A model idea 

Squamish to move forward with local, regional energy plan

When the curtains rise, you’ll see a model. Not a plane or a car or anything you can view under glass — this particular mock-up will comprise an entire downtown block. Pitched as a people’s complex, it’ll be Squamish’s showcase for sustainable, light-impact community living.

The Smart Growth Block Catalyst Plan is the first of a series of projects that will eventually make up the district’s energy plan. Hung so far from half a dozen different hooks, the plan begins downtown, then expands to involve the whole Sea to Sky corridor, including Whistler.

The block model will embrace the foot and discourage the car. It’ll draw energy from renewable outputs, like solar, all the while giving foundation to buildings constructed with a tight focus on energy efficiency.

“It’s crazy to think of buildings built 20 years ago that have baseboard heaters below windows,” said project lead and district planner Sabina FooFat.

The new downtown block won’t be blemished by such things. FooFat and consultant Alex Boston brought the community energy plan to Squamish council on April 8 with the recommendation that the district set up a time to meet with project organizers and provide them with direction.

“We’re at a time right now where there’s a lot of change,” FooFat said, “and people are looking at energy — how it’s managed, how it’s delivered, how it’s procured.”

On April 9, the energy team brought together a number of stakeholders for an invite-only cram session. It was one of several such sessions, with the last one held on Feb. 27.

“We have a workshop with consultants, property owners, utilities and those types of people to come up with a concept to put this together in the downtown core,” said Dan McRae, the Squamish Sustainability Corporation’s (SSC) man on the file. “It makes a lot of sense to have it in the downtown area, where all the development will be.”

That’s phase one. Future stages call for energy audits of district buildings, a renewable energy system, a transportation hub and cross-corridor collaboration on energy initiatives.

“It’s pretty traditional for planning to think of land use,” said FooFat. “But this is beyond that. This is construction, operations and waste management.”

And so a paper will be penned. Once written, the document will be presented to regional players like the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

“For any hub to work, we’ll have to think regionally,” she said. “You can’t leave that third party out of the picture.”

According to research compiled by the SSC, a third of Squamish’s workforce commutes to Whistler or Vancouver. This makes a transportation system vital to reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions.

“It would make sense to work together as a region with this stuff,” McRae said. “The who, what, when, where and how is what we’re trying to initiate with this paper.”

  FooFat invokes the Sea to Sky Air Quality Management Plan when discussing the feasibility of a regional energy strategy.

“There’s so much change happening,” she said. “It seems to be opening a lot of discussion.”

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