A leader in sustainability?
I feel Im at risk of turning into a crackpot. Lately Ive written about the costs of public buildings and the state of environmental conservation three times. However, the recent budget increase for the construction of the library has sent my Irish temper into a nuclear meltdown of Chernobyl-like proportions.
First of all, does a community with around 10,000 permanent residents really need a nearly $10 million library? I would think that any major construction project would have fixed contracts in place before the start of construction to keep such price escalations in check. The fact that the project went through the approval process with a budget of $7 million, and which has now climbed to $9.7 million dollars (a 38 per cent increase) shows a flippant attitude toward the public purse.
I have a lot of respect for Eckhard Zeidler. He ran openly for the "green chair", which makes it his duty to fight for the "sustainability" aspects of the project. That doesnt mean that the rest of council cant take a more common sense approach to some of the sustainability issues. Does the fact that we live on the verge of a temperate rain forest make spending $10,000 on low flush toilets an inane idea? A skylight in the parkade stairs? The only reason I can see for that would be to save on lighting the stairwell. A better plan for that might be to put some fluorescent fixtures in on a motion sensor. How much of that savings would simply bleed away in extra heating costs, as that skylight isnt going to be anywhere near as insulated as a nice cozy roof? The fact that separate heating and cooling systems might save $1,500 per year is comforting. For a $46,000 initial outlay, well recoup the cost back in a mere 30 years and eight months. Although $80,000 is a small part of the budget of the library, its still enough to buy a brand new convertible Corvette. If council had bought that car against the wishes of staff, what would the response from the community be?
Im getting really sick of the notion that putting low flush toilets and green roofs on public buildings makes Whistler a leader in sustainability. Whistler is a community built on conspicuous consumption. We produce nothing of what we consume, with the exception of the Gone Bakery and a few marijuana grow-ops. We use massive amounts of electricity to run ski lifts and machines to make artificial snow. Our refuse is sent via diesel truck to other communities, and our septic treatment plant smells like a toilet I once saw at a Tijuana gas station. We cant, or wont, build employee housing for people who work here, but we have a glut of multi-million dollar housing that sits mostly empty. We dont have enough affordable childcare, we dont have enough things for our teenagers to do, and we dont have any facilities for senior citizens. Weve displaced the native wildlife, filled in our wetlands for golf courses, and blocked our mountain views with hotels.