Setting the green standard

Saanich needs to raise its green design standards for commercial and industrial buildings.

A recent application before Council highlighted the deficiency in our energy and environmental design standards. Council approved the redevelopment of a warehouse building in the Ardersier Road commercial-industrial park. The building is a larger upgrade to the existing structure that will create new space for additional tenants.

Absent from the building design were any of the elements that are now commonplace for residential applications. Saanich Council routinely sees proposals that feature geothermal or heat pump systems, green roofs and rain gardens, and solar panels for electricity or hot water. Gold or higher ratings for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and BuiltGreen are a common expectation of applicants. The proposed building, though attractive, did not offer any of these modern design elements.

The lack of sustainable design features is not the fault of the applicant. The proposal contained exactly what’s required for a warehouse building. The design satisfies Saanich’s out-dated development permit guidelines and the BC Building Code. With stronger eco-design standards, this building could have been a model for future commercial development and a source of pride for Saanich.

I support the expansion of commercial and industrial space. A growing local economy is the cornerstone of a healthy community. But smart growth and green design principles aren’t just for condos and houses. Office buildings, warehouses, and retail space must be sustainable as well.

If we’re going to attain a higher level of energy efficiency and environmental design, we must retool our development permit guidelines and raise our design standards for all buildings.

Buildings produce more than 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Saanich. Cutting emissions and reducing energy consumption means focusing on green design and maximizing energy efficiency. Energy efficient buildings will help us to reach our one-third emission reduction target by 2020.

Green buildings also save businesses money with reduced heating and cooling costs. That savings translates into more local jobs and a more prosperous local economy.

Let’s step up lead the charge for innovative energy and environmental design. It’s how we build a healthy economy and a healthy climate for today and the future.