Vancouver's New Policies for Greener Buildings and Large Sites

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In my recent post outlining Council's approval of the EcoDensity Charter and Initial Actions I referenced that two new rezoning policies approved by Council (Actions A-1 and A-2) may give Vancouver the highest green requirements for private-sector building design and large site design in North America. Here are these two policies that are in effect as of May 13, 2008. 

Are there greener standards or requirements out there for private sector development? Is your city going further in some areas? Are you working on different approaches, particularly in the performance based realm? If so, please let me know - we very much want to stay aware of where we stand. 

Rezoning Policy for Greener Buildings

That it be Council Policy that all rezonings for buildings that meet the minimum requirements to participate in the LEEDTM for New Construction (NC) program, be required to establish designs that would achieve a minimum equivalent of LEEDtm Silver, with a minimum of 3 optimize energy performance points, 1 water efficiency point and 1 storm water point. Buildings that are not eligible to participate in LEEDTM NC due to form of development shall achieve BuiltGreen BC GoldTM with a score of Energuide 80, or an equivalent achievement in green design. The City will negotiate an equivalent green standard for buildings that are ineligible to participate in either LEEDTM or BuiltGreenTM BC.  The application of this policy shall emphasize approaches that use green design practices to reduce energy need before the application of green energy technologies.  

This policy also applies to Heritage Revitalization Agreements (HRAs) where density is being increased. As with rezonings, HRAs often have both heritage aspects and new development aspects. For heritage components in either HRAs or rezonings, the LEEDTM equivalency requirement will not directly apply, however reasonable design efforts shall be made to improve green performance where appropriate while respecting heritage aspirations and promoting heritage retention. 

This policy will apply to any new applications for rezoning or HRA received after May 13, 2008.  

Staff shall undertake consultation and education with the development industry, and report back to Council with recommendations, with the intent of raising the LEEDTM and BuiltGreen BC equivalency requirements in this policy to LEEDtm Gold and BuiltGreen BC Platinum on January 1st, 2010, with continued efforts to move to a more performance-based approach for green buildings policy.

Rezoning Policy for Greener Larger Sites (excerpt)

That it be Council Policy for all rezonings that involve land generally two acres or more, in addition to the minimum requirements for Greener Buildings in Action A-1, that the City will require the following:

  • A business case analysis will be required by a qualified green energy consultant at the discretion of the City to explore the viability of campus or district energy systems. If the business case is viable a system will be required.
  • Overall site design shall consider and where appropriate incorporate layout and orientation approaches that reduce energy needs, facilitate passive energy solutions, incorporate urban agricultural opportunities, and replicate natural systems where feasible.
  • A Sustainable Transportation Demand Management Strategy will be required that includes the requisite infrastructure where appropriate to prioritize sustainable transportation modes. This includes walking, cycling, public transit and goods movement over automobile use, and facilitates the incorporation of low carbon vehicles (e.g., electric vehicles).
  • A sustainable rainwater management plan that utilizes sustainable strategies that allow for infiltration, retention, treatment and utilization of rainwater where applicable and appropriate on site.  
  • A solid waste diversion strategy that provides space, infrastructure and a plan to divert organics and recyclables from the waste stream, and where possible minimizes the vehicle trips required for collection.
  • With sites accommodating housing, a range of unit types and tenures will be considered and negotiated to enhance the affordability that the market can provide, while providing in accordance with Council policy, opportunities for the development of non-market housing to be funded through senior government housing programs. 

Consideration of these will be influenced by the site's size, context, proposed uses, opportunities and constraints.  Not all site sizes and circumstances allow for the same considerations. 

This policy applies to both residential and non-residential rezonings including commercial, industrial, and institutional.  

Appropriate heights and densities are determined through the site-specific rezoning planning process, with public consultation, and options are related to the type of land use, size of site, urban design, neighbourhood context, etc.  The greener site requirements will be re-evaluated, and updated at regular intervals to reflect market evolution, advancements in technology, and progressive City targets that move toward goals such as carbon neutral new construction.

Brent Toderian is an international consultant on advanced urbanism with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS, Vancouver’s former Director of City Planning, and the President of the Council for Canadian Urbanism. Follow him on Twitter @BrentToderian

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