Featuring Green with Jason Packer

On what was prob­a­bly the worst rainy, cold, windy day this fall, Jason Pack­er, sus­tain­abil­i­ty con­sul­tant with Rec­ol­lec­tive brave­ly took an eager group of peo­ple on a tour through the Olympic Vil­lage to point out the green fea­tures of the devel­op­ment.  Many of these fea­tures are inno­v­a­tive but large­ly invis­i­ble unless some­one such as Jason points them out.  By the end of the tour we all real­ized how impor­tant edu­ca­tion is to under­stand­ing and active­ly par­tic­i­pat­ing in a sus­tain­able development…more on that later.










We met out front of Creek­side Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­tre and began the tour with a dis­cus­sion of what makes the cen­tre LEED Plat­inum — sys­tems such as rain­wa­ter col­lec­tion for irri­ga­tion, toi­let flush­ing and solar pow­ered absorp­tion chillers all con­tribute.  The reuse of rain­wa­ter is quite vis­i­ble if you’ve ever used the facil­i­ties at Creek­side, while the chillers on the roof are only vis­i­ble from the upper floors of near­by buildings.

Absorp­tion chillers use waste heat (usu­al­ly steam or hot water – in this case, heat­ed by the sun) to gen­er­ate cool­ing. Inside the absorp­tion chiller, this heat is trans­ferred to a brine solu­tion, caus­ing evap­o­ra­tion. The result­ing fresh water vapour is con­densed and sprayed onto pipes hold­ing water that will cir­cu­late inside the build­ing, cool­ing it. Due to a strong affin­i­ty between the con­densed brine and the fresh water spray, the brine attracts and reab­sorbs the spray. ” (read more) This is the first time a sys­tem like this has been used in North Amer­i­ca and so far north.

As Jason point­ed out, sub­tle design fea­tures can have an impor­tant impact.  This can be seen in the solar pow­ered trash cans.  Pow­ered by a solar pan­el on the top, the cans are built to com­pact the trash put in them.










We moved on to look at how storm water is col­lect­ed and then used for irri­ga­tion to sup­port the plants, trees and grass grow­ing in the area.  For exam­ple the roads are sloped into the cen­tre to fun­nel “dirt­i­er” rain­wa­ter into either clean­ing gal­leries below ground or into Hinge Park for fil­tra­tion by plants.










Hinge Park fea­tures a bioswale which looks like a marshy wet­land, dense with with water plants and ducks. This envi­ron­ment was con­struct­ed to calm the water, allow­ing it to be fil­tered and then released into False Creek.

Although numb with cold, every­one was real­ly engaged so we vot­ed to walk with Jason to the Neigh­bour­hood Ener­gy Util­i­ty. This facil­i­ty takes waste heat from untreat­ed urban waste water and trans­forms it into heat and hot water.  Since the Olympics the NEU has pro­vid­ed 70% of ther­mal ener­gy for South East False Creek.









The NEU is tucked under the Cam­bie Street over­pass and com­ple­ment­ed by a com­mu­ni­ty gar­den that was recent­ly installed this spring.  Through large open win­dows and por­tals you can get a sense of the inner work­ings of the facil­i­ty that is essen­tial­ly trans­form­ing poop into heat.  One our par­tic­i­pants was real­ly dis­ap­point­ed to see pipes not poop when look­ing down one of the por­tals. It makes me real­ize how much of sus­tain­abil­i­ty requires a shift in cul­tur­al norms — we pre­fer not to see the waste we pro­duce, let alone think about how it could be useful.

On our way back to Creek­side we stopped to take a clos­er look at the Salt build­ing which was built in the ear­ly 1930s to refine salt shipped from San Fran­cis­co.  The build­ing has a Gold LEED stand­ing for it’s re-use of nat­ur­al mate­ri­als, ven­ti­la­tion and light­ing. At the moment the build­ing sits emp­ty, how­ev­er, dur­ing our stop a team of peo­ple were prepar­ing it for a one time event.









The Salt build­ing sits on the main plaza and is intend­ed to be a cof­fee shop, restau­rant and brew pub — even­tu­al­ly.  The plaza has poten­tial as a gath­er­ing space which is impor­tant in sup­port­ing social sus­tain­abil­i­ty.  Cur­rent­ly, the space is used inter­mit­tent­ly for events but with­out retail at street lev­el most of the foot traf­fic remains near the sea wall. It will be inter­est­ing to see how this sit­u­a­tion changes over the next few years.









Jason wrapped up the tour in the lob­by at Creek­side, where we could get warm and ask ques­tions.  We con­tin­ued to chat for anoth­er hour, tap­ping into Jason’s exten­sive exper­tise. One of the dis­cus­sions that real­ly stayed with me focussed on the need for edu­ca­tion.  It became appar­ent that there is a dis­con­nect between the sus­tain­abil­i­ty fea­tures built into the devel­op­ment and the poten­tial to enact sus­tain­abil­i­ty as a res­i­dent.  While res­i­dents are pro­vid­ed a book­let of infor­ma­tion and some green clean­ing sup­plies when they move in, there aren’t any oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn in a more in-depth way about how the devel­op­ment func­tions and how they can con­tribute to the over­all cre­ation of an envi­ron­men­tal­ly and social­ly sus­tain­able neigh­bour­hood.  As Jason point­ed out, it isn’t real­ly clear who would be respon­si­ble for fill­ing this gap although the need is evident.

This dis­cus­sion remind­ed me of the many res­i­dents of the Vil­lage that I’ve met over the sum­mer who are both inter­est­ed and com­mit­ted to learn­ing and con­tribut­ing to the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of the area.  I won­der if these oppor­tu­ni­ties will ulti­mate­ly come through their col­lec­tive orga­ni­za­tion rather than cor­po­ra­tions or government.



Comments are closed.