BC to force carbon-neutral construction

August 12, 2008 at 8:39 am 5 comments

An article in today’s Globe tells of an intriguing twist in the BC Government’s push for tighter environmental standards in new construction:

Green report pushes for carbon-neutral construction

However, he said it is not likely that an individual homeowner would be able to duplicate a key feature of the [Dockside Green] project, an energy-efficient, biomass-fuelled generator costing $7.5-million. It’s that generator that allows Dockside Green to boast carbon-positive status.

Fancy solar panels and revolutionary sewage treatment are meaningless if it encourages suburban sprawl. And those features are also meaningless if the owners can’t afford to service or replace them when they malfunction. True environmentally-sensitive development occurs in areas already built up and containing existing (if aging and inadequate) sewage and other infrastructure and where the cost of upkeep is spread among many residents. The article profiles Victoria’s Dockside Green as a exemplary form of development (Dockside is being built on a former contaminated train yard).

The challenge the City of Victoria faces is that there a few Dockside Green-sized plots of land left available. In order to acheive the economy of scale that makes these features affordable we will have to balance density and livability and we will have to work as a community to encourage new means of managing urban density that doesn’t involve drastic changes to existing cohesive neighbourhoods.

Victorians need to have an intelligent dialogue on urban height and density before the Province has it for us.

Entry filed under: architecture, urban design.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. davin  |  August 12, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Well said. So when do we begin, and how?

  • 2. robertrandall  |  August 12, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I’ll give you a clear example of a tough choice:

    A couple of years ago the Juliet condo development came before Council. “Green” Councillor Sonya Chandler voted “no” on this project because she disliked the height–she would have liked to see a couple of storeys lopped off the top. But those aren’t just storeys–they’re space for residents, and eliminating them means that many more units must be made up elsewhere. I’d like to know where else those people should live? If supply doesn’t meet demand then additional pressure is put on our existing housing stock as well as encouraging suburban sprawl. I venture that our lone “Green” councillor isn’t so green when push comes to shove.

    Let’s start by encouraging higher density in urban areas outside Old Town and the Inner Harbour. A prime example is the Douglas corridor through Rock Bay, which will soon be BRT and perhaps Light Rapid Transit one day.

    Enviromental features benefit condo buyers but not necessarily developers, because they build them but the buyers reap the monetary and environmental rewards. We could look at incentives that would reward developers who do extraordinary environmental features (since practically all developers working in Victoria are making their buildings LEED qualified or equivalent).

    Another thing is that the City desperately needs to cooperate with developers in upgrading infrastructure like sewage treatment. See Yule Heibel’s column in the August Focus magazine for more on Bill 27 and the need for better infrastructure.

    Also more cooperation between developers is needed. I tried very hard to get the developers of the neighbouring Radius, Hudson and Gateway Green highrise projects to share in a geo-thermal heating/cooling technology scheme but various entanglements made it unworkable. We can do better.

  • 3. davin  |  August 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the explanation, lots to think about there. I’ll seek out Yule’s column in Focus.

  • 4. robertrandall  |  August 22, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    The September issue should be out soon but back issues are at the GVPL. Yule archives her articles in .pdf on her blog.

  • 5. Yule Heibel  |  August 24, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Oops, that’s a nice prompt (kick!) for me to scan the Aug. article and put it up as a PDF! Another item for the to-do list… :-)


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