All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

The new green buildings of Vancouver

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First Place Residence at First Avenue and Quebec

First Place Residence at First Avenue and Quebec

I’ve been blogging so much about the energy-efficient buildings of Hamburg, I may have given the impression that there is little of comparable interest in Vancouver.

That is not so. Here are a few examples of performing buildings, from a nifty site that provides audio descriptions (the Green Buildings Audio Tours, here).

For instance, Salt, a 31 story appartment tower in downtown Vancouver (1308 Hornby), has a green roof and collects all runoff from balconies into a cistern. This greatly reduces peak flows that the building would otherwise load into the storm drains. Energy efficiency gains have been made throughout the structure, from occupancy sensors to appliances to a heat recovery system. The smaller Prelude building on Cambie near the Langara skytrain station likewise uses a green roof and other rainfall capture techniques, as well as a variety of energy efficient techniques. The Crossroads building (Cambie and Broadway) includes, among other features, a system that recovers heat from the refrigeration units in the ground floor grocery store. Smart.

Some of the public buildings are pretty performant, too. The Sunset community centre collects runoff from the entire roof, and has a retention pond and runoff control system that saves water for site irrigation and toilet flushing; meanwhile, its soft-surface parking and bioswales enhance infiltration. It uses geothermal heating and has high efficiency glazing that reduces heat loss. Likewise, the Mount Pleasant community centre has a geothermal-heated building with a well insulated envelope, an earth duct for fresh air, and a stack effect from its high atrium. And of course the Olympic village facilities are groundbreaking.

It’s not all just Vancouver, either. In Surrey, the new Centre of Newton Phase II building is a LEED Platinum office and retail building with many interesting features. It uses heat pumps for heating and cooling, as well as for water heating, and has a well insulated envelope, which, in combination with energy efficient lighting, means that it uses between a third and two thirds less energy than a standard building of comparable size. A fairly unique feature is the tenancy agreement which requires the occupants to make full use of the energy conservation features. I’m impressed by the measurements and verification protocols, which monitor the energy efficiency of the 4500 square meter, four story building located in Surrey at 7327 137th street.

But maybe what is most notable among the Vancouver buildings are the ones developed for social housing. For instance, First Place Residence, a ten story building on the corner of First and Quebec, has both a 450 m2 green roof and a 56 m2 hot water solar array. It has been built with energy efficiency as its goal (it is connect to the neighbourhood utility and does not need natural gas), as well as durability and simple maintenance needs. It also features a vegetable and herb garden accessible by the residents and community kitchens.

This building is fairly typical of many of the newer social housing buildings, which are numerous; the website lists the Kettle Society, Sanford, Station Street, Kwayatsut, Karis Place, Alexander Street, Budzey, Marguerite Ford, McLaren Housing, and Sorella, among others. Many of these projects aim for LEED Gold certification, and are transit oriented. They also maximize the use of natural light and use energy efficient lighting features.

Construction materials are non-toxic and durable, recycled contect is used as possible, and waste production during construction is minimized. Water saving features are used throughout. B.C. Housing’s High Performance Green House Gas Strategy mandates these buildings to achieve high energy efficiency, with a maximum of 10% end use energy coming from fossil fuels.

Is it sufficient? Many of these requirements are not as stringent as Europe’s new criteria, such as the German EnEV specifications. Nevertheless, Vancouver has set out some ambitious goals for its Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, including that all buildings built after 2020 will need to be greenhouse gas neutral in their operation. This is pretty remarkable.


Written by enviropaul

February 14, 2016 at 7:06 pm

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