Materials, technologies, and buildings make a green community

Dockside Green

Synergy includes four detached buildings: a nine-storey and a six-storey residential tower with commercial units on the ground floor, and a two-storey and four-storey residential building with townhouses

by Robert Drew

Dockside Green is a 120,000 m2 multi-phase, mixed use development on a brownfield site in Victoria. The site is close to the city centre and connected to it by bus and ferry.  Once complete the development will total 26 buildings and include residential, live/work studios, a hotel, retail, office, light industrial uses, and numerous public amenities.
Key principles that were established at the onset of the project included: the importance of an economically viable solution to soils remediation, the strategy of a mixed use or ‘village’ concept, the realization that a project  of this scale could support its own sewage treatment plant and co-generation energy plant, the development of a major site water management strategy.
The first phase of the project, called Synergy, completed in March 2008, is the highest-scoring LEED® Platinum Certified project on record. It totals 16,600 square metres and includes four detached buildings constructed over a common underground parking structure: two residential towers of nine and six storeys respectively,  with small  commercial units on the ground floors; a two-storey townhouse building; and a four-storey residential building. The site is bound by Tyee Road on the west; Harbour Road on the north; a greenway and creek on the east; and future development on the south.
When all phases are complete, the Dockside Green development will be organized around a central greenway running parallel to the shoreline. Made up of a series of water ponds and bioswales, the greenway is a key feature in the project’s water management system. Site storm water flows from the buildings and ground level concourses to the greenway where, along with treated black water from the on-site Waste Water Treatment Facility, it is filtered for reuse as grey water for flushing toilets and irrigation. This greenway also enhances the community’s livability by providing significant public open space.
Dockside Green features an integrated district energy system that ensures the development will be greenhouse gas neutral, while also providing the opportunity for the project to become a net-energy provider. The system includes a biomass gasification plant that converts locally-sourced wood waste into a clean burning gas to produce heat and hot water. This facility not only provides an environmentally responsible way of dealing with local sawmill and construction site waste, but also creates employment opportunities and  offers residents the prospect of stabilized energy prices over the long term.
Due to the high percentage of its power derived from hydroelectricity, British Columbia’s electrical supply is projected to be carbon neutral by 2017. In the meantime, Dockside’s biomass gasification system, along with the purchase of green power certificates, has rendered the project carbon neutral for the next two years. Surplus carbon neutral heat will be sold to neighbouring buildings, making Dockside Green a net energy generator so exceeding the standards set out in the 2030 Challenge.
In order to finance the cost of the district wastewater facility and district energy system, two separate contracts were awarded creating private partner service providers so as to mitigate the first costs of these large infrastructure projects. Currently the project is gaining revenue by treating the City of Victoria’s raw sewage in the development’s on site wastewater facility, and will be also aiming to generate revenue by selling heat from the district energy system beginning in March of 2009.
The total upfront cost to the developer was about $1/m2 but when one factors: value of increased site density permitted by the municipality; value of reduced time in achieving approvals; value of sales premium for green features; value of increased sales velocity; value of reduced condo fees, the actual up front premium for this LEED Platinum project with 63 credits was effectively zero.
Synergy’s many other sustainable features include: an extensive water recovery treatment strategy that is calculated to reduce the demand for potable water by more than 8 million litres annually; rooftop gardens; a car co-op with Smart Car; and, additional energy-saving features, including Energy Star appliances, heat recovery ventilation units, Low E double
glazed windows and exterior blinds on the west and south faces of each building. All materials used in the project were specified and selected to be regional, recycled, and durable. The Canadian CSAS378 Guide for Durability was used as a design tool for the selection of all building components.
Dockside Green demonstrates clearly and comprehensively the environmental, social and economic synergies that can be realized by integrating sustainable design strategies for individual buildings with those applied at the neighbourhood or community scale.

Robert Drew is an Associate Principal with Busby Perkins+Will Architects Co.


  • Client Dockside Green Ltd. Partnership [Vancity and Windmill West], Victoria
  • Architect [Master Plan and Phase 1 ‘Synergy’] Busby Perkins+Will, Vancouver
  • Structural Engineer Read Jones Christoffersen, Victoria
  • Mechanical/Electrical Stantec Consulting, Victoria
  • Civil Engineer Komex Civil Engineering / RCL Consulting, Victoria
  • Envelope Consultant Morrison Hershfield Limited, Victoria
  • Ecology/Stormwater Management Aqua-Tex Scientific, Victoria
  • Landscape Architect PWL Partnership, Vancouver
  • Interior Design False Creek Design Group Inc., Vancouver
  • Green Building BuildGreen Consulting, Victoria
  • General contractor Farmer Construction, Victoria
  • Photography Enrico Dagostini, Vince Klassen, Victoria


  • Structure Insulated concrete forms on low-rise construction by Quad-Lock, other structures use cast-in-place Type 10
  • concrete by Lehigh Northwest Cement; mix contains fly ash, silica fume and blast furnace slag to reduce cement content of concrete.
  • Exterior CMUs, clay face brick, western red cedar tight knotted stock dressed, and mineral fibre reinforced panels by Swiss Pearl [distributor: Muralis Architectural]; window wall glazing system – U value 30; SC value 53; SHGC value 39; sealed units with insulating glass 1in. thick, low “E” coated glass applied to #2 surface; eyebrows consist of  Energy star product Sonneborn by BASF; Cloverdale latex paint at soffits, Pro Tek Tor by CBR on exposed wood; Green roof:  Soprema SBS inverted membrane roofing Sopralene Flam 180.
  • HVAC Heat from the biomass plant through the district heating system to a S.A. Armstrong plate and frame high efficiency heat exchanger; heated water runs from the heat exchanger to Trane fan coil units with variable speed motor drives in suites, circulating water pumps by Grundfos,  roof top heat recovery units by Haakon.
  • Interior Cabinets of solid wood and 100% consumer recycled fibreboard  by Nordstar;  solid core doors by Lynden Door Inc. with greencor agfiber or timberstrand cores, birch veneer; acoustical floor underlayment single ply, 100% recycled rubber, 10 mm thick, wood flooring underlayment
    Legnotech Acoustic-Foam closed cell polyethylene foam, cork floor tile; low VOC paint by Cloverdale Paints;  building controls by Reliable Controls, Thyssenkrupp elevators.

Project performance

  • Water Consumption
    Projected potable water consumption = 181 litres/m2/year.
    Projected reduction in potable water use relative to model building = 68%
  • Energy Consumption
    Projected energy consumption = 378 MJ/m2/year
    Projected % saving relative to MNECB = 85%
  • Materials
    % recycled content by value =  17.8%
    % locally sourced by value = 24%
    % of construction waste diverted from landfill = 96.2%
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