The energy-efficient Cambridge Mill, under construction

The energy-efficient Cambridge Mill, under construction

The construction site for the soon-to-be-opened Cambridge Mill is a sloppy, muddy mess following three days of rain, but even in the midst of the muck, it’s still possible to imagine the $11.5 million finished restaurant and special event facility: a gleaming combination of glass and century-old stone, surrounded by gardens, perched on top of the rushing Grand River.

Those heavy grey stone walls are original to the building—a 160-year-old former grist mill—but all the other interior elements will be brand new. And when it comes to the building’s systems, brand new becomes absolutely state-of-the-art.

From HVAC to wiring to lighting to kitchen equipment, every system in the building is designed with energy efficiency in mind. Read on for inspiration—and maybe to get some ideas of your own.

Using the river’s energy for heating and cooling

Heat exchanger for geothermal heating and cooling

A heat exchanger for geothermal heating and cooling

For example, the building is heated and cooled geothermally, using the captured energy of water from the Grand River.

According to Aaron Ciancone, president of the Landmark Group, which owns the Cambridge Mill as well as the Ancaster Mill, Bread Bar in Hamilton and Spencer’s in Burlington, there were several advantages to using the energy of the river water—even though the system costs twice as much as a conventional setup. “Our primary reason was aesthetics,” says Ciancone, flanked by the building’s basement heat exchangers. “With a closed-loop system like this one, there’s no rooftop equipment necessary, so the building looks beautiful from all angles.”

Since the system only needs small heat pumps tucked away throughout the restaurant, as well as a bank of heat exchangers in the building’s basement, it’s not only improved the exterior aesthetics of the site, it’s freed up valuable real estate inside that would otherwise be needed for ductwork.

Aesthetics aside, there were other advantages too. “The system’s more reliable, and certainly more efficient,” says Ciancone. And although the payback period for the setup is a relatively long eight to nine years, the energy savings will be significant.

Energy recovery ventilation at work

Cambridge Mill's energy recovery ventilation system

Cambridge Mill's energy recovery ventilation system

Another system with a much shorter payback period—3.5 years—is the restaurant’s energy recovery ventilation setup, which captures 85 percent of the heat exhaust from the kitchen and uses it to pre-heat both the domestic hot water and the building’s make-up air. This means that the hot water heaters—already 96% efficient—heat water that’s already at 95 degrees.

Smaller energy efficiency investments count, too

Energy efficiency at the Cambridge Mill isn’t just about large building systems. The facility incorporates smaller energy tweaks as well, including  a planned herb/vegetable garden and fruit trees outdoors, motion-sensitive washroom lights and fans, and on-demand ovens.

These smaller tweaks are important for other facilities interested in energy efficiency, says Ciancone. “Five to ten year paybacks aren’t realistic for most businesses,” he points out. “We’re lucky, in that not only are we the developers, but we’re also the tenants and we’re also the landlords.”

Keeping patrons comfortable and saving energy

Energy efficient windows block 60% of solar radiation

Energy efficient windows block 60% of solar radiation

In the main dining room, the high efficiency windows overlooking the Grand River have been treated with film that cuts solar energy by 60 percent—a $6,000 upgrade that Ciancone says is worth it to ensure diners’ comfort.

Keeping people comfortable and maintaining an energy-efficient philosophy can sometimes be a delicate balancing act. “That’s one of the biggest challenges,” says Ciancone. “You’ve got to make sure people are comfortable, then you’ve got to satisfy building codes…it isn’t always easy to balance everything.”

Energy efficiency saves energy costs—and it’s good PR

With construction just finishing up on the site, the staff at Cambridge Mill are looking forward to their first wedding, booked for the May long weekend.

The Cambridge Mill is apparently doing something right, according to Jeff Crump, executive chef at the Ancaster Mill and Hamilton’s Bread Bar, and Ciancone’s business partner.

“We were hoping to book 30 weddings our first year of opening,” says Crump. “We’ve booked 130.”

Visit the BizEnergy Flickr photostream to see more pictures of the Mill’s energy efficient construction.