Net-zero municipal building opening soon in Nova Scotia

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Danny Muise, warden for the Municipality of the District of Argyle, stands beside the solar park that powers the municipality's new net-zero building. (Phlis McGregor/CBC - image credit)
Danny Muise, warden for the Municipality of the District of Argyle, stands beside the solar park that powers the municipality's new net-zero building. (Phlis McGregor/CBC - image credit)

In foggy southwest Nova Scotia, dozens of solar panels are powering what's believed to be the first net-zero municipal building in Canada.

The building in Tusket belongs to the Municipality of the District of Argyle, which has set out to reduce its carbon footprint.

Warden Danny Muise said 100 per cent of the one-storey building's power for its heat pump system comes from 24 solar panels located behind the structure.

"We had a lot of fog. These panels collect the energy regardless. You know, it doesn't have to be full sun all the time," Muise said.

Walking through the space on a hot day last week, Muise pointed out how much natural light falls throughout the building.

Phlis McGregor/CBC
Phlis McGregor/CBC

The reception area will have local artwork, while every office carries the name of a local community.

"We've had a lot of good comments on it, how beautiful it was," said Muise. "People are pleased and so are we, for sure."

Besides offices and council space, there's a kitchen that residents can use for small events, as well as a boardroom available for public meetings. A four-section table that can be assembled into a circle can also be used by the public in council chambers.

Muise said this is especially important for local Mi'kmaq, who require a round table for meetings.

Phlis McGregor/CBC
Phlis McGregor/CBC

While the entire project cost about $1 million, Muise said the municipality received a grant of about $500,000 through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund.

He said the loan will be paid back with money from municipal reserves.

It's a lot of money, but Muise said the amount of energy produced by the solar panels is far greater than what's needed, meaning no electricity bills and thousands of dollars saved each year.

"It's going to be a huge savings and that puts more money in our budget to do other projects," said Muise.

"I know the public is very, very happy with what we're doing here."

The municipality will host a grand opening for the building once they have fully moved in and COVID-19 restrictions have eased further in the province.

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