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'Greenest City 2020 Action Plan for Green Buildings', Vancouver, Canada

Winner of the WorldGBC's Government Leadership Award for 'Best Green Building Policy', Vancouver's Greenest City 2020 Action Plan sets ambitious targets for all new buildings constructed from 2020.

Vancouver's goal is nothing less than to lead the world in green building design and construction. Green buildings are just one of 10 focus areas in Vancouver's Action Plan, which includes two specific targets:

  • All new buildings to be carbon neutral in operations by 2020 and
  • Existing buildings to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

The City has introduced several programs and policies in its effort to meet these targets, including a green building code, and policies for rezoning, large developments, higher buildings and district energy use among them. Specifically:

  • Projects applying for rezoning (about 50 per cent of new development area annually) must be certified LEED Gold and demonstrate a 20-50 per cent improvement on the local energy code and
  • Large developments must explore and use renewable or district energy systems when viable.

A retrofit policy has been implemented that applies to all buildings seeking a renovation permit. Approximately 2,500 projects each year will be required to make energy efficiency upgrades during renovations. An incentives program is also in place, with more floors permitted in buildings that achieve a 50 per cent reduction in energy use against business as usual.

In addition to green building policies, the Action Plan also includes climate change adaptation measures such as construction guidelines to prevent flooding, initiatives to reduce private automobile use and increase walking, cycling and public transport uptake, and targets to halve waste disposal and water use. The number of green jobs in the area is also set to double by 2020.

The Green Homes Program, initiated in 2008, has already resulted in all single family developments being 25 per cent more efficient than standard homes, with a projected increase to 50 per cent efficiency resulting from the most recent update to the by-law.

Buildings account for 55 per cent of Vancouver's total greenhouse gas emissions. The Greenest City Action Plan is projected to reduce these emissions by 33 per cent by 2020 with the green buildings and district energy initiatives meeting 42 per cent of that goal - that's 290,000 tons of emissions saved each year.

Read more case studies of outstanding city-level policies in the WorldGBC's 2013 Government Leadership Awards summary document.