A North Vancouver condo complex has become the first residential building in Canada to receive special status for sustainability.
Project developer David Sprague, principal of West Coast Projects Ltd., is advising other development companies to embrace sustainability as a standard business practice - because it will soon be a requirement.
The 16-storey Silva Building, located in the 100 Block of West 16th Street near Lonsdale Avenue, earned a leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) certification almost a year after it opened last February.
First established in the U.S., LEED is a sustainability-certification process that encourages the development of buildings that feature energy and water efficiency, enhanced livability, indoor air quality, conservation of materials and resources, waste management and sustainable site planning.
|Wayne Chose, Business Edge|
|West Coast Projects Ltd. principal David Sprague, left, tours the second-floor garden roof of the LEED-certified Silva Building with North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto.|
"The day you have your first consultant meeting, it's going to be a LEED project - end of story," says Sprague. "You can't just decide to turn LEED later on in the process."
Many industrial and commercial buildings in B.C. and across Canada have received LEED status, but the Silva is the first residential project.
In Canada, the Canadian Green Building Council now grants LEED certification, although Sprague applied through the U.S. body.
Sprague says his project, which was built by Langley-based Mark Construction Ltd. (Marcon), cost only 1.7 per cent more than conventional buildings. Results show major U.S. projects achieving LEED silver status faced the same modest premium.
"So the evidence is coming in that we're not just an oddball," says Sprague. "Other people were having the same outcome. It's all about planning and co-ordination."
In other words, the cost of building sustainable residential complexes is not prohibitive.
The 67-unit, $20-million Silva project quickly sold out. Sprague says Silva sold because of its location, its design and building integrity, and its sustainability.
Initially, about one-third of buyers were "pretty interested.”
Another third thought Silva's goal to obtain LEED-certification was good but they wouldn't pay a premium for it, and the remaining third did not care either way.
Sprague says the project was a huge risk, but it succeeded because it does not require residents to live any differently than they would in a conventional condo complex.
The developer adds LEED is a good program because each building's sustainability is verified by a third party. LEED standards also produce "better buildings" - which Sprague says can last 100 years.
Silva, a mixed-use property, uses 60 per cent less water than average in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and 14 per cent less electricity - an annual savings of $16,500.
Sprague says residential buildings have been slower to go ''green" because the Lower Mainland's hot housing market does not put any onus on developers to change their ways. They are too busy to look into new methods and materials, and their projects are selling anyway.
But, he notes, the City of Vancouver is "embedding" sustainability in its building regulations, and next year developers will be required to seek LEED certification on all projects. Meanwhile, housing projects in Burnaby, downtown Vancouver and on Victoria's waterfront are all seeking LEED certification.
The GVRD is also keen for other municipalities to adopt LEED-based building guidelines. (The GVRD and Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association have already started collaborating on ways to develop sustainable practices.)
Sprague points to a popular U.S. green-building convention that has grown to 12,000 attendees from 1,200 as another sign that green housing is about to take off in North America.
While inviting bids on its property, the city's planning department asked developers to explain how they would make the building sustainable.
Sprague did some research and then pledged a formal application for certification. The Silva received 31 points under the LEED scoring system, good for standard certification. The group also awards gold and silver status.
The Silva reduces stormwater runoff by 27 per cent while using rainwater in its second-floor garden roof, and the building includes 83 per cent of recycled construction waste and 13 per cent of recycled materials.
All adhesives, sealants and carpets are considered healthy because they do not contain any volatile organic compounds.
On its second level, the building contains a green roof that features slow-growing pine trees and shrubs. Their soil contains peat moss and pumice to filter and recycle rainwater. Sustainable building materials include windows that keep buildings warm in winter and cool in summer, and recycled nylon carpeting.
City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto says the Silva Building is a good match between city hall and a developer who wants to make a profit.
"There was some controversy to it, but at the end the one thing that got it through the zoning process was the LEED certification," says Mussatto.
The Silva site used to contain a privately owned adult video store and two city-owned parking lots. Sprague resold ground-level retail space back to the video store owner and obtained the parking lots from the city. As part of the deal, he acquired extra density from the developer of the former Paine Hardware site, a redeveloped heritage building in the Aberdeen Block between First Street and Esplanade near the North Van waterfront, at a cost of $750,000.
"(Silva) has a very positive effect, because it says to developers: Yes, you can sell energy-efficient buildings and still make a profit," says Mussatto.
The city benefits from Silva's lower energy use, a public art exhibit at the site, and more housing close to Lonsdale, North Vancouver's main downtown street, he adds.
The mayor says housing developers have been slow to pursue LEED-certified projects because they are opposed to changing their ways. But the Silva's low premium shows they can make green projects work.
"I challenge them to come up with more and more efficient ways of building energy-efficient buildings, and they can do it - at lower cost," says Mussatto.
He says the city will also allow more density for LEED-standard projects and, pending what Vancouver does, his council may introduce its own LEED-based building regulations.
(Monte Stewart can be reached at email@example.com)