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Sustainable building design: the example set by Dockside Green

Updated on May 15, 2012
View from the rooftop of Dockside Greens.
View from the rooftop of Dockside Greens. | Source

An article in The Atlantic recently posited that it may be fair to call Dockside Green the world's greenest neighborhood.

I recently had the chance to visit my good friend Melinda, who lives in this residential complex in Victoria, British Columbia. Melinda picked me up from the bus stop in a little Smart car she borrowed from Dockside Green's car share. We took a tour of her building and observed everything from the nearby biomass plant, to the rooftop gardens, to the storm water ponds. Paths criss cross amidst the pools and waterfalls and lead to Fantastico café - Dockside Green's own coffee shop. As we walked past I saw many cyclists sitting on the patio grabbing a latté. Melinda pointed out that the bike path runs right by the establishment and continues on through town and for many miles beyond.

Besides the café, other amenities such as a gym and spa are attached to Dockside Green.

"Although unfortunately my masseuse recently moved from the building to a few blocks down the street" Melinda sighed dramatically with a wink.

Natural Growth: The Story of Dockside Green

A Few Quick Sustainability Features

Some features of Dockside Green that make it more sustainable:

  • Striving to be carbon neutral
  • LEED Platinum certified (highest level)
  • Electric powered car share
  • Rooftop gardens
  • 90% of construction waste is recycled
  • Compost collection

LEED Platinum certified

Under both Canadian and American green building standards, Dockside Greens has been awarded LEED Platinum. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and Platinum is the highest award.

LEED measures the sustainability of such building factors as water and energy efficiency, site selection, materials used for building and operation, indoor air quality, innovation in design, and whether it addresses regional environmental priorities.

Dockside Green neighbors can sign up for the car share, a fleet of electric cars.
Dockside Green neighbors can sign up for the car share, a fleet of electric cars. | Source

Electric Powered Car Share

Called the "Juice Bar," Dockside Greens has a series of electric cars that can be borrowed by residents. Melinda often uses it when she wants to do a big grocery shop. During my visit we also took one to go on a day hike outside of Victoria. The public transportation is excellent in Victoria and biking is very popular, but in any case Melinda often walks to work.

Storm water runoff "waterfalls" add a nice aesthetic to this stairwell. Thin bike ramps follow the stairs up and down making for easy bike transport.
Storm water runoff "waterfalls" add a nice aesthetic to this stairwell. Thin bike ramps follow the stairs up and down making for easy bike transport. | Source

Storm Water Run-off Management

What is Storm Water?

After precipitation, storm water collects in urban spaces because it cannot be reabsorbed into the ground. It's a hazard because it catches pollutants as it runs across the urban landscape, and if not managed correctly can contaminate water systems and cause sewage to overflow.

What is Dockside Green doing?

Dockside Green's storm water management exemplifies how a hazard can be turned into beauty. Storm water is channeled into waterfalls and natural eco spaces surrounding the building (called the "Greenway").

Informative signs pop up along the Greenway, Dockside's effort to educate residents on the sustainability features that surround them. For example one such sign explained how the wildlife introduced into the Greenway were carefully selected:

"Only native and adaptive plants and species were introduced into the Greenway such as dragon fly larvae, stickleback fish and crayfish. Not only will the crayfish be enjoyable to watch as they make their home in the Greenway but they will also assist in keeping the water clear by eating phytoplankton and algae." - Dockside Green

Storm water catchment turned into beautiful ponds and habitat outside of Dockside Green.
Storm water catchment turned into beautiful ponds and habitat outside of Dockside Green. | Source
Image of Melinda's rooftop garden.
Image of Melinda's rooftop garden. | Source

Rooftop Gardens

Good roofs make good neighbors!

In a city where land space is tight and subject to development, rooftop gardens are a good solution for residents looking to exercise their green thumb.

For several years now Melinda has enjoyed a plot of garden on her roof. She grows many herbs, some flowers, leafy greens, and more. For dinner we made a rooftop grown salad. Meals grown over our heads - that's about as local as you can get!

Gardening is a good way to meet the neighbors and develop community.
Gardening is a good way to meet the neighbors and develop community. | Source


Renewable: The buildings make use of an onsite biomass plant that burns waste wood for heating and hot water.

Efficient: Dockside Greens uses 45-50% less energy than the Canadian Model National Energy Code, saving residents money and reducing greenhouse gases.

Dockside Green - Open Your Door to Nature

Other Features

Aside from these main architectural features, Dockside Greens also has a number of Green Building Products that were ranked among the top 10 in the industry. Some highlights:

  • bamboo cabinets and flooring
  • carpet tiles made with low emission production processes
  • Greensulate: mushroom roots used to make walls super insulated
  • SAGE glass windows: can be tinted darker at the flip of a switch. Saves energy!
  • energy efficient outlets that stop power being sent to unused appliances

Dockside Green is a model for buildings everywhere! And the demand is there: they have a huge waiting list of people eager to move in. Just walking the premises I felt the good vibes: people were cheerful, the blending with nature was very peaceful, Melinda and I didn't have to fight for a parking spot...Where sustainability, beauty, and functionality meet, you've got success!


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    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I had never heard of Dockside Greens before. It sounds like paradise!! Here's hoping this sort of careful and sustainable urban planning and design becomes the NORM someday soon! I would love to live in a place like this.

    • Angelo52 profile image


      6 years ago from Central Florida

      This is the kind of thinking that needs to be implemented across the cities of the USA. If cities had this kind of architecture perhaps more people would give up on the suburban sprawl that has ruined so much of our land. Of course, the jobs would also have to be near by.

      Good article. voted up + shared.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      How cool! I thought the bike ramps were very convenient and I liked the storm water runoff waterfalls.

      What a progressive town and community to be even thinking like this. I really can't imagine anyone in the US doing this. Not say there aren't 'green' communities, as there is one not too far from me that my husband and I were considering buying a home in.

      But this seems to have taken it several steps further, such as the onsite biomass waste plant and the Smart Car sharing.

      Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting. Very well written and very interesting topic.

      I'm curious, are these only condos? (I'm guessing no single family homes b/c of the lack of land space). How does this compare in price living there as opposed to a condo elsewhere?


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