Not many homeowners would welcome a sewage treatment plant in their backyards. But if that sewage treatment plant masked itself as a meandering creek and reduced residents’ utility expenses to almost zero, they would be singing a different tune altogether. According to the NY Times, that’s exactly what one mixed-use development in Victoria, B.C., has done.

Dockside Green is a 15-acre development that makes using household waste as clean energy source seem to be a small step in comparison.

The New York Times says, “The artificial creek circulates wastewater from an adjacent underground sewage treatment plant. That water is also used to flush toilets and irrigate the landscape — a closed system that helps reduce water bills for residents, provides a refuge for wildlife and ‘improves the marketability of the space,’ said Joe Van Belleghem, the Dockside Green developer. ‘So it’s all integrated: the economic, the environmental, the social,’ he added.”

Dockside Green will eventually encompass 1.3 million square feet and will include 26 buildings and 2,500 residents. The prices of the residential units in the development’s first neighborhood, Dockside Wharf, range from 411,900 Canadian dollars (about $390,000) for a one-bedroom to 529,000 for two bedrooms and up to 1,233,900 for penthouses.

The recirculation of wastewater throughout the community isn’t the only inventive and environmentally friendly feature of the Dockside Green development. It also includes an $8 million (Canadian) heating plant that converts locally sourced wood waste into a clean-burning gas that produces all of the community’s heat and hot water.

According to the New York Times article, “In February, Scott Wilson, a technical analyst for B.C. Ferries, and Shirley Ronco, a nurse’s aide, bought a 1,000-square-foot apartment for $430,000 (Canadian). Wilson said the couple’s combined heating and hot water bill for the month of May was $12.66 (Canadian). ‘I thought they made a mistake and left out a zero,’ he said.”

Not only does the heating plant nearly eradicate heating bills in the dead of winter, but it also exempts residents from the province’s carbon tax — the first of its kind in North America. The thermal plant is so efficient that Dockside Green Energy, the utility that operates the plant, sells excess heating capacity to a nearby hotel.

In addition to the thermal heating plant and wastewater recirculation system, Dockside Green residents also reap the benefits of rooftop wind turbines, awnings that double as solar panels, energy efficient appliances, passive solar design, and fresh air ventilation. All of these systems work together to reduce Dockside Green buildings’ energy usage to about 50 percent that of conventional buildings.

Several other projects are in progress in downtown Victoria, including the Atrium, a 200,000-square foot office building; a homeless shelter; and the Hudson, a mixed-use renovation of a former department store.

New Canadian development pushes the limits of sustainable design
The Dockside Green mixed-use development in Victoria, British Columbia proves just how eco-friendly a large development can be.