Most of us have heard of the LEED system for certifying energy-efficient buildings (the acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It may be less well-known that LEED recognition is also available for ambitious new industrial, mixed-use and residential subdivisions.
Worldwide, there were 239 neighbourhood projects certified as of summer 2011. Eight are in British Columbia — three in Fraseropolis, three in Greater Victoria and two in the Howe Sound region. The Vatican for the LEED system is the U.S. Green Building Council. Its website indicates that the current system of neighbourhood certification dates from 2009.
The three Fraseropolis projects are Southeast False Creek (Olympic Village) in Vancouver, the Wesbrook residential/commercial development at the University of British Columbia, and Garrison Crossing in Chilliwack.
The partly-completed Garrison Crossing is located on a former Canadian Forces base. Like Agritopia in suburban Phoenix (fraseropolis.com, January 2), Garrison Crossing presents a nostalgic jumble of 20th-century North American architectural influences, helped along in this case by mature existing trees The retro feel of the new housing stock complements the distinctive look of the postwar military housing that has been preserved and renovated. The development also includes a supermarket, restaurant and other commercial services, as well as some signed live-work units such as a haircutting business in an elegant corner home.
The neighbourhood’s online LEED certification summary for awards points to Garrison Crossing for many reasons, but especially because it has not gobbled up green space; because residents can walk to services; and because there are a diversity of housing types. The certification for Southeast False Creek, which has earned Platinum status, indicates a much more elaborate development. The certification for Wesbrook does not pop up on the USGBC site.
It’s nice that B.C. is represented in the LEED list; on the other hand, eight projects seems kind of slim, given all the planning and construction activity in the province in recent years. Perhaps the application system is onerous; perhaps developers don’t care; perhaps we will learn from a reader of this blog that this flavour of LEED is still in a test phase. Perhaps residential construction is at a disadvantage because the LEED standards define wood as an eco-unfriendly building material, as conservative columnist Tom Fletcher has pointed out. Both Southeast False Creek and Wesbrook are concrete.