ducts, and grilles, and louvers, and fire dampers.

“And, all the ventilation for the suites,” he adds.

Kapitza says he prefers high-rise work to most other jobs.

“I’ve always maintained there is more diversity in a tower than an office building or hospital,” he says. “There is such a wide range of things that have to be installed, it makes it more interesting for the installer.”

His company’s focus on residential work is one reason why they were not as familiar with LEED requirements as some contractors might be.

“It’s pretty unusual for a residential tower to pursue LEED designation,” Kapitza says. “It’s usually the commercial buildings — government and institutional buildings — that are going that way, and we don’t do that type of work.

“This is about the only LEED project we got going right now. It was new territory for us.”

And, most likely, it’s not going to be his last.