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Canada tops list of countries using green building principles

Whistler has several LEED-certified projects
LEEDING THE PACK The Whistler Public Library is one of five LEED-certified green projects in Whistler. File photo

Canada was recognized as a leader in green building this month after topping the list of countries for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED), the world's most widely used green building rating system.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) list recognized countries "making significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and information," and with 4,376 LEED-certified commercial and institutional projects — including several in Whistler — Canada easily beat out second-ranked China.

The LEED system rates buildings in a number of categories, such as materials used, water and energy efficiency, and innovation.

"The global success of LEED in these countries is a sign that international business leaders and policy makers recognize that a commitment to transforming the built environment is crucial to addressing major environmental challenges," said CEO Rick Fedrizzi of the USGBC in a release.

The resort has become something of a hotbed of innovation in green design and construction, with five LEED-certified projects: the Whistler Public Library; the Whistler Olympic Park day lodge; the Whistler High Performance Training Centre; the Whistler Sliding Centre's refrigeration building and the Spring Creek Fire Hall.

"I think (Whistler is) actually on the leading edge of this technology," said Ario Construction's Chris Addario. "We don't always necessarily subscribe to the specific proprietary programs, but at the same time I think there's a lot of examples of really high-quality, high-performance buildings around town, whether in residential or (commercial and institutional) projects."

With a deep-pocketed, environmentally conscious client base, more of Whistler's homeowners are looking for innovative and sustainable principles when designing and building their homes. Along with LEED, there are other home certification programs like Built Green, a third-party initiative created for residential properties that are resource-efficient, provide healthy indoor air, preserve natural resources and have improved durability.

"There's a lot of competition in Whistler for clients and companies want to differentiate themselves," said Alex Tavuchis of RDC Fine Homes, which commonly builds to the Built Green standard. "There are people who are aware of the different standards of building here, plus there's a lot of people here with money and they're interested in spending on geothermal heating and high-performance houses. They see the value in spending that money."

Whistler is also home to the Lost Lake Passivhaus, an Olympic legacy building that is today used as a day lodge, office and meeting space. Its highly efficient design, which allows for the interior climate to be controlled without an active heating or cooling system, uses 90-per-cent less energy than a traditional home and roughly 50-per-cent less than a Platinum-certified LEED house.

The tightening of B.C.'s building code also means construction companies are now working from a higher base standard in their designs.

"I think high-performance buildings are what we're really moving toward," said Addario. "The building code is creeping in that direction, with higher insulation values required, and anytime you raise the minimum standard ... you definitely raise the bar."