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Building with dollars and sense

RMOW Policy and Program Development



By Kevin Damaskie

RMOW Policy and Program Development

In the future, our built environment will be energy neutral, emit zero waste and result in a very limited footprint on ecosystems through sustainable design and development. This future is needed now.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a group of forward thinking architects has designed a home which actually “grows” itself from native seeds, with the trees forming the structural components of the home. Here in Whistler, the RMOW is working to make our built environment more sustainable through Whistler Green — a comprehensive suite of guidelines for residential construction, renovation and retrofitting. The seeds of these guidelines have been planted and the community is being invited to review and comment on the program. Together we can grow our own “Made in Whistler” high performance buildings.

As well, the British Columbia government, as part of their new energy plan, will be developing a newer, greener Provincial Building Code by 2010, establishing as law many of the components used in Whistler Green . The sum of these parts is simple; formerly “alternative” building design and techniques are now the mainstream, “going green” is no longer a movement, it’s a reality and many of Whistler’s planners, architects, builders and homeowners are taking steps toward our shared vision of sustainability outlined in Whistler2020. Not only do these guidelines help us limit greenhouse gas emissions, they also give us tools to build a “green house” and that’s cool.

Relative to conventional methods, homes built to the Whistler Green standard will have significant environmental, long-term economic and human health benefits. They incorporate sensitive site work and landscape planning; use energy, water and materials efficiently; and create healthy, comfortable living environments.

Whistler Green has implications well beyond the development of single family homes,” says Guy Patterson, RMOW Housing Planner. “The guidelines can apply to renovations, energy retrofits or simply upgrades such as replacing your windows.”

According to Patterson, green building is both technical and philosophical. It encompasses simple choices such as changing the design of your kitchen storage area to better accommodate composting, re-use and recycling and larger decisions such as re-using building materials in new homes or installing Energy Star appliances. All have a net positive effect on the environment we call home. Many will also have a long-term positive effect on your wallet as energy prices increase in the future.