Nanaimo council deems LEED costs too expensive for city buildings

Increased costs and administration burdens prompted Nanaimo city council to adjust its commitment to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards in new buildings, opting instead for high standards without official LEED certification.

Increased costs and administration burdens prompted Nanaimo city council to adjust its commitment to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards in new buildings, opting instead for high standards without official LEED certification.

In 2006, the city adopted a Green Building Policy that required all new structures achieve at least a Silver level or better for all buildings larger than 500 square metres.

Since then, two buildings – Oliver Woods Community Centre (3,391 square metres) and Fire Hall No. 4 (819 square metres) – were built with significant costs to obtain a LEED certificate.

In the case of Oliver Woods, LEED-related architecture, electrical, structural and mechanical engineers and administration resulted in additional costs of $145,275 and considerable staff time, a city staff report indicates. Similar design costs for Fire Station No. 4 were $55,000.

On both projects, city staff estimate that LEED documentation and design work added about 20 per cent to each building’s design and project management costs, though Oliver Woods is 66 per cent more energy-efficient than similar sized city-owned buildings in Nanaimo.

“Although this appears to be a kind of loosening of the requirements that we build all city buildings to LEED Gold standards, I’m still willing to support it because I think this motion moves us from simply following blindly to something more practical and reasonable and that, I hope, will result in more energy efficiency from the buildings,” said Coun. Bill Holdom, adding he would be interested to see what kind of energy cost savings each new building will achieve over time.

“We’re doing this because it makes sense.”

As a result, the policy will be adjusted to still meet council’s environmental priorities for buildings smaller than 900 square metres, but without LEED requirements, while buildings larger than 900 square metres will follow LEED Gold standards with priorities given to acquiring points in energy and atmosphere, sustainable sites and water efficiency. Council will also be able to exempt a new building from LEED certification if it can show equivalent green features.

Coun. Diana Johnstone said a recent forum with homebuilders suggested that people in the industry are experiencing similar administration headaches and increased costs to qualify as a LEED building.

In the case of Oliver Woods, several boxes of documentation were shipped to the Canada Green Building Council to achieve LEED standards.

“A lot of people aren’t aware there is a dollar cost involved and acquiring a LEED standard,” said Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan. “In some cases it’s many thousands of dollars. You can build to that standard, but until such time as it’s certified at a huge cost for certification, it’s not deemed to be, so one of the undertakings the city has in trying to save tax dollars is to build to a LEED standard and yet fall short of the actual certification process.”

The motion carried unanimously.

The city remains a partner in climate protection under the Canadian Federation of Municipalities program and is also a member of the province’s Climate Action Program, both of which are aimed a reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet future provincial and federal requirements.

 

 

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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