Green construction techniques are advancing in our region, largely through the efforts of industry and civic leaders. See how the trend is delivering innovative new buildings and why our construction choices can impact carbon emissions for decades.
UBC Building Showcases Green Design
The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, or CIRS as it’s known, is housed in a state-of-the-art building at the University of British Columbia. The building is toured frequently, by visitors eager to learn more about its sustainable features such as water reclamation, green roof, and energy-saving design elements. Event manager Tim Herron is leading this tour group, visiting CIRS as part of Building Lasting Change, the Canada Green Building Council’s national convention.
Finding Success in Challenges
The City of Vancouver’s Greenest City initiative is the subject of a well-attended workshop at the convention, which is introduced by Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer.
“We take a very strong approach in our greenest city work that failure is actually success,” notes Reimer in her opening remarks. “It’s good for us to share the challenges that we’re having. Of course we are happy to share the things that are working, but we find that we learn the most when we’re able to dive into the pieces that we were challenged by and you may have also been challenged by and may have some collective solutions to bring to bear.”
Metro Region Cities Sharing Solutions
“Five to ten years ago Vancouver was clearly in the lead and many local people were following,” says City of Vancouver Green Building Manager Sean Pander. “But what i find really exciting is that we are now starting to learn from the surrounding municipalities as well. When there’s a piece that we know is important, we say how can we help you advance that, because we want to learn from it.”
LEED Gold the New Standard
“The floor here you’ll notice, this is recycled tires,” says Herron as he leads the CIRS tour through the main entrance. We use no fossil fuels and the only room that has air conditioning is the lecture hall, simply because it’s hard to cool a room of 450 people at one time.”
The CIRS building at UBC is certified at the platinum level of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or ‘LEED’ program. The City of Vancouver now requires all new developments to achieve LEED gold certification. They also must exceed the energy performance currently required by the building code, by 22%.
Carbon Impacts of Buildings
People often think of cars and trucks when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, and their contribution to climate change. But actually, the house or condo tower you live or work in is likely a far worse offender.
“Buildings are one of the largest contributor to carbon emissions in Canada,” notes Canada Green Building Council CEO Thomas Mueller. “In Vancouver alone, 56% of all carbon emissions come from buildings and homes. Climate change is accelerating, we all know it. And buildings last a long, long time. So the decisions we make today will determine our carbon future. We can exchange a car every five years or ten years, a building might be exchanged every hundred years, or 200 years depending on the building type, so the decisions we make right now are key. People who are saying we shouldn’t be doing any more, it’s too hard, it’s too complex, it costs too much money, the evidence shows that it’s not, and we just have to get on with it.”
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