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Vancouver approves green building targets

Vancouver City Council approved a list of revised Greenest City 2020 targets last week. Buried in the fine print are some hints as to how the city may implement its green building targets. The Greenest City 2020 Action plan follows an earlier release of "quick-start" actions.

The green building plan aspires to "lead the world in green building design and construction" by 2020. That's a tall order for the city comprised predominately of uninsulated glass towers and under-insulated Vancouver Specials.

The specific targets adopted last week are less ambitious. These will require all buildings constructed from 2020 onward to be carbon neutral in operations, and will reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings by 20 per cent over 2007 levels. As The Tyee has reported this week, both targets are achievable using decades-old technologies.

Hints as to how the city may implement those green building targets are provided as bullet points under the heading "long-term directions." These include:

Cost of Green: There are real and perceived costs to building green that deter people from green construction and remediation. Financing tools and incentives are proposed to overcome these initial barriers before they are accepted as common practice and become increasingly affordable.

Outcomes‐based codes: The City will implement an energy code based on actual performance (rather than proposed or modelled performance). This requirement will be supported by financial tools to ensure affordability to contractors and will become increasingly stringent as we move toward our 2020 target.

HVAC By‐law: A new by‐law will be developed to regulate the commissioning, maintenance, fuel choice or efficiency of heating, cooling and ventilation equipment in buildings.

Building labelling: Labelling and disclosure programs provide information about the performance of buildings and how energy savings translate to cost savings. Through a pilot program Vancouver will label 1,000 large residential, commercial and institutional buildings over a period of 18 months.

Occupant engagement strategy: Educate occupants of their role in energy conservation and efficient operations

Green building is just one of ten areas in which the city has adopted Greenest City 2020 targets. The complete list:

1. Green Economy target: Double the number of green jobs in the City by 2020, over 2010 levels.

2. Climate Leadership target: Reduce community-based greenhouse gas emissions by 33% from 2007 levels.

3. Green Buildings targets: #1 – Require all buildings constructed from 2020 onward to be carbon neutral in operations; #2 - Reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings by 20% over 2007 levels.

4. Green Mobility targets: #1 - Make the majority of trips (over 50%) on foot, bicycle, and public transit; #2 - Reduce distance driven per resident by 20% from 2007 levels.

5. Zero Waste target: Reduce total solid waste going to landfill or incinerator by 50%, from 2008 levels.

6. Easy Access to Nature targets: #1: Ensure that every Vancouver resident lives within a 5 minute walk of a park, beach, greenway, or other natural space; #2: Plant 150,000 additional trees in the city between 2010 and 2020.

7. Lighter Footprint target: Reduce Vancouver’s per capita ecological footprint by 33% over 2006 levels.

8. Clean Water target: #1 - Meet or beat the strongest of British Columbian, Canadian and international drinking water quality standards and guidelines; #2 – Reduce per capita water consumption by 33% over 2006 levels.

9. Clean Air target: Meet or beat the most stringent of British Columbian, Canadian, and international air quality standards and guidelines.

10. Local Food target: Increase city and neighbourhood food assets by a minimum of 50% over 2010 levels.

Monte Paulsen researches sustainability for the nonprofit Tyee Solutions Society.

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