By Vern Faulkner
Saanich News
April 02, 2003

From grass and gravel parking lots to low-energy light fixtures and waterless urinals, there are signs of so-called "green" thinking all over the Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP).

As Joe Van Belleghem, the park's business development and green initiatives manager points out, the tech park is testament to the fact that "green" thinking is as good for the company bottom line as it is for the environment.

Even though flat-screen LCD monitors are more expensive, the tech park encourages its tenants to use them because they use less electricity and produce less heat, which makes them cost-effective.

"There was a building in Toronto that was facing a $6 million upgrade to their cooling system," relates Van Belleghem. "Rather than do that, somebody came up with the idea of replacing all their old computer monitors… They didn't have to upgrade their building."

Routing cables through a slightly raised flooring system wherever possible would also seem to be an expensive proposition at roughly $90 per square metre.

But the raised floors allow tenants to move workstations around with ease and also serve as heating ducts. More importantly, the system is cheaper than installing a drop ceiling.

More notably, if the system goes into new buildings, construction and maintenance costs are reduced.

The tech park encourages the use of sliding doors wherever possible, again to save space. By eliminating space taken up by the arc of conventional doors, about one square metre (nine square feet) per door can be saved and allocated for other uses.

When the old Glendale hospital was being converted into the tech park, builders were required to install new walls to comply with modern earthquake-proof building standards.

Rather than constructing the tech park walls out of standard concrete, however, the builders used a waste byproduct of cement production called 'fly ash', which not only created a stronger, smoother wall, it also saved harmful chemicals from being pumped into the environment.

"One tonne of cement production produces one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions," explains Van Belleghem, adding that the emissions account for eight per cent of the global production of carbon dioxide. "By putting the fly-ash into the cement mixture, we're reducing the carbon dioxide emissions (of production) by 35 per cent, and it doesn't cost us anything because fly ash is cheap."

That sort of multi-pronged approach to saving money through green initiatives typifies the pioneering leadership the tech park has taken in the mostly unexplored realm of so-called "green building" design.

The tech park already has a deal in place with BC Hydro and the Hartland landfill to install a methane-burning generator at the regional waste facility to turn gas that is currently being released into the atmosphere into hydroelectric power without any detrimental impacts on the environment.

At a time when many other business leaders are reluctant to accept environmental standards endorsed in the Kyoto Accord, Van Belleghem sees a promising future.

"The reason we want to promote Kyoto is that buildings are responsible for 10 per cent of (all) emissions," he explains. "We think, by transforming the building industry and getting them to think differently, we can have a 25 per cent impact on the Kyoto protocol."

While many of the cost-savings measures benefit the BCBC – the tech park's landlord – they also filter down to Saanich taxpayers.

For example, the waterless urinals save 1.2 million litres of water per year, which not only decreases demand on an already overburdened water reserve, but also has less impact on municipal infrastructure. Continued vigilance in the realm of water consumption will mean that Saanich won't have to build new sewer systems.

"If we continue to use water conservation, along with Camosun College, Saanich won't have to replace that trunk line and that's about a $1.5 million saving," Van Belleghem says.

The tech park has also created an on-site water retention system for storm water. The system cost about $128,000 to build – significantly less than the $600,000 it would have had to pay to pipe storm water away from the tech park into the storm sewer system.

It seems as if the "green" philosophy is contagious. Coffee drinkers at the Hard Drive cafe receive a 30 cent discount if they produce their own mug.

The Vancouver Island Technology Park, which is located at the end of Markham Street near Camosun College's Interurban College has racked up several awards, including:

-Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Award
-BOMA BC Earth Award
– Greenways Developer's Award from the Provincial Capital Commission
-Urban Development Institute (UDI) 2002 Sustainability Award
-2003 Award of Merit for Engineering Excellence by Consulting Engineering of BC
-NAIOP International — Beyond the Box: Exceptional Industrial Projects