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Blog by Kevin Wong

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'Green' Construction Moving into Mainstream in Metro Vancouver

When Mountain Equipment Co-op opened their new North Vancouver retail space, the focus was as much on the environmental features of the building as the products they sell. The company is a pioneer of green development in the retail sector, and remains a leader in environmentally-conscious construction. Today they are keeping company with some of Canada's leading developers.

"Green buildings are the way we mitigate environmental degradation by designing and operating our structures to use energy, water, and materials efficiently. For over a decade we've been "greening" our buildings – making design and materials decisions based on environmental considerations," says Sandy Treagus, MEC's chief financial officer.

"The more green buildings we build, the better we get at it - we've learned a lot from every building project, and the consultants we use are among the best in their various fields," he adds.

The new is built to a LEED Gold standard, an international certification standard for sustainable construction. The distinctive saw tooth roof has been designed to maximize natural light, and building has been designed from the ground up to reduce the amount of energy used for heating and cooling, as well as lighting. The store will be approximately 60 per cent more energy efficient than conventional retail buildings.

In the twelve years since MEC built their first certified energy efficient retail space, green construction has moved from a novelty to the mainstream. Under the City of Vancouver's Greenest City plan, all permits for redevelopment over 500 square feet are required to meet the LEED Gold standard. The City has been providing incentives in the form of incorporating green building cost premiums into pro-forma analysis in rezoning process.

Since this policy was implemented in January 2011, the number of LEED buildings built annually has increased by 46 percent, bringing the total number LEED projects completed in Vancouver to 176. Vancouver has built 50 percent more LEED projects that the other 22 Metro Vancouver-area municipalities combined.

This year, TELUS and Westbank Projects are partnering to raise the bar in sustainable development again with the completion of TELUS Garden, North America's first LEED Platinum certified building.

"The buildings Westbank develops are designed with their end users in mind. We want our body of work to contribute to making the communities we live in, better places to live, which is why sustainable design is such a huge part of what we do," says Ian Gillespie, owner of Westbank Projects.

"We believe that in the future building 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. 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 in the heart of Downtown Vancouver will incorporate a LEED Platinum 24-storey signature office tower, the first of its kind in Canada, a LEED Gold 53-storey residential tower with more than 425 green homes, and retail space along Robson and Georgia.

TELUS is a half partner and lead tenant in the development. Like MEC, they see this project as a physical representation of their company's identity and values

"This building embodies our brand and represents what we value and want to instill in our team members and our community," says Andrea Goertz, TELUS senior vice president, strategic initiatives. "When we say 'the future is friendly,' it has to be evident in everything that we do."

"For us, LEED Gold is the base level for our buildings, and in Vancouver we had a chance to go to Platinum. I think it's important to take a leadership role and take it to that extra level," she adds.