Green Building Finally Going Mainstream

Vancouver skyline

The modern notion of green building is that it is an industry sector – almost a niche market of sorts. Common industry practices are not ruled by green guidelines; traditionally, they simply have evolved to include them.

However, as the pressure mounts for the construction and design industry to undertake practices that are environmentally responsible, eliminating excess carbon output, the green ‘sector’ has taken on a life of its own, to the point where the Vancouver Sun reports that mainstream industry activities in metro Vancouver are shifting in a ‘green’ direction.

It would seem that Vancouver’s long-standing commitment to environmental design initiatives are paying off as the city increasingly develops a mainstream green building industry.

This move toward mainstreaming green practices is due in large part to the city’s urban planning policies, with Vancouver’s Greenest City plan leading to a 46 per cent increase in LEED certified builds annually.

Under the urban planning scheme, redevelopment permits for buildings over 500 square feet must be of LEED Gold standard, with a number of incentives put into place in order to further encourage this transition. With these rules in place, the city is now home to a grand total of 176 LEED certified projects.

The report points to companies TELUS and Westbank Projects, who are endeavouring together to make LEED certified buildings the basic standard for all industry developments.

Telus Garden

“For us, LEED Gold is the base level for our buildings, and in Vancouver we had a chance to go to Platinum,” says TELUS senior vice president of strategic initiative’s Andrea Goertz. “I think it’s important to take a leadership role and take it to that extra level.”

With the completion of North America’s first LEED platinum certified mixed use office building, the TELUS Garden will surely live up to this goal, solidifying the city’s green foundation.

“We believe that in the future buildings like TELUS Garden, which will be built to a LEED Platinum standard, will have a higher value because of the sustainable features, like waste heat recapture, that are built into its infrastructure,” says Westbank Projects owner Ian Gillespie. “As a society, we can’t afford to keep building developments that don’t incorporate energy and resource savings.”

The $750 million, one million square foot development will stand as the benchmark for green building efforts in the city. With its incorporation of retail, residential and office spaces, all of which are being developed to meet LEED standards, the holistically green model will act as an example that sustainable design can be delivered in any sector, on any project.

Canada has one of the strongest construction industries in the world. If the country at large follows Vancouver’s example in evolving traditional industries into green building industries, it will gain the rewards and recognition that come with being world leaders in the green built arena.

By Emily D’Alterio
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