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LATEST NEWS  Green Building

February 16, 2006

Green buildings benefit owners and occupants, not always neighbours

vancouver

Green design doesn’t stop at the lot line, observes Doug Webber. Builders, developers and planners need to move beyond simply creating sustainable, environmentally friendly buildings and moving towards “green neighbourhoods,” says the Halsall Asssociates green building construction manager.

“Intelligent design shouldn’t just concentrate on a single building. If you look at the surrounding area as well, the development becomes more cost effective, and fits all the different pieces together. It’s moving the design process up the chain to include neighbourhoods,” Webber said.

He added that when a green building goes up, it benefits the occupants and owners, but not neighbours, such as retail operations.

“There’s no economic benefit to a store owner whether water goes into a drain or into the ground, unless the store is part of the system,” he said.

And he added while urban design is fundamentally about community, designers generally do not address environmental concerns as a top priority.

“For example, a facade could be different on the south side of the building than on the west side to take advantage of the environment, but normally it isn’t,” he said.

He added buildings are by necessity built to last for many decades, but capital renewal, one of the biggest ongoing costs for a building, was often not addressed.

But Webber said a new movement is afoot to address environmental issues at a higher level than individual structures. He cited work being done in Toronto as an example of this more expansive green design philosophy.

Currently, work is being done on railway lands in Canada’s largest city to create a more environmentally friendly landscape. Concord Pacific, a prolific developer in downtown Vancouver, is working on Concord Cityplace, a $1.5 billion Toronto waterfront development built from the ground up with sustainability and green design in mind.

“The City of Toronto is really getting into it. They realize the environment directly affects quality of life in the city,” Webber said.

But green designing doesn’t have to be expensive, Webber said. Halsall had done work converting a 1950s era school with a large amount of glass into an energy efficient, environmentally friendly building.

“It was too hot in summer, too cold in winter, and it had a huge glass wall with a sill at three feet. We replaced it with an opaque fibreglass panel and small bits of glass, thanks to software modeling,” he said. He also pointed to a project where an auto-assembly plant solved its overheating problems simply by putting white stones on its roof.

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