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Westhills, Victoria BC – A Green Revolution

Langford Master-planned Community Has a Vision For a Green Future.

As a volunteer on the Victoria Real Estate Board‘s Green Task Force, I was invited to a presentation at the WesthillsThe Westhills Master Plan Community Planning Office, at 957 Langford Parkway. The 20-year plan, which envisions an eventual 6,000 housing units made up of condominiums, townhouses, and detached dwellings will sit on a massive 517 acre site on the shores of Langford Lake.

This ambitious development is unique in that it is a large-scale master-planned community, based on sustainability, both resource-based (green building) and social-based (traditional neigbourhood design). The project will adhere to Built Green™ standards for residential construction, and LEED™ (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) standards for commercial buildings. The development is also a pilot project for LEED-ND (neighbourhood development), helping to set a standard for residential construction under the LEED™ guidelines.

The overall idea is to create a community that fosters green living, and healthy social interaction. Sustainable building practices and stormwater management will be used. There will be no asphalt paving in the development; all roads and sidewalks will be paver-stone or a similar permeable material, allowing storm water to seep back into the water table rather than having to manage it through drainage culverts, which can lead to unnatural erosion of the landscape. Two commercial nodes and one town centre will have all the amenities within walking distance of every front door in the community. A network of cycling and walking trails will criss-cross the development. And its location right along the E&N Railway line will enable a future train station for any eventual commuter rail service into downtown Victoria. Homes will be closer to the street, and will feature outdoor living spaces at the front of the house, to foster human interaction. Also, the idea is to have a mixture of different types of housing in the same area, ensuring that the neighbourhood is populated with people of all ages and socioeconomic status.

The master plan calls for 40% of the total acreage to be left untouched, including several forested areas, natural marshland, mountains, hills, and lakes. It is hoped that paradise falls, a small waterfall between two lakes on the property could be harnessed for hydroelectric power.

The property is still in the early stages of development; there are no homes for sale just yet, but the team is just putting the finishing touches on the initial floor plans, and hope to have the first neighbourhood started by the fall.

As green building becomes more and more mainstream, the extra cost associated with building green will gradually fall off. This is the hope of the development team, who struggle with the dilemma of reaching the standards of Built Green™ and LEED-ND™ without putting costs out of the reach of home owners. For example, metal roofs would be the ideal choice – no toxic chemicals leached into the runoff, etc – but as of now it is cost-prohibitive. They are also exploring the possibility of using a geothermal heating and cooling system, which would greatly increase energy efficiency.

The Westhills team is certainly practising what they are preaching. Their office is built just how they want their homes and commercial spaces built in the development. A comfortable flooring material made from recycled rubber tires lines the presentation area. Special care was taken to use low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) adhesive to fix it to the floor. There is recycled/recyclable carpet over a cork underlay. The sitting area has a floor made from the refinished glu-lam beams from the recently-demolished Mayfair Lanes bowling alley (how cool is that!?). All paints, stains, adhesives, etc are low-VOC. Even the office furniture and cabinetry is all sourced from sustainable or recycled product. And of course, lighting is provided by low-voltage halogen or compact fluorescent.

This ambitious project will hopefully highlight how builders and developers can handle future growth, while simultaneously maintaining a strong bottom line and protecting our environment. For more information about this remarkable community and the principles and standards to which it will be built, please visit their website, and check out the various links at the top and left side of the page.

Tim Ayres


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