cSPACE response to neighbour concerns on chiller unit location at King Edward

 In cSPACE News, Project Updates

The following is a letter written by cSPACE to the President of the Marda Loop Communities Association on September 15, 2014 that clarifies the municipal approvals process and community engagement associated with the design and location of the chiller unit proposed for the King Edward site.

A PDF version of the letter is available here: 14-09-15 Letter to MLCA re cSPACE Chiller Design

September 15, 2014


Marc Doll, President

Marda Loop Communities Association

3130 – 16th Street SW

Calgary, AB   T2T 4G7

RE: Neighbour concerns regarding chiller unit location at 1720 – 30th Avenue SW  (cSPACE King Edward)

Dear Mr. Doll,

As the President and CEO of cSPACE Projects and the property owner of the former King Edward School site, I would like to address a perceived issue that has arisen with several of our neighbours concerning the proposed location of our chiller unit for the building on 29th Avenue.

The social mission of cSPACE as a non-profit organization is firmly grounded in a collaborative approach to community building. To that end, we have worked diligently since our first public meeting in March 2011 with the MLCA, residents, City of Calgary staff and the Ward 8 Councilor to ensure a high level of transparency, sensitivity and professionalism in our efforts to revitalize the vacant school site.

In an effort to address these residents’ concerns, I am providing a summary of the issues that they communicated and our detailed responses from the past few months of engagement:

NEIGHBOUR ISSUE #1 – Lack of communication and transparency

Throughout our early master planning process, we engaged the community in four public meetings from March to October 2011 to establish the overarching framework and density of the site. Local residents and MLCA executive participated on our advisory group and the rezoning application was submitted to the City of Calgary in April 2012.

On June 27 2012, cSPACE presented the final planning framework and conceptual drawings to the MLCA Board. As no design development or engineering work had been initiated, the drawings did not identify the location of our chiller unit. After a public meeting on October 30 2012, the rezoning was approved by City Council on February 11 2013.

Following several months of more detailed work, a Development Permit package was prepared showing the chiller unit located in an acoustic enclosure on 29th Avenue. The application for Development Permit was submitted to the City of Calgary on May 31 2013 and public notice was posted on site for several weeks. On July 17 2013, we presented our designs to the City’s Urban Design Review Panel, receiving a recommendation for approval. The final package was circulated to MLCA’s Development Committee for comments and was supported by the MLCA Board in December 2013. The Development Permit was approved by the City of Calgary on December 17 2013.

Beginning in March 2014, we received communications from a neighbor on 29th Avenue that requested detailed information on our chiller unit. We have met with the individual and provided detailed explanations in numerous subsequent emails to him as well as a broader group of residents that he notified.

NEIGHBOUR ISSUE #2 – Location of the chiller unit

During the design development stage of the project, our team worked through various scenarios to locate a number of services required for the site.  These include:

  • Electrical transformer
  • Telus pedestal
  • Chiller
  • Bicycle storage
  • Garbage/Recycling

Our team looked at locating the chiller unit on the roof of the new wing, however this location became less suitable for the following reasons:

  • Provision of an entire floorplate in the new west wing to accommodate the unit and its servicing requirements, reducing our ability to provide key program space for the non-profit community
  • Increased cost of enhanced structural system to support the weight of a roof-top location
  • Alignment to the principles and standards of the historic designation by-law of the heritage building

As shown in the attached site plan, we consolidated all of these services into one acoustically shielded enclosure on the North side to reduce the visual impact on the community and to improve efficiencies in servicing the site.  As illustrated, the chiller unit utilizes approximately 15% of the entire enclosure. With a municipal historic designation that includes the north wall of the school, our team had to locate it away from the building while allowing for the required fire truck access and parking spaces.  The existing housing to the north and future housing to the west and east necessitated this mid-block location. Our architect has designed an enclosure and significant landscaping to serve a dual purpose of improving the visual impact and addressing sound attenuation. This is our front door to the creative hub for our tenants and we want it to be designed as well as the other 3 sides.

NEIGHBOUR ISSUE #3 – Sound levels of the chiller unit

We understand that transforming a property that has been vacant for 12 years requires sensitivity, particularly for neighbours who have never lived across from the site as an active school. We have a highly sustainable building (LEED Gold) that has numerous enhancements that limit our cooling requirements. We have reduced the extent of chilled air supply to only the new construction and hallways of the school – all tenant spaces are not cooled mechanically, but by operable windows with fresh air.  With regards to the new West Wing, we have also invested in external louvers to reduce the solar gain and more operable windows to supplement the cooling. The new wing has a ‘second skin’ that blocks the sun as it tracks across the sky, reducing the need for cooling.

As our team worked through the detailed design of the building systems in 2013, we made some adjustments to the chiller specifications during our Development Permit approval process.  With the current unit design, we have added compressor wraps, larger acoustic louvers and additional height to the enclosure. With this set up, we are within the City’s Noise By-law standards at 48-50 dBA. The sound level data represents the maximum noise levels with full operation (e.g. middle of summer with a performance in our studio theatre) and does not represent normal operating levels.  To understand that number in layman terms, I have provided the web links below for reference:

Comparative Noise Examples

Noise Level Chart

The attached site plan also has the sound levels based on data from the manufacturer and our acoustic engineers work. We stand by our team’s work 100% on this. In terms of comparison, many residential air conditioning units emit similar, if not more, dBA than our currently designed commercial unit at the property line of our neighbours.

I would like to emphasize an important point with regards to the neighbours’ concerns about the size of the unit – increased size of chiller does not equal more noise. Our current unit has a larger capacity but uses more fans running at lower speeds to help reduce the noise generation. MORE FANS = LESS SPEED = REDUCED NOISE. We lower the fan’s RPM’s to achieve the same cooling effect.

While we have an approved design that meets all City of Calgary standards, cSPACE is committed to doing everything we can to ensure the MLCA is fully aware and remains supportive of our community project. We are looking into additional measures to lower the maximum noise levels with different manufacturers, variable speed fans and acoustic enclosure designs.

As we have many times over the last three years, my team would be pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding this issue or the project more broadly.

Warm Regards,

Reid Henry

President and CEO

cSPACE Projects

 14-08-26 Site Plan with Chiller Impact

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