Sustainable Condo on Road to Promote Green Building

CONSTRUCTION I Technology Exhibited with Other B.C. Innovations at International Conference

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Borrowing a sales concept from rock bands, British Columbia's first sustainable condo is heading out on tour, this one aimed not at selling music but at selling the world on the wisdom of building green.

It's now on the road to Atlanta, Ga., where the sustainable condo will strut its stuff at the U.S. Green Building Council Greenbuild 2005 international conference and expo, where more than 10,000 delegates could view it.

B.C. participants will be among hundreds of exhibitors at the conference, the world's largest green building technology event. The condo is a rallying point to show off a growing cluster of B.C. companies dedicated to creating environmentally responsible and healthy work and living spaces.

"We are way ahead of other areas of Canada," said Michel de Spot, president and chief executive officer of EcoSmart Foundation. "Both nationally and internationally, firms and people from B.C. are considered to be at the leading edge of green building."

Politicians are adding their voices to the cheerleaders of the province's green building industry, with B.C.'s Environment Minister Barry Penner and Richard Neufeld, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, lauding B.C.'s showing in a recent international study released by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Canada.

The study, Green Value, looked at buildings in the United Kingdom and North America, including several in B.C., and demonstrated a link between a building's environmental friendliness and its market value.

The EcoSmart Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has received $298,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada to help develop B.C.'s sustainable building cluster. Part of that is helping to put the sustainable condo on its road show.

Like other clusters, the sustainable building cluster is gradually building momentum. Technology and biotechnology are perhaps the most high-profile clusters here that grew from one or two anchor companies along with some academic research to thriving sectors, eventually spinning off their own start-ups. De Spot is aiming for the same to happen with green building technology.

He is working on the development of a fully fledged sustainable building cluster that is recognized worldwide, drawing in companies and institutions from a variety of areas, all sharing in common the link to green technology. It's a bit of a branding exercise, pulling together existing companies and players as well as new participants and selling them internationally under the green building banner.

The category brings together firms that otherwise might not be linked. Companies like Ballard Power, searching for a viable commercial alternative to the fossil-fuelled engine, would fall in that broad category, along with B.C. LED lighting leader Carmanah Technologies Corp. Add to that work being done at academic institutions, by engineers and builders, and it's a broadly based group that de Spot wants to identify under the brand.

gshaw@png.canwest.com