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Friday, August 26, 2011

Mooning Over Victoria's Dockside Green Development Project

Posted by on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 4:31 PM

If you're looking for some light Friday afternoon reading, The Atlantic has a fascinating, pic-heavy article about the Dockside Green development project in Victoria, BC—what could arguably be called "The World's Greenest Neighborhood." Dockside Green is a former industrial site currently being developed into a 26-building mixed-use community that will eventually house 2,500 residents (including low-income families). The project, which is far from complete, has already earned scores of accolades, including LEED platinum ratings for green building development—in one case "setting a new world record for the highest LEED building score ever achieved."

But that's not all:

Dockside Green is host to a biomass gasification plant that, along with additional renewable energy technology including on-building windmills and solar panels, enables the development to be carbon-neutral. Each residential unit has a real-time meter showing energy and hot water usage along with associated carbon emissions, which can be easily compared with the development as a whole or the unit's history.

It's rare to see a dense urban neighborhood being deliberately built from the ground up in this way, instead of being the product of patchworked history. (Even though Seattle's Yesler Terrace rebuild isn't comparable, YT generates the same sort of excitement, in my opinion).

The article's pictures and design sketches are lovely but I especially appreciate author Kaid Benfield's breakdown of how the project succeeds—and fails—as a neighborhood. "Dockside Green certainly isn't yet the kind of complete, mature, multi-generational neighborhood highlighted by Scott Doyon's "popsicle test" (can an eight-year-old go get a popsicle on her own and return home safely before it melts)," he writes. "Now, there is a sense of isolation, in that it feels much more walkable internally than externally..." The article is definitely worth a read.


Comments (11) RSS

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30-60K per year is the bar for affordable housing now?
Posted by Ben_is_lost on August 26, 2011 at 4:41 PM · Report this
Biomass burning, huh? I remember your story about Mason County not wanting that in their area.

It's good to see this project in Victoria, and once they finish building that wastewater plant that finally stops sending that city's 34 million gallons a day of raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, that will help, er, considerably.
Posted by gloomy gus on August 26, 2011 at 4:44 PM · Report this
In Canada, it's actually possible to pull this sort of thing off. In Seattle, anything more than three stories high is "destroying the character of the neighborhood", even if it's only a few blocks from downtown.
Posted by Sean P. on August 26, 2011 at 5:22 PM · Report this
Have any of you guys been near this place IRL? It is seriously not welcoming. From a distance it just looks like this big, weird, forboding bunch of buildings. There's nothing "organic" feeling about it. On the other hand, most new developments in Victoria look like they were just plunked down from outer space, so it's no worse than a lot of other things there, I guess.
@2 - you'd be AMAZED how many people in BC (even Victoria itself!) have no idea whatsoever that the city has no sewage treatment. I get into arguments with people who won't believe me when I tell them.
Posted by teamcanada on August 26, 2011 at 6:26 PM · Report this
It is coming to Seattle - well Shoreline anyway.…
Posted by 32dem on August 26, 2011 at 6:26 PM · Report this
has Victoria stopped pumping sewage out into the Sound yet?
Posted by olive oyl on August 26, 2011 at 7:53 PM · Report this
@4, sorry to hear it's not all it seems in the renderings, surprise surprise. And that is something about how few people know about the sewage, which wiki notes is "screened to exclude objects larger than 6 millimetres (¼ in) prior to release into ocean outfalls".

@6, I believe a treatment plant has been approved but it's not operating yet.
Posted by gloomy gus on August 26, 2011 at 8:13 PM · Report this
Catalina Vel-DuRay 8
"From a distance it just looks like this big, weird, foreboding bunch of buildings."

Sounds like Vancouver to me ;-)

And believe me - I am probably the greenest Electrical Hostess that my non-nuclear utility has ever employed. But my advice is don't go all windmilly until you have determined there is actually generation level wind - and I don't mean some nice little breeze off the nearest body of water. (I'm assuming the good people of Dockside Green did their homework. I'm just saying that there are people in Seattle who made some tragic wind mistakes)
Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay on August 26, 2011 at 8:31 PM · Report this
seandr 10
I like the idea of equipping houses with real-time meters of energy usage. That feature alone will result in people adopting less wasteful habits.

Now treat your sewage!!
Posted by seandr on August 27, 2011 at 8:34 AM · Report this
@5 - it's not coming to Shoreline, it's going to Snohomish County, and therein lies the problem. Access will be through Shoreline, they'll be using Shoreline roads, Shoreline services, and probably Shoreline schools, but they'll pay taxes to Snohomish County.
Posted by StuckInUtah on August 27, 2011 at 9:42 AM · Report this
Having spent nearly a week in BC this summer, I have to ask:

Is it just me, or is Victoria just as underwhelming to the rest of you? Sure, there are gems here and there (such as Butchart Gardens, the phenomenal biking trail through the city and Beacon Hill Park) and one can see the health consciousness of the yupsters living in the southern portion of the city, but I left with the distinct impression of it being a tourist trap with some serious social problems. I didn't get to enjoy the rest of the island because of time constraints, so I'm commenting only on the city and its surroundings...
Posted by Approaching 40 in LA on August 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM · Report this

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