Home » Buildings »

Dockside Green

Dockside Green has gained international acclaim as a mixed-use sustainable development that is achieving LEED Platinum ratings and winning exceptions to local building regulations in return for its innovative solutions. Denis Du Bois toured the site with its visionary leader, Joe Van Belleghem. (photos)

Joe Van Belleghem photo on EnergyPriorities.com

Joe Van Belleghem, Developer of Dockside Green. (Dockside Green photo)

From a dock below the front steps of the historic Empress Hotel, a harbor taxi takes us a short sail to the mixed-use sustainable development everyone is talking about lately -- Dockside Green.

The development is the vision of Joe Van Belleghem, who meets us at the dock and leads us to a completed phase called Synergy.

We go straight to the rooftop patio, about 8 floors up. From here we can see across the bay to downtown Vancouver, still visible through the autumn haze. Van Belleghem asks us to look straight down at the green roof on a neighboring low-rise Dockside Green building. Flowing slowly past the buildings is a small creek.

Related podcast:
"Building Priorities Briefing Oct 2008: Sustainable Urban Planning"

Van Belleghem is proud of his green roofs. They and the creek are part of a water ecosystem that sets Dockside Green apart. Rather than piping effluent into the harbor, as the city of Victoria does, Dockside Green treats all of its sewage on site. The end product is used for irrigation and domestic graywater within the development. The excess water flows through man-made creek, where plants continue cleaning it.

Setting the world record for LEED Platinum points took more than onsite wastewater treatment. Van Belleghem predicts his project will hold the top 10 world records in the next five years. But, he claims, his team did not refer to the LEED checklist until after the permits were issued.

We had heard the history of this brownfield site from other presenters before and after our tour. Here on the roof, Van Belleghem focuses on the future. He shows no fatigue from a long, complicated process to acquire the site and complete an agreement for its development with the government. He exhibits only the passion that must have gotten him through those years.

When it comes to sharing that passion with audiences, Van Belleghem is generous with his time. Well, OK, he charges a speaking honorarium (the proceeds go to his foundation), but it’s tiring work to be a frequent panelist at international conferences. He seems to deal well with the trappings of his newfound celebrity -- the packed calendar, the manager, the media inquiries -- and gave us an hour of his afternoon to explain Dockside to us as though it were the first telling.

Dockside Green photo on EnergyPriorities.com

Interior rendering of a condo at Dockside Green. (Dockside Green image)

A few floors down, we crowd into a model unit to hear about its many green features. Automated exterior awnings, for example, are important because these homes have no air conditioning. From the couch a resident can remotely lower large awnings that protect this west-facing unit from the afternoon sun.

From anywhere on the Internet, a resident can raise or lower the temperature of their unit by connecting to the communicating thermostat. These and many other extras are testaments to Dockside’s greenness.

Dockside Green  photo on EnergyPriorities.com

Waterside condo at Dockside Green. (Dockside Green photo)

Back outside, we stand on one of the wooden footbridges that are the trademark of this development. Van Belleghem says the ground-floor units with no harbor view were the first units to sell -- at a premium.

From here we make our way through the construction sites of neighboring Dockside buildings, and file inside the wastewater treatment plant. This concrete building will process all black water from the entire development. Engineers with the third-party operating company explain the process -- from bacteria to UV -- in great detail.

Suffice it to say that brown, sudsy water goes in, and clear water comes out the other end. Of interest is the amount of heat thrown off by this process. Dockside says they could capture and use the heat, but it already has an excess of heat from other processes, including the on-site biogas plant.

The plant gasifies wood waste and heats water for domestic use and hydronic heat. Only three percent of the feedstock is left over as ash. The plant is still under construction, scheduled to be completed in 2009.

Aerial image of Dockside Green - photo on EnergyPriorities.com

Aerial perspective rendering of Dockside Green. (Dockside Green image)

I'm here with a varied group -- city planners, architects, builders -- on a "study tour" of British Columbia's two largest cities, with International Sustainable Solutions. Watch for my next report, tomorrow. The next Building Priorities Briefing also will be all about this trip.