Sustainable Building Features

Because infrastructure can last for several decades, new construction is a significant investment that needs to be properly planned with a long-term vision of how it will benefit, and not burden, future generations. It is for this reason why understanding and planning for the future impacts of climate change are so important for sustainable development. Climate change represents a huge challenge for sustainability in Maple Ridge, but planning and development actions we take in the present will help to ease the transition we’ll be forced to make in the future.

The construction of green buildings is perhaps the most direct example of construction actions that benefit the city in the long term. A green building is a structure that reduces its impact by being resource efficient and environmentally responsible over the course of its life-cycle. They provide the same benefits as conventional buildings, while simultaneously protecting the environment, improving human health and well-being, and conserving valuable resources like water and energy. In extreme cases, green buildings are even able to regenerate natural systems by protecting habitat, cleaning water or harvesting renewable energy.

Some of the more common features of green buildings include:

  1. Energy Efficiency
  2. Renewable Energy Generation
  3. Water Efficiency
  4. Stormwater Managment
  5. Superior Indoor Environment

In Canada, buildings account for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector. This is largely because we have a relatively cold climate, and our buildings use a lot of energy to warm their interiors and keep us comfortable. Much of this energy is produced using fossil fuels, like natural gas, and so the more we use to heat our homes, the more GHG’s we are emitting. Limiting the heat energy lost through the day-to-day operations of a building can have a phenomenal impact on reducing its GHG emissions.

One of the best ways to reduce heat energy loss is to utilize a high performance building envelope to minimize heat transfer between the interior and exterior of the building. The building envelope is the exterior ‘shell’ of the building, and includes the walls, roof, windows, and doors. High performance envelopes generally employ windows and wall insulation with higher R-values than conventional buildings. An R-value measures a material’s ability to prevent heat flow, where a low-value material like metal transfers heat much easier than a high-value material, like the fabric in your oven mitts. Insulated envelopes are effective at conserving energy throughout the entire year as they keep the heat in during the winter and keep it out during the summer.

In addition to using high quality windows and insulation for your building envelop, preventing air leakage is another way to reduce the energy demand for the building. Retaining warm or cool air inside the envelope saves energy because the building’s heating or cooling systems do not need to work as hard to maintain a consistent temperature. Using a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) will allow you to capture heat energy escaping from the building and further lighten the load on your mechanical systems. You can use Natural Resources Canada’s Keeping the Heat In guide to learn more about how insulation, air leakage, and building envelopes improve the energy efficiency of a green building.

Installing energy efficient lighting and appliances will also reduce the energy consumed by the building, but remember conserving energy requires more than simply using energy efficient technologies. If the people living and working in the building do not lead energy efficient lifestyles, then only so much can be done to reduce its environmental footprint.

  1. Green Transportation Capacity
  2. Sustainable Materials
  3. Effective Waste Management
  4. Easy and Efficient Maintenance
  5. Site Sustainability

Many green buildings encourage their occupants to take advantage of green transportation opportunities. This can be done by building near a bus stop, installing bicycle lockers and showers, or installing EV charging infrastructure on the property. Because conventional, gasoline-powered, passenger vehicles are currently our most common mode of transportation, GHG emissions from people moving from place to place are substantial. Providing the occupants of a green building with alternative, low carbon options for transportation will help them reduce their carbon footprint, and improve their long-term impact on the environment.