Box Dockside Green Developers Taking the Lead

Until recently, the 15-acre Dockside Lands parcel in Victoria, British Columbia—the province's capital on Vancouver Island—was the epitome of an underused property. Purchased by the city for a single dollar in 1989, this prime real estate lay largely ignored for years, crippled by an industrial legacy that left the soil saturated with petrochemicals and toxic heavy metals. Now the site is poised to become the greenest neighborhood in Victoria, thanks to collaboration between the city and two developers,Windmill Development Group and VanCity Enterprises. The first of three distinct neighborhoods, Dockside Wharf, is set for completion in 2009 and will include 268 residential units of varying sizes. By the time it is completed around 2018, the development will accommodate approximately 2,500 people.

The developers have promised to deliver 26 LEED platinum-rated buildings in addition to an impressive green infrastructure and have even pledged to pay penalties up to CDN$I million if certification goals are not met. One hundred percent on-site sewage treatment is projected to save CDN$8I,000 a year in city fees. On-site energy generation, including solar panels and a biomass gasification system fueled by waste wood, will further reduce pressure on Victoria's infrastructure. Preliminary studies indicate that Dockside Green's goal of carbon neutrality may even produce excess energy that can be sold back to the city. Residents can stroll down a central greenway irrigated only with recycled rainwater, ride mini-transit vehicles that run on biodiesel, and check their personal energy consumption via monitors in each home.

Walkable, dense neighborhoods with a variety of housing units, lively public areas, and commercial space will help foster a sense of community. Planners have also been careful to integrate existing industry, interspersing light industrial space among the housing units, thus preserving Dockside Green's distinctive harbor industry heritage.

—Meghan Bogaerts

Source: See endnote 44.

Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World growth boundaries.

Another innovative strategy is to educate developers about the importance of smart growth. Some developers are starting to recognize the profitability of building developments along these lines, tapping into the growing demand for environmentally friendly communities and the many government incentives that subsidize such projects. (See Box 11-3.)44

Eco-municipalities are efforts by community members, local NGOs, and town officials to create long-term comprehensive sustainability plans for towns, villages, or cities.

But the key will be making smart growth the norm for developers. One impressive effort is being led by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This organization's LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has helped provide green certification schemes for all type of buildings: commercial, residential, and others.

USGBC is now working on a new "LEED for Neighborhood Development" certification system. This standard, currently in its pilot phase, will provide a grade for planned neighborhood developments, giving points for designs that connect communities, reduce vehicle use, and create local jobs. It also includes prerequisites such that any development that compromises wetlands or agricultural lands, is located in a flood zone, or is built "60 miles from anything" (as Program Manager Jennifer Henry puts it) cannot be certified. For well-planned neighborhoods, developers can receive a high grade (platinum or gold), which may help expedite permission from local planning boards and make developers eligible for tax breaks or other incentives.45

Currently 238 projects are involved in the pilot phase of the LEED for Neighborhood Development, ranging from sustainable communities like the Los Angeles Ecovillage to large urban projects. In 2009 the USGBC will finalize the program once the pilot phase concludes and public comments are received. Once finished, new communities that are forming can use these standards, and existing communities can lobby local governments to ensure that these standards are used when new developments are planned.46

Another innovative idea that has started to spread around the world is that of the "eco-municipality." In essence, eco-municipalities are efforts by coalitions of community members, local NGOs, and town officials to create long-term comprehensive sustainability plans for their towns, villages, or cities. Over-tornea, Sweden, became the first eco-munic-ipality in 1983. Since then, more than 60 municipalities in Sweden, ranging from villages to cities of 500,000, have followed suit—as have 20 Estonian municipalities and municipalities in 10 other countries.47

Because communities are by their nature small, their ability to address global environmental problems is often overlooked by national governments. But with proper support, they can have a dramatic impact. The key will be getting governments to recognize communities' potential and tap into it. The United Kingdom may be the first country to proactively do so. Parliament is close to passing the Sustainable Communities Act, which would provide local councils with direct access to the office of the Secretary of State and fund local sustainability projects—including those that support local businesses, protect the local environment, and build community connections and political activity.48

When national policy is changed in the right way, the effects can be impressive. While small-scale wind and other major projects are

Engaging Communities for a Sustainable World often difficult to implement because of zoning restrictions, in some countries governments have actually facilitated them. Since the 1970s, Denmark has allowed communities, co-operatives, small companies, and towns to establish small renewable projects and obtain a set price for the electricity they provide to the grid. Today, over 80 percent of wind turbines are owned by co-operatives, local companies, or individuals. Along with triggering a major investment in wind energy (over 20 percent of Denmark's electricity comes from wind), local ownership and the resulting local profits have led to broad public acceptance.49

National policy changes have great potential and could take many forms. Imagine the impact of initiatives like California's Million Solar Roofs, which provides financial incentives and other support to individual homeowners to put solar panels on their roofs. Similar efforts could mobilize communities around the world: a 10,000 Town Wind Coop Project; a 100,000 Neighborhood Energy Club Initiative; a Million Community Garden Program; or a $10 Billion Sustainable Community Investment Initiative could all drive community sustainability efforts to the next level. The key will be mobilizing communities around the world to educate national policymakers on the benefits local efforts can bring—and to challenge them to make these happen.50


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