City Council is covering several important items this week (see our list/summary). This particular one, “Updates to the Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings” (in City Council Standing Committee on City Finance and Services, Thu, Nov 16), merits some additional public attention. (Download the report, PDF, 20 pages.)
“Green buildings” can have many benefits for the environment, but there are also trade-offs in terms of higher costs and more regulations, etc. According to the staff report, industry was consulted, and there was one “Open House for Industry and the Public,” though no mention is made of its date, attendance, or how it was advertised.
The staff recommendation is as follows:
A. THAT Council approve updates (set out in Appendix A) to the Green Buildings
Policy for Rezonings (the “Policy”), which updates include adopting limits on greenhouse gas emissions, thermal energy and total energy use, and
establishing administrative requirements as intended in the Zero Emissions Building Plan.
B. THAT Council direct staff to report back by Q3 2017 with updates to the sustainability requirements in the Rezoning Policy for Large Sustainable Sites
and the General Policy for Higher Buildings.
Many initiatives are listed. The public should have a closer look at them. Many are good. But one catches the eye…
One consequence (intended? or unintended?) is that this item is essentially going to incentivise buildings to hook up to biomass wood burning district energy systems. This is something that deserves more public debate. Creative Energy, owned by Ian Gillespie, who also owns Westbank Projects Corp, has been maneuvering for a monopoly on supply of heat to the downtown peninsula. Vision Vancouver, which for the past three civic elections has been on the receiving end of generous donations from Gillespie, is actively working to make this monopoly happen in some way or other, despite repeated rejections by the B.C. Utilities Commission, which said that various phases of the applications are NOT In the public interest.
What appears to be happening here is that the City has decided it likes this trade off: Reduce fossil fuel energy consumption, but commit the city to continue a high level of demolitions and burning of older houses in Vancouver, including heritage houses. That is unsustainable. More public scrutiny is needed regarding the biomass sources Gillespie and the City of Vancouver are planning to use. In addition, if the energy reduction requirements are high, then likely glass towers will be required to hook up to district energy — and that mean’s Gillespie’s monopoly, it it comes to pass.
Excerpt from “Updates to the Green Buildings Policy for Rezonings”
The Zero Emissions Building Plan describes two pathways to reliably meeting GHG limits in new buildings:
1) focus primarily on reducing energy use, or;
2) balance energy use reduction investments with the use of reliable, City-recognized low-carbon energy systems (such as connecting to a City-recognized low-carbon NEU).
Under the first option, allowable heat loss limits are more stringent than under the second pathway but both achieve comparable GHG outcomes. The proposed Policy updates establish the limits to be used by a building pursuing either pathway, and staff are scheduled to report back to council in Q1 2017 with updated neighbourhood energy connection areas.