REUSED: Green space

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Con­dos -

Here, lo­cally treated waste wa­ter is reused to flush res­i­den­tial toi­lets and keep green space alive; mean­while, build­ings use 45 per cent to 55 per cent less en­ergy, thanks not only to ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances and in­su­la­tion but to an on-site wastewood biomass plant that burns clean gas, which is used to heat the lo­cal homes.

On top of this, Dock­side has a num­ber of green roofs (an ini­tia­tive the Swedes have been slower at em­brac­ing), and is striv­ing to be Green­house Gas Pos­i­tive — that is, pro­duc­ing more en­ergy than it con­sumes; in fact, it’s al­ready trans­fer­ring its ex­cess heat to an ex­changer in a nearby ho­tel.

Joe Van Bel­leghem, the de­vel­oper be­hind Dock­side, says that al­though he’s aware of other green hous­ing projects in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, try­ing to look abroad for in­spi­ra­tion has its lim­its — Swe­den, for in­stance, may have a sim­i­lar cli­mate as well as sim­i­lar in­fra­struc­ture, but it also charges higher taxes and gives far more con­trol to mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments when it comes to pol­icy changes.

“In any case, we only had 40 days to as­sem­ble our pro­posal, so do­ing that kind of re­search wouldn’t have been pos­si­ble,” he says. “But I be­lieved that if we de­signed Dock­side Green from a triple bot­tom-line ap­proach, fo­cus­ing on both so­cial and eco­nomic prin­ci­ples, we could do some­thing unique.”

Mean­while, in Toronto, the de­vel­op­ers be­hind the West Don Lands pro­ject are aware of the Ham­marby Sjostad model and are happy to draw com­par­isons.

“We’re sim­i­lar,” says John Camp­bell, pres­i­dent of Wa­ter­front Toronto, “in that we’re also taking a holis­tic ap­proach — we be­lieve in things like canopy tree cover, green roofs, putting tran­sit in first. The prob­lem with new de­vel­op­ments is that you of­ten don’t see a high enough pop­u­la­tion un­til later, but we’re in­sist­ing that tran­sit be in place by the time peo­ple move in.”

Asked whether a lo­cal­ized, closed-loop sys­tem of re­source man­age­ment is some­thing that could real­is­ti­cally work in a city such as Toronto, Camp­bell says that it is, and it isn’t.

“It’s dif­fi­cult to have a con­tained sys­tem in this city,” he says.

“We can use grey­wa­ter in our pro­ject — so, rain­wa­ter will be col­lected and used for ir­ri­ga­tion — but be­cause we’re right next to the Ash­bridges sewer plant, it doesn’t make sense to create our own sewage plant.

“We’re also not go­ing to in­stall our own tran­sit sys­tem or our own wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem be­cause we have to take ad­van­tage of the ex­ist­ing frame­work.

“That said, our plans do call for dis­trict en­ergy to heat all 6,000 units (at West Don Lands),” he adds.

“A tem­po­rary plant is al­ready built right in front of the Corus build­ing, so that gives us fuel flex­i­bil­ity and fu­ture-proofs the neigh­bour­hood. We’ve ac­tu­ally hired a Swedish con­sult­ing firm for that and we’re al­ready putting pipes in the ground.”

Ul­ti­mately, then, it seems that no sin­gle model of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment can work for every city — even within Canada, a great deal of tweak­ing and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion has to take place.

But what’s im­por­tant is to keep an open mind and track such de­vel­op­ments as Ham­marby Sjostad; this way, a sim­ple con­cept such as us­ing waste for fuel can be adopted, mod­i­fied and per­haps even im­proved upon.

“In busi­ness, the as­sump­tion has al­ways been that be­ing good to the en­vi­ron­ment is the cost of do­ing busi­ness,” says Van Bel­leghem.

“But that’s just not true. A lot of it has to do with our mind­set and our be­liefs. Un­for­tu­nately, our cur­rent gov­ern­ment poli­cies don’t re­ally pro­voke much in­no­va­tion.”

Vanessa Far­quhar­son, Na­tional Post

So­lar pan­els pre­dom­i­nate in this build­ing, which is part of the Ham­marby Sjostad project in Stock­holm.

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