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Energy modeling finds big savings for Richmond's River Green community

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A focus of excitement during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, the Richmond Olympic Speedskating Oval also launched a building renaissance in a forgotten corner of Richmond. The large tract of prime waterfront land along the Fraser River had for decades been lying vacant, surrounded by industrial land and warehouses.

With the start of the River Green development, that renaissance continues. River Green will encompass 3.4 million square feet of new development over 27 acres by completion. Phase 1 consists of 458 units in six residential towers, plus two amenity buildings, designed by Vancouver architect James K.M. Cheng and developed by Aspac Developments Ltd.

Energy modeling allows testing of alternate design options

Early in the design stage, Aspac and Cheng enlisted support from BC Hydro's New Construction Program. That allowed the project to access funding toward the cost of an energy-modeling study.

"Energy modeling," says BC Hydro Specialist Engineer, Bojan Andjelkovic, "allows architects and designers to test different design strategies through a simulation of how the building will run, how much energy it will use. They can see what happens if you use this kind of heating system combined with that kind of window glazing, or what happens if you simply move the building a little to face a slightly different way."

Study reveals nine simple conservation options and 1.5 million kWh savings

For River Green's Phase 1 (six residential buildings and three levels of parking), the energy modeling study revealed that just nine energy conservation measures would result in 1.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) a year of energy savings compared to traditional buildings — enough to power about 150 B.C. homes.

The energy-saving measures include increased roof and wall insulation, high-performance glazing, interior and exterior lighting controls, low-flow water fixtures and a high-efficiency heat pump system. Says Andjelkovic, "It shows what getting involved in energy modeling early can do. You don't have to take a risk on the latest technology; you can build it right, with proven measures and still have great energy efficiency."

By completing the energy-conservation projects, Aspac is also eligible for further financial incentives from BC Hydro to help cover installation costs. Meanwhile, tenants will enjoy lower ongoing costs to heat and cool their units.

Energy modeling for subsequent building phases

Subsequent project phases are using energy modeling not just to reduce electricity usage, but natural gas consumption too, allowing access to FortisBC incentives. "It's important for us to keep the River Green community as energy efficient as possible," says John Ryan, Aspac's vice-president of development, "because we know it's important to prospective residents' buying decisions and their concerns about the environment."

The River Green community includes other sustainability measures such as green roofs, electric vehicle plug-ins, and a community shuttle to places such as the Canada Line transit station and local shopping. A high-efficiency irrigation system outside the buildings helps reduce water used for irrigation. A curtain wall system inside the buildings with low emissivity glass gives the units excellent thermal and sound insulation, and a highly reflective roofing material will help to reduce the heat-island effect.

"It's going to be quite a transformation of this area," says Ryan. "I feel privileged to be part of this change, because we are creating a new community, not just a place to live, for people to enjoy and feel good about."

Find out more about energy modeling and BC Hydro's New Construction Program online or call 1 866 522 4713.