The creation of LEED® has had a huge impact in the acceptance of sustainability in design, on both the design and customer sides. That it's an independent verifier has lent a tremendous amount of credibility to the movement, and given it an easily identifiable and ever-improving standard for designers to shoot for.
“LEED has done a lot for the market and everyone knows that name, but it's also third-party verification. Like a lot of things, people can say their design is sustainable but a lot of it could be just greenwashing,” said Margo.
With the growing acceptance of LEED and sustainability, it has also increased the understanding and desire from many parties for sustainable and green buildings, and allowed for input from surprising individuals. The Dockside Green project in Victoria even invited the Realtor of the project into the design meetings, with productive results.
The development team was wondering if it would be possible to reuse grey and rainwater in the mixed-community project, a very sustainable, albeit expensive addition to the building plans.
“The first thing was if you start collecting grey water, you have to treat and store it somewhere,” said Margo. “When someone brought up the idea of a bioswale, the realtor piped up and said, ‘If we can make that bioswale run through the property as a stream, we could sell condos as waterfront property for a lot more money’.
Because LEED has a significant focus on technology for its criteria, advances in technology mean that the requirements for LEED buildings are continually increasing. Although buildings keep their LEED status once granted, what earned a building its status previously won't always.
“It's a moving target and it should be. That's the whole purpose of LEED. As soon as people are comfortable they have to up it,” Margo said.
One area where improvements have been occurring is in materials, though as LEED tends to be U.S.-focused, these advancements may not always be suitable for Canadian climates.
“Everyone really wants to do something about water run-off so they came up with pavers, where you can grow grass in it or permeable asphalt, where water sinks through. But whenever you talk to someone, the only place it works is where they don't get frost and snow,” Margo said.
However, it's clear that the desire for sustainability is real and it is here to stay. Even if advocacy is still going to be required to help justify the increased costs that sustainable design often implies at the outset.
“To do this effectively, you need to have a client that's open minded and willing to push the envelope,” said Bill Mitchell, Partner with BKDI Architects.
“You really need someone, either on the client side or the consultant side, that's truly passionate about doing it.”
The promising aspect of these developments is that someday, advocacy for sustainable design may not even be necessary, as the concept becomes common place.
“The exciting thing for me is that for my kids, it's not even something they think about,” said Bill. “It's just obvious that you need to use less water. We're just starting, but they're going to take it and be the true leaders.”
To take a look at our previous post click: Sustainability Part I