BC Hydro incentives assist green building growth in B.C.


Kelly Parks, Ellen Schwartz & Luis Damy

Despite the decline in new construction across Canada during the economic downturn, construction in the green building sector has remained fairly constant. And trends are looking up for 2011 and beyond.

One indication is the number of projects participating in BC Hydro's New Construction Program, which offers incentives to help developers study and implement cost-effective energy conservation measures in new buildings.

Enrolment in the program has doubled over the last 12 months. In the last two years alone, 50 buildings have been built to high energy efficiency standards, and together they're saving 32 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, enough electricity to power 3,200 homes.

"The growing participation levels in the New Construction Program mean that there is an increased level of interest in the market to build high performing buildings. We currently have over five million square feet of new construction projects exploring energy efficiency opportunities with BC Hydro," says program manager Luis Damy.

Program improvements drive higher participation rates

The High Performance Building Program was launched in 2005. Within the first few years, BC Hydro had fine-tuned the program to better meet the needs of the building design community, as well as its own energy-savings goals.

When the program was re-launched in 2009 as the New Construction Program, the improved offer, combined with enhanced marketing efforts and increased incentive levels, spurred greater participation – to the point that the program is now exceeding expectations.

That's because developers are increasingly grasping the benefits of building energy-efficient projects. "It's in the best interests of developers – of business in general – to become more energy efficient," says Joe Van Bellghem, former Dockside Green development manager and partner, Windmill West. "Energy efficiency is not a cost of doing business, but an opportunity for better economic outcomes."

He adds: "It's no secret I really like the program. BC Hydro's incentives mean that we can afford to put more money into projects that we think are really important, like our on-site sewage treatment plant, our biomass heat generation plant and our green roofs."

Even so, BC Hydro understands that the program must evolve to keep up with market conditions and constraints. To meet this goal, the program was aligned with LEED-NC (LEED® for New Construction) in 2010.

Now, a customer who wants to pursue LEED-NC certification can save on the required modeling costs with funding gained through the New Construction Program. This makes it easier and faster for the design community to participate in both programs.

The Vancouver Convention Centre is an example of a project that took advantage of both LEED and the New Construction Program.

"From the beginning, we knew we wanted to build a sustainable building and to achieve the LEED® Gold standard," says project manager Dave Walker.

To that end, the planners signed up for BC Hydro's New Construction Program at the very start of the design process and leveraged their program participation to build toward LEED certification.

While BC Hydro's goal is energy efficiency, the bigger picture facing the construction industry is a growing demand for sustainability.

"Five years ago, the first concern of convention planners was security," says Warren Buckley, President and CEO of BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo), the Crown corporation that manages both the Vancouver Convention Centre and BC Place Stadium. "Now they say, 'Tell us about your sustainability.'

"They want to know how green we are, and it's absolutely vital for us to be able to offer a sustainable facility."

Move ahead with the design community

BC Hydro is working to help build the knowledge base within the new construction industry, so that owners, developers, architects, engineers and consultants are better equipped to build green projects. See our schedule of upcoming workshops.

Take advantage of design incentives

The New Construction Program offers incentives to help reduce the costs of building energy-efficient commercial, institutional and multi-unit residential new developments or major building retrofits.

To be eligible, buildings must be located within BC Hydro's service territory.

For more information, read about the New Construction Program online or call 604 522 4713 in the Lower Mainland, 1 866 522 4713 elsewhere in B.C.