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2005 Buildings — Co-winner 3

Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), British Columbia

Green Buildings Program

Population: 2,133,000

The Green Buildings Program will help streamline green building design in the GVRD by providing technical education and research to the building industry. The GVRD integrated Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines with provincial standards and industry needs and is using them as a springboard to educate builders, architects, engineers, general contractors and municipal staff about the many mutual benefits associated with sustainable building practices. Its BuildSmart Web site features technical guides and tools, as well as a directory of more than 650 locally available building products. Since the program's launch in 2001, the number of LEED-certified projects has doubled every year. The program's evaluation component monitors these buildings for energy performance and emissions.


According to the Worldwatch Institute, an independent sustainable development research network, buildings have a significant impact on the environment, consuming about one-quarter of the world's virgin wood, 40 per cent of its energy and 16 per cent of its water.

Commercial, industrial and institutional buildings in the GVRD produce about one-third of the region's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Leading by example, the GVRD first developed a green building policy for its own facilities. It then introduced its Green Buildings Program (GBP) to educate and support the commercial building sector, with the goal of making green building design a mainstream practice within the industry. The GBP is the first integrated, technical education and assistance program offered by a local government in Canada that advances sustainability in the building sector.

The GBP reflects the principles set out in the GVRD's Sustainable Region Initiative (SRI) by ensuring that future generations enjoy a Greater Vancouver with the same or better level of economic prosperity, environmental health and community well-being that exists today. The SRI is an action plan intended for all GVRD stakeholders, with roles for citizens, governments, business groups, social agencies and academic institutions.


  • LEED BC is the first adaptation of LEED outside the United States.
  • The GVRD board of directors formally endorsed LEED BC in June 2003 and recommended that the GVRD apply the system to all new facilities. Several municipalities within the GVRD are now following the LEED standard, including Richmond, Langley and North Vancouver. "They see it as an opportunity to save money over the life of their buildings," says Mr. Mueller.
  • LEED-certified buildings make up about 14 per cent of all new industrial, commercial and institutional construction in the GVRD.
  • Post-occupancy monitoring of a representative sample of five LEED-certified buildings shows an average GHG emission reduction of 60 tonnes per building per year (this ranges from a reduction of 116 tonnes for the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology to 32 tonnes for the Kelowna Sr. Secondary School) and annual energy savings of $44,000.
  • The GVRD has informed more than 2,300 industry representatives, of a total industry population of about 30,000 professionals, about the GBP through presentations, workshops and trade shows.

Lessons Learned

  • PRACTISE WHAT YOU PREACH. The GVRD developed a green building policy for all of its new and existing facilities and began by retrofitting these buildings first to set an example for the rest of the industry.
  • A COMMON VISION HELPS MAINTAIN MOMENTUM. Mr. Mueller explains that establishing a vision for the program, one that all partners and stakeholders could agree upon, helps to maintain momentum as the program expands.
  • INVEST IN EDUCATION AND RESEARCH. Mr. Mueller points out that many government-sponsored building initiatives often run for a short period and are then shelved. "For the private sector to buy in, they need to be certain that the GVRD is in it for the long haul," says Mr. Mueller. Ongoing training and education programs are a key component of the GBP. "Short programs don't do any need to make green building a standard practice in the industry."
  • BUILD PARTNERSHIPS WITH MANY ORGANIZATIONS. "You can't do a program like this alone because no single organization has the funds or the staff to do it," says Mr. Mueller. "You need access to and credibility with the industry and to be straightforward about what you're trying to accomplish." Many of the GBP partners shared the cost of conducting the initial studies and developing the technical guides and information.
  • PROMOTE INTEGRATED DESIGN. An integrated design process is one in which all stakeholders-owner, occupant, design and construction team-are involved from the beginning. "You need to spend more time and money at the start," Mr. Mueller explains. "But, when you do it this way, there are fewer surprises so you catch up during the overall process."


  • City of Vancouver
  • National Association of Industrial and Office Property
  • Canada Green Building Council
  • BC Buildings Corporation
  • Urban Development Institute
  • BC Ministry of Competition, Science & Enterprise
  • Sierra Club
  • Forest Stewardship Council
  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
  • Architectural Institute of BC
  • Partners for Climate Protection
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Green Municipal Fund
  • BC Hydro
  • Terasen Gas
  • Industry associations, such as design firms and engineering organizations
Page Updated: 21/12/2015