Misrepresentations of the programme in the media have portrayed green building policies as being costly and untimely. This initiative seeks to demonstrate the affordability and practicality of green housing via educational outreach. This misconception is not unique to Vancouver, and the programme’s efforts to educate renters, homeowners, and property owners alike can serve as a valuable example for other cities.
Vancouver’s Green Buildings Programme has taken a multi-faceted approach to the issue of making the City’s built environment more sustainable and resilient. By focusing efforts on both carrying out projects and establishing city-approved building standards, the initiative ensures that changes made now will be upheld by future generations. Institutional changes have already been made to the Vancouver Building Bylaw, resulting in a 50% reduction in emissions for buildings under 7 stories. This makes Vancouver’s building codes the most stringent of any cold climate city in North America. Code changes to the Building Bylaw planned for 2020, 2025, and 2030 will take the City’s building emissions from 14kg of CO2 per m2 to zero.
Looking forward, the Zero Emissions Building Plan outlines how to eliminate all emissions associated with new buildings by 2030, going beyond the City’s previous LEED Gold standards to adopt a variation of Passive House (PH) standards. As of right now, Vancouver has more Passive House developments than any other jurisdiction in North America –– 55,000 m2 of PH developments have been constructed or are in the process of being constructed, and an additional 55,000 m2 are in the enquiry phase.
Given that more than half of the City’s emissions stem from buildings, this initiative is a necessary step toward achieving Vancouver’s long-term climate goals of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. By included the Green Building Program in the City’s capital and operating budgets, the initiative has ensured the longevity of the program. The City will review the programme on at 10-year and 4-year annual basis at the very least, meaning that the project will not get lost with government turnover.
Programmes such as this have the potential to change the culture of sustainability in a city. This initiative in particular has integrated green building projects into Vancouver’s economy to the extent that projects associated with the plan have contributed to a doubling of green jobs over 2010 levels. The building industry in Vancouver has evolved alongside this plan, proving the power of institutionalised change catalysed by projects that are both cost efficient and energy efficient.