Water and the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village

22 02 2010

Cover of Water + Building Landscape (Chapter 6)
from The Challenge Series Website

Staying with the Olympic theme from last week’s post on the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village is another spectacular example of sustainable building in Vancouver. The Olympic Village will house the athletes throughout the games. Afterward, it will become the home of over 16,000 residents. The following is a link to the diversity of uses that will be or are already included in the development.

A website called “The Challenge Series” has been set up to help educate the public about the Olympic Village’s sustainable features. A well-designed booklet describing the sustainable features of the development is available on the site in pdf format. One that particularly caught my attention was the Water + Building Landscape section (See Cover Above). It explains many sustainable water strategies employed throughout. Some highlights include:

  • The design team recognized the size was not large enough to handle all of the stormwater in the constructed wetland incorporated into Hinge Park. As a result, the team prioritized the water into a two-tier system. The first tier was considered the “cleaner” water that came from the rooftops and podium sections of the building. This water was directed to the cisterns in the basements of each building. The water was then used to flush toilets, supply water features, or irrigate the landscape. Additional water overflowed the cisterns and entered the South False Creek. The second tier included “dirtier” water. This water came from the roadways and other areas. The water from these areas was directed into the constructed wetland or underground gravel/sand infiltration cells.
  • The development reduced potable water use by 40 percent.
  • The site plan incorporates a number of water features that utilize the water collected on the site. The circulation through the water features provides a means of making what would otherwise be invisible visible, while at the same time improving the quality of the water.
  • 287,000 s.f. of green roof covers the development. The roofs include both extensive and intensive green roofs. This was in part because the City of Vancouver mandated that 50% of the roofs be green roofs.
  • The City also mandated the inclusion of urban agriculture at a rate of 24sf for 30% of the units whose balconies were less than 100sf.

The development has received LEED-ND Platinum certification. I look forward to seeing it one day when I return to Vancouver. There have been a number of articles on the development, but I highly recommend reading the information found on The Challenge Series website.

-Brian Phelps

The Sustainable by Design Challenge

16 11 2009

A recent article by Ajay Garde has been published in the October 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association). The article describes a study and analysis of projects that applied for 2007 LEED-ND pilot program certification. LEED-ND is a rating system written collaboratively by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to promote sustainable development patterns and practices. The following is an excerpt from a JAPA press release:

According to author Ajay Garde, the LEED-ND committee has taken “the technical credentials of LEED and the criteria of New Urbanism for neighborhood design and created LEED-ND.” This approach may undermine the use of green criteria, as developers may focus on New Urbanist criteria instead. These drawbacks mean that LEED-ND is suitable as a supplement to, but not as a replacement for, local planning for sustainability that considers projects on a case-by-case basis within the local context.

My interpretation of Mr. Garde’s article is that LEED-ND is a great start, but it may not be the only answer to ensuring the absolute best development practices. Likewise, typical Best Management Practices (BMPs) for stormwater quality alone within a sprawl setting do not necessarily equal the best solution for a sustainable future…but they too are a good start.

One of the conclusions in the study suggests that LEED-ND certification is weighted more heavily for projects based on their location, layout and density with less emphasis on green infrastructure and technology. Mr. Garde suggests “that more points should be awarded for criteria such as solar orientation, onsite renewable energy sources, and other criteria from the green construction and technology category that contribute to energy and water efficiency.” I agree. Couldn’t we have well designed projects in appropriate locations that incorporate green infrastructure and technology?

Often in the real estate business, developers will look for the proverbial low-hanging fruit. If a developer can attain LEED-ND certification by Smart Location & Linkage and Neighborhood Pattern & Design with minimal emphasis on Green Infrastructure & Building, it’s probably safe to assume many will choose that route. Development costs vs. value and profit (short term vs. long term) are considered. Government regulations and entitlements are also a part of the equation.

LEED-ND is a voluntary and market-driven rating system. If a developer has a choice of developing in an urban area with more regulations but the incentive (faster approval times, increased density, etc.) of attaining LEED-ND certification or higher vs. developing in a suburban area with less regulation, which will they choose? This will continue to play out as the economy recovers.

How do government officials and agencies, planners and non-profits create either market-driven incentives, government regulations or a combination of both to ensure future development is as sustainable as possible in terms of social aspects, economics, and the balance between natural and man-made environments?

These are the questions and this is the challenge moving forward, but it’s comforting to know that progress is being made every day.

-Brian Hudson