Sunday 25 September 2016

Vancouver leads the way in energy-efficient buildings

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

The Vancouver Convention Centre: the building has a 6.4 acre grass roof
The Vancouver Convention Centre: the building has a 6.4 acre grass roof
Vancouver

The capital of the Canadian province of British Columbia, Vancouver, requires all buildings to achieve the highest energy standards. All new commercial and residential buildings must have green roofs, recycle water and use as much renewable energy as possible. Even one-off homes must comply.

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Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston says the city aims to by the greenest on the planet by 2020, key to which is developing an urban centre which is easily accessible to walkers and cyclists.

"We want to be the greenest city in the world in 10 core areas, ranging from green jobs to water conservation to air quality," Mr Johnston said. "We have the lowest carbon emissions per capita of any city in north America."

Key to the plan's success is public buy-in. Some 35,000 citizens helped shape the Greenest City Action Plan, so residents are supportive, even with the requirement that new homes, including one-off units, meet rigorous standards.

Construction

"There are ways to do low-carbon building which are actually cheaper. If you look at the life of a building, 10pc of the costs are upfront, including construction, and the remaining 90pc is heating, lighting and maintaining it.

"The more you can do to improve at the front end, saves at the other," he said.

"If you're able to buy a house, demolish it, and build a new home, you can afford to spend a little more, whether it's a high rise, or single-family home.

"Energy prices are going up, and we expect that to continue. Generally, home builders and others are supportive."

Wood is also key to building better. Peter Moonen, from the Canadian Wood Council, says that virtually all one-off homes and any buildings up to six storeys are built from wood.

"It's not more expensive to build in wood, and when the first (commercial) buildings were going up, one developer said it was 15pc cheaper to build," he said.

"There is a move towards prefabricated elements which increases construction speed, increases accuracy and keeps it dry. British Columbia in the winter is not much different than Ireland.

"It can be cold and miserable but wood will dry out."

Irish Independent

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