October 6, 2005

Victoria project's goal: 26 LEED platinum buildings

  • The ambitious project will turn a 15-acre brownfield into a green community for 2,500 people.
    Special to the Journal

    Images courtesy Dockside Green
    Sustainable architecture will be used throughout Dockside Green. This building’s windows will face the sun for heat in the winter. Fabric awnings will block the sun in the summer.

    On Oct. 11 the codevelopers of Dockside Green — Vancity Enterprises and Windmill Development — will host a celebration with all of the project's stakeholders who envisioned a community that can create economic opportunities while promoting environmental responsibility and healthy, diverse and dynamic urban living. Following the event, remediation of the 15-acre brownfield and former industrial site on Victoria's working harbor will begin.

    It is a date worth celebrating. Our plan is ambitious and, we believe, precedent setting. We will build a complete community for 2,500 people using the highest green standards — and we plan to make it profitable. Our $350 million (Canadian) project includes residential, live-work, hotel, retail, office and light-industrial uses. It will comprise 26 buildings totalling 1.3 million square feet, and will be built over seven to 10 years.

    Dockside Green is near downtown Victoria and parkland.

    Our vision would not have been possible without the leadership shown by the city of Victoria. With the triple bottom line approach in mind (balancing profits with environmental and social dividends), the city has embraced Dockside Green's commitment to bring together many of the green building and sustainable community concepts: smart growth, new urbanism, LEED, industrial design and waste-as-food.

    Vancity, Canada's largest credit union and the parent company of Vancity Enterprises, is providing a $25 million guarantee to the city that would cover commitments in case they are not met by the codevelopers. Included are the purchase price, remediation costs and amenities. This guarantee was imperative to the signing of the master development agreement.

    Extensive consultation with community groups and the business community have enabled us to educate them about the impact Dockside Green will have on greater Victoria as well as other developments.

    By working with the whole building site, rather than an individual building, we can address a number of the LEED credits, realizing economies of scale in green infrastructure design. Also, synergies and waste-as-food opportunities can be explored.

    Despite the fact that the LEED green building rating system was not developed with this type of site-wide approach, Dockside Green will prove how a holistic approach to environmental design can have a more profound impact on creating sustainable communities.

    All sewage and wastewater will be treated onsite, then funneled into water features spread through out the community. Natural vegetation and landscaping will add to the ambiance.

    This also allows us to address issues beyond LEED.

    While LEED introduced us to green building design, and was the catalyst to focus on triple bottom line developments, it is also a catalyst for change. While there have been eco-residential and eco-industrial developments in the past, to our knowledge none has incorporated such a wide range of uses within one development.

    Holistic, closed-loop design will have the effect of improving, and potentially compounding, the economic, environmental and livability benefits and attributes for Dockside Green community members.

    Some of the sustainable, triple bottom line features our project include:

  • It is designed to be greenhouse gas neutral for building energy use. Renewable energy for all heating, cooling and electrical needs will be produced through a waste wood biomass energy co-generation system.

    Boat building, shipyards and light industry are part of the community because of its proximity to an active harbor.

  • We are working with a company to locate a bio-diesel facility on site. Bio-diesel can be used in our construction equipment, vehicles that deliver waste wood and our car share program. The biomass energy can be used to produce bio-diesel, creating a closed-loop process.

  • All sewage will be treated to tertiary standards, on site. The treated water will be used for toilets and landscaping.

  • Alternative modes of transportation will be available to the community, including car-sharing (bio-diesel, hybrid), a mini-transit system and harbor ferry.

  • Direct economic benefits include decreased municipal infrastructure requirements for water supply, water treatment and inefficient transportation; new jobs; new sources of tax revenues; new community resources and amenities; and health benefits for residents and workers.

    The development will emphasize pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

  • We have included a budget to showcase environmental technologies and the expertise of our partners so others can learn from the project. The budget includes a center for environmental innovation.

  • Dockside Green will provide a mix of housing types and designs that allow for accessibility. At least 11 percent of the housing units will be designated as affordable, which will be integrated throughout the site.

    Our goal to achieve LEED platinum for the whole project is ambitious but achievable. There are only four LEED platinum buildings in the world, and none in Canada. Dockside Green will have 26. Again, our economies of scale and the right partners make it possible.

    But will Dockside Green
    be financially sustainable?
    Financing a green development project can be difficult, however more and more companies are realizing that creating sustainable communities, balanced with a triple bottom line approach, makes long-term business sense.

    Windmill Development’s expertise in sustainable development and its track record attracted Vancity Enterprises, a developer that is part of the Vancity group of companies.

    Vancity Enterprises works with local groups to improve the quality of life in communities by undertaking socially responsible real estate developments. Its focus on providing affordable, accessible housing is achieved by balancing commercial, social and urban design factors in a manner that ensures long-term community sustainability.

    Buildings have a tremendous impact on our lives and the environment, with the average North American citizen spending 80 to 90 percent of their lives in them. Buildings use one-third of our total energy, two-thirds of our electricity and are responsible for 16 percent of our freshwater withdrawals. They produce 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and generate 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste in the United States each year. An estimated 3 billion tons of raw materials are used annually to construct buildings worldwide.

    Skeptics in the development industry don’t believe Dockside Green can be financially sustainable. We are facing the same issues all other developers are facing: the rising cost of materials, the lack of skilled labor and the prediction that the real estate bubble can burst at any time.

    Are there enough purchasers out there that will pay the green premium? We think so, but a priority is to educate consumers on how the initial up-front investment will mean long-term gains in cost efficiencies, with lower maintenance costs and a growing demand for healthy communities that are inclusive.

    Indications are also positive that demand is growing for for goods and services that appeal to consumers who value health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living.

    While rising costs have an impact on keeping housing affordable, we have developed a program that allows us to be flexible to market demand, even in the affordable housing sector. Our strategy is to integrate affordable housing into each building rather than a segregated approach. Working with all levels of government, it is our hope to leverage a $3 million investment into increased financial support for more units. As well, we want to avoid having affordable housing restricted to one-bedroom units, and provide larger homes for families, depending on demand.

    It is our hope that our model for affordable housing can be emulated by other developers, to ensure green developments are not only for the wealthy.

    — Joe Van Belleghem and Jacques Khouri

    Busby, Perkins & Will is the architect for the project. The firm's integrated and holistic approach to design is what is needed to reach our sustainability goals. Their architects understand that a building is a total environmental system in which form, structure, materials, and mechanical and electrical systems are interrelated and interdependent.

    Our engineering firm, Keen Engineering, is a leader in sustainable design. The firm employs 129 LEED accredited professionals and holds one of the largest portfolios of completed green projects in North America, for which it has received a number of sustainable design awards.

    Keen, along with all of our other partners on the project, have been chosen for their expertise in the green building movement.

    Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Dockside Green project, once complete, will be the example it sets for others to emulate. Throughout the development process, we will be open and transparent. We are so sure that we can achieve a truly sustainable development that Vancity Credit Union has put up a $25 million guarantee which the city can draw from should we not attain one or more of our sustainable goals. I guess you can say we are putting our money where our mouth is.

    For more information on Dockside Green, visit

    Joe Van Belleghem is a managing partner with Windmill Development Group. Jacques Khouri is president and CEO of Vancity Enterprises Ltd.

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