Canadian Consulting Engineer

Dockside Green: Environment All the Way

"It sounds almost too good to be true. Dockside Green, the largest development in Victoria's history is also about as environmentally responsible as it can be at this point in time.

July 1, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

“It sounds almost too good to be true. Dockside Green, the largest development in Victoria’s history is also about as environmentally responsible as it can be at this point in time.

The 120,799-m2 development of residences, offices and light industry is being developed by Windmill West and VanCity.

The developers are applying for a platinum LEED rating for the buildings and have promised to pay the city a penalty of up to $1 million if they don’t meet the grade. So far only four buildings in the world have reached LEED platinum.

But that’s not all. By next year, Dockside Green will have a district energy system fuelled by biomass waste wood products and producing enough energy to export to neighbouring buildings. It means Dockside will be the first development of its type in Canada to be “greenhouse-gas positive.”

All the wastewater is being treated on site in a plant that has just been commissioned. The treated water will be reused, producing a savings in potable water of around 70 million gallons a year when the entire project is built in around six years’ time. The savings are equivalent to what the Region of Victoria consumes on the hottest day of the year.

Designed according to the principles of “new urbanism,” the community is planned to cut down on driving. The 15-acre master plan is threaded with trails and bike paths, and it is located close to downtown on a once devastated brownfield site that had one lone building and one lone tree. Soon there will be 1,800 trees.

The radically green approach is paying off. Joe Van Belleghem is with Windmill West and has been involved in Dockside Green from the beginning. He’s also one of the founders of the Canada Green Building Council.

First, Van Belleghem explains, their environmental and community-conscious approach is reaping financial rewards through the approvals process: “We have had no opposition to this project, which is unheard of,” says Van Belleghem. “So we’ve been able to get our development permits in a very fast track manner. Our zoning process was extremely quick, and the community has really worked hard with us to design better buildings.”

At Phase 2 Dockside Green is on time and even a little under budget, even given the hot labour market of B. C. where construction prices are escalating. As part of their policy, the developers require that the contractors train First Nations workers. “I think it emotionally charges people,” Van Belleghem says.

And, he explains, “With marketing, we spend about half of the average developer. In large part that’s because there are a lot of stories [in the media] on Dockside. But it’s also part of our philosophy. So we take the savings and put them into a better building.”

When phase1 went on sale, the developers sold 83% of the units in the first three hours. Those four condominium buildings are now occupied. The buildings are predicted to be around 52% more energy efficient than the Model National Energy Code for Buildings. The units don’t have air-conditioning, but in Victoria’s temperate climate they should stay cool thanks to features such as superior insulation and glazing, 100% fresh air supplied to each unit, and exterior shades on the south and west walls. They have a 4-pipe fan coil heating system in which two of the pipes carry domestic hot and cold water. The hot water will be drawn from the central biomass plant and cooling can be added in the future.

The creek system at Dockside Green doubles as both a natural approach to stormwater control and as an aesthetic feature. “We have designed a creek and pond system so that the decks of the condominiums actually sit over the water course. It’s quite amazing,” says Van Belleghem. “The system is catching a lot of people’s attention, because it well exceeds municipal requirements, but it is also bringing to the site an urban ecology.”– BP


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