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Vancouver industrial hub transformed into sustainable neighbourhood

0 570 Government

by Jean Sorensen

Southeast False Creek (SEFC), the City of Vancouver reclamation project judged the best overall at the Canadian Urban Institute 2009 Brownie Awards last month, is being designed to set a new urban sustainability standard in community development.
Vancouver industrial hub transformed into sustainable neighbourhood

Environmental engineering

VANCOUVER

Southeast False Creek, the City of Vancouver reclamation project judged the best overall at the Canadian Urban Institute 2009 Brownie Awards last month, is being designed to set a new urban sustainability standard in community development.

The 80-acre site housing 16,000 people is expected to be one of North America’s first LEED for Neighborhood Development pilot programs targeting gold.

The development is being done in three phases, with the first phase the development of the 2010 Winter Olympic Athlete Village buildings. These structures will be seeking gold certification with a community centre seeking LEED platinum.

A neighborhood of parks, market and subsidized housing, marine areas, community garden, shops, schools, and a community centre is growing out of what was once the industrial hub of the city. Sawmills, manufacturers, metal shops and marine-related shops rimmed False Creek.

“It was the heart of the industrial area,” said Alan Walker, territory manager for SNC Lavalin Environment Inc. SNC Lavalin carried out the subsurface investigation into soil and groundwater quality at SEFC to complete human health and risk assessment as part of a remedial action plan.

In areas where contamination was severe, soils were removed and in areas of lesser contamination, the material was covered over and the land designated recreational use. In order to mitigate any future problems from the site, the city retained title to the foreshore area on which a promenade is built.

Wally Konowalchuk, project engineer for the SEFC project office said the brownfield conversion followed a new direction in development emphasizing sustainability in Vancouver starting in the 90s.

“A new model for city sustainability took place.”

Of the 80-acre False Creek site, the city retains title to 50 acres. Of the 50 acres, the Olympic Village site — completely turned over to Olympic organizer VANOC by December — will occupy 17 acres. The Olympic Village area has 1,100 mixed residential units.

Other city land lies to the west (a former public works yard). Lands to the south and east of the Olympic Village (a former rail yard) are privately held by developers bound to meet a minimum LEED silver standard in construction.

“I am told that this is the largest residential development in North America,” said Robin Petri, Vancouver’s Manager of Engineering for the SEFC & Olympic Village.

One of the unique features of the development, Petri points out, is that the roads are sloped so that rainwater drains into natural bioswales on each side of the village, negating the need to treat runoff water, while providing habitat for birds, animals, and marine life.

Buildings also capture and use water.

“Approximately 50 per cent of the buildings have green roofs and 50 per cent direct the water into irrigation and functions such as toilet flushing,” said Konowalchuk.

A neighborhood energy utility is the first in North America to gather heat directly from a raw sewage line, consolidate the heat and use it in a thermal system that loops pipe to various buildings and back to the utility building.

One of the challenges of the cleanup was that False Creek had been filled in along the shoreline over the years.

The shoreline once extended almost a block south to First Ave., where the Salt Building sits, a 1920s food processing plant now a heritage structure refurbished to serve as a gathering place during the Olympics.

Reclamation of the shoreline to build a promenade required removing the old foundations of buildings, sunken vessels, and pilings. Much of the earlier materials used for fill were poor quality and these had to be removed and replaced. Removing in-fill material from the foreshore called for the use of a sheet metal coffer dam with water pumped out.

The foreshore redevelopment team included EBA Engineering Consulting Ltd. (Hayco), Stantec, PWL Partnership Landscape Consultants, Golder Associates Ltd. and Envirowest for the environmental; Morrow Enviromental for soil remediation; and Levelton Consultants for geotechnical. Work centred around three phases: removing contaminated soil and materials and poor quality fill; building the foreshore promenade; and finally providing riprap shoreline protection and landscaping using native plants.

To compensate for shoreline that was removed, an island was created in an inter-tidal zone allowing children to wade to it at low tide to examine marine life that has been returning to a once-derelict area. Konowalchuk said that in February a project manager noted white frothy bubbles around the island.

“It turned out to be herring roe. It was the first time that was seen in 50 years.”

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