June 24, 2009

Green Building

Quebec playing catch-up on LEED adoption


With LEED and green construction having gained a solid foothold in the Canadian building environment, it’s now a question of how long it will take Quebec developers to catch up with the rest of the country.

While LEED is doing well in Ontario and British Columbia, Quebec is still behind the curve.

“In Quebec it is still not very common to see LEED-accredited buildings,” said Bruno Landry, Director of Quality Assurance with the Aecon Group (Quebec). “There are a few buildings in the province right now. But more buildings are pending. In Quebec, the first couple of buildings were private endeavors.”

In 2007 Aecon built a three-storey, 54,000-square-foot LEED-accredited office building on the site of the former Angus Yard in East End Montreal. The developer is attempting to build a green commercial and residential development.

It should be one of the first projects in North America to achieve a LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) status.

Landry said that constructing a LEED building is not so different from conventional construction, save that there is more paperwork and an obligation to follow instructions in terms of construction techniques, materials used, disposal of construction waste and other specifications.

“What we need to know as a builder is mainly how much does it cost to do that,” said Landry.

LEED and green construction, said Landry, will gain traction when general contractors are brought in early into the planning stage for the project.

“For the Angus Yard project,” he said, “we were hired before the consultants and professionals were brought in.

“We were able to work with the client to determine the lifecycle costs of the building and what they wanted to do exactly as a green building.

“When we are involved earlier,” he added, “there are certain things you can do to ensure that a building will be greener.

“If you select products that have a longer lifecycle, even though they cost more in the short-term, in the long-run it saves money for the client and helps save the environment.”

Aecon’s Quebec office has a division that is developing a waste management plan to come up with solutions to deal with construction and municipal waste. The Quebec office also has in-house resources to provide green solutions and options to developers.

Landry noted that while a building material or infrastructure product may be ‘green,’ it’s performance that counts in green construction.

This spring, Magil Construction Corporation recently completed Phase 1 of the two-tower residential project Le Vistal on Nuns’ Island in Montreal.

“It’s in the process of being LEED accredited,” said Marc-Arthur Laplante, Magil’s Preconstruction Director, who also assists in business development.

The developer is seeking LEED Gold accreditation for the 25-storey tower that will be completed this fall.

Magil is currently working with another owner/developer to develop another LEED project in downtown Montreal.

“There are existing buildings that would be demolished and replaced with a mixed commercial/residential tower,” said Laplante, who noted that the first 11 floors would be commercial, with the remaining 18 plus floors as the residential component.

“It would be LEED accredited for the residential portion and they are looking for Silver for the office component.”

When the project gets the green light, Laplante said the mechanical, electrical and plumbing aspects will be design-build in terms of their specification.

“Having previous experience with LEED criteria and the project checklist, we’re sitting down with our teams and establishing which credits would be reasonable to attain,” he said.

When working on a LEED building, Magil’s game plan is to immediately identify credits that can be easily achieved and those that require an investment, and to determine what the client is willing to spend.

“In the case of co-ownership,” said Laplante, “perhaps in this market, LEED can be an attempt to galvanize sales. People are becoming increasingly sensitive to the sustainable development issue.”

Reduced operating costs, he adds, are an additional benefit; and because a good working environment can help to maximize employee performance, it allows building owners to maintain current rents in a competitive market.

Laplante says LEED is more attractive to developers who choose to own their buildings in the long-term. “When you have ownership, we find that some of the LEED components can be financed at a better rate given that they will be amortized and can lead to certain subsidies.”

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