Building Green Communities in British Columbia

Green building and green communities are changing the way we imagine housing, living and land use. I was pleased to come across this article by Nicholas Heap entitled, Hot Properties How Global Warming could transform BC’s Real Estate Market. It contains some very interesting information that I  wanted to share with you.

Building for the Future

British Columbians have embraced the construction of new green buildings in the heart of their cities. Since the early 1990s, there has also been a great upsurge of interest in “green” buildings.Green buildings are designed and built in the most environmentally friendly matterpossible every step of the way. Of particular interest to the land development community, perhaps, is the stress that green building approaches place on maximizing occupant health and comfort – objectives achieved through measures such as natural lighting, openable windows, and minimal use of petrochemical-based materials, since these emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Helped in large part by the establishment of the LEED green building standards, the present decade has seen an exponential increase in the visibility and demand for green buildings. Vancouver and Victoria are both home to a series of state-of-the-art green buildings in North America, including the C.K. Choi Building at UBC, the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich, B.C.65, the LEED Platinum Dockside Green development on Victoria’s Inner Harbour 66, and what is described as the world’s greenest building – the CIRS complex now under development in False Creek Flats in Vancouver .67 There have also been an increasing number of developments with green attributes within the Interior of the province in recent years, including the use of ground source heat pumps for a number of large resort condominium developments in the Kamloops region. Even with this rapid growth, one large-scale study concluded that developers of green buildings may be hampering the growth of the sector by underselling the advantages of green buildings. Although the study confirmed that green buildings are indeed “quicker to secure tenants, command higher rents or prices, enjoy lower tenant turnover,” and usually cost less to operate and maintain, it concluded that the greatest financial benefits have been consistently overlooked by the real estate industry.

The scale of productivity and health benefit is potentially enormous, and may exceed the value of all real estate expenditures (not just energy, operations and maintenance but other costs such as rent/mortgage as well). If developers, owners and valuers can understand how to tap this benefit, the commercial advantage that they would gain would become the most significant aspect of Green Value. To date, the rapid development and growth of the green building phenomenon has largely come about through voluntary and market forces, albeit with the active support of the building and planning professions and government regulators. Formal regulatory support for energy-efficient and/or “green” buildings by the provincial government has been limited to measures such as the province’s Energy Efficiency Act (which serves more to prohibit the use of grossly inefficient appliances or building components), and provincial sales tax exemptions for some energy efficient equipment. With its own municipal charter, the City of Vancouver was able to adopt the ASHRAE 90.1 (1989) energy-efficiency standard in 1991, and the City subsequently adopted the stricter ASHRAE 90.1 (2001) standard in 2004.69

Beyond this, one of the most remarkable lifestyle transitions within the past generation has been the reinvention of the downtown core in many of B.C.’s larger urban centres. High density, high-amenity urban neighborhoods are now starting to emerge throughout the Lower Mainland, on Vancouver Island, and in the Okanagan. These fast-growing urban areas are being populated by large numbers of people attracted to a completely different set of Hot Properties. Lifestyle ideals than those used to sell the old ideal of the large lot detached suburban home.

While the expert marketing of these “smart growth” ideals has been a significant factor in the success of B.C.’s emerging new urban form, it is also true that many B.C. residents are independently motivated to live within vibrant and diverse mixed-use neighborhoods in which the use of a car for transportation becomes a choice rather than an obligation.

Hot properties: How global warming could transform B.C.’s real estate sector is © 2007 David Suzuki Foundation ISBN 1-897375-12-3 Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data for this book is available through the National Library of Canada

Author, Nicholas Heap