Dockside Green is a 1.3-million-square-foot mixed-use community currently under development in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is a co-development of Vancity Credit Union, Canada’s largest credit union, and Windmill West, a partnership “dedicated to designing and building only the best urban environments” co-chaired by development manager and project author Jon Van Belleghem and real estate developer Jack Julseth of Three Point Properties.
In order to create a community that they hope will stand as a beacon for environmentally sustainable building, Dockside Green’s developers are seeking to attain the previously unattained “Platinum” level of the LEED rating system on many of its larger buildings. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and uses criteria from several different categories to judge the environmental impact of buildings.
According to Dockside Green’s 2007 Annual Sustainability Report, the project’s first two phases “Synergy” and “Balance” are well beyond Platinum certification levels with 58 points each (52 are needed for Platinum).
Probably the most important aspect of Dockside Green’s environmental aspirations is the building of a centralized biomass gasification plant that converts waste wood (tree clippings, construction excesses) into a gas that is burned to provide hot water and heat. Additional natural gas boilers will also be used in peak periods. It is hoped that the biomass plant will not only make Dockside Green neutral or even negative in terms of greenhouse gas production but even allow it to sell energy to surrounding communities.
In terms of water conservation, Dockside Green will be treating its own sewage using a specialized process designed by Zenon of Canada. Treated water will be used in toilets, irrigation, and the project’s creeks and ponds system. Other measures include the use of highly efficient shower heads, faucets, urinals, dishwashers, and clothes-washing machines.
Each suite will also have meters that monitor consumption of cold water, hot water, heat, and electricity, in hopes that individual residents will voluntarily make an effort to conserve. The meters will connect via the internet, allowing the resident to lower or raise the heat in their suite from any place that has web access.
Dockside Green will also incorporate alternative methods of transportation to reduce the impact of car ownership and use, including the implementation of a car sharing program, the purchase of a mini-transit bus, the construction of a dock for the Harbour Ferries, the provision of bicycle racks and showers for those commuting to the development’s commercial areas, and ensuring that the Galloping Goose Trail is fully connected with the Dockside Green.
Other steps to be taken in hopes of reducing Dockside Green’s environmental footprint include:
Dockside Green has publicly committed to using the “LEED for Neighborhood” , a rating system much like its environmental cousin that has yet to even be fully developed.
The overall design of the Dockside Green is in general agreement with the principles of New Urbanism, a school of thought in planning that favors mid-to-high density neighborhoods with a focus on community and the ability to walk to most of a resident’s daily needs. Designs focus on creating an intimate atmosphere on city streets, narrowing them and bringing the faces of buildings closer to the streets themselves.
The focus on creating a truly “mixed use” community is aimed at not limiting Dockside Green to a particular group of residents. The hope is that by having not only a variety of types of suites but also a thriving commercial district (both retail and office), people of varying ages, ethnic groups and income levels will want to live and work there.
One of the more difficult obstacles facing the Dockside Green is enabling those with lower incomes a way to live there, especially considering the costs of building a brand new structure with such stringent environmental regulations. In order to do so the development team has worked together with the municipality of Victoria to create a Housing Affordability Strategy that has so far produced 26 units of “affordable housing” (for those families in the $30,000 to $60,000 range of incomes) in the first phase of construction.
Further efforts to expand this plan have been somewhat held back by lack of funding, but the current aim of the Dockside Green developers is to design and built 45 units of compact-sized two- and three-bedroom suites.
Another major social responsibility for the Dockside Green is upholding a commitment to the area’s First Nations people. This is particularly important as the area was originally lived in by the Songhees people and actually sold first to the province of British Columbia and later to the City of Victoria. The developers have made several efforts to include the First Nations at a symbolic level, including them in on-cite celebrations and implementing First Nations art and history throughout the site.
There has also been the implementation of job training programs for First Nations people. The first had mixed results, but as of late 2007 there were seventeen First Nations employees working on the site under a Job Coach. There are plans for an apprenticeship program, now waiting for government funding.
The economic aspect to the Dockside Green project is intended to be as much a matter of ethics as hard numbers. The developers have sought at all opportunities to support businesses as local as possible, in particular those that are innovative in terms of technology, including British Columbia companies include Nexterra (the biomass gasification plant) and Sol-Air Systems (ultraviolet air decontamination for the sewage facility), and Canadian companies such as Zenon (the sewage treatment process).
Additionally, the hope is that the project’s substantial efforts to maximize overall efficiency in terms of energy and water use will translate to lower costs for not only residents but commercial interests as well. This is largely based on the assumption that said efficiency will more than compensate for expected increases in the cost of energy.
Two local Victoria business owners signed in mid-2007 to open retail establishments. Cliff Lear of House Breads will open a storefront bakery, while Ryan Taylor of Café Fantastico will relocate one of his two cafés.