River District Eco-Friendly Living
As Vancouver’s last undeveloped waterfront neighbourhood, River District was envisioned as a sustainable, eco-friendly complete community with a variety of housing, commercial space, and a range of community amenities.
The official development plan adopted green building and infrastructure design, construction practices, and technologies to address energy and water use, rainwater management, habitat restoration and conservation, and the health and well-being of residents. This plan won the 2007 Canadian Institute of Planners Award for Planning Excellence.
Energy efficiency is a key design consideration for all of River District’s buildings. This is achieved by limiting energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and heat loss through active, passive, and conservation strategies. Examples include orienting buildings for optimum solar access, constructing more airtight building envelopes, energy-efficient windows, and Energy Star appliances.
In addition, the community’s space and water heating needs will be supplied by a new district energy system. Heat recovered from Metro Vancouver’s nearby waste-to-energy incinerator in South Burnaby’s Big Bend industrial area will be converted to steam and piped to the River District.
The original 2006 ODP required 20% of all new homes to be affordable. Of these homes, 50% must be sized for families. Wesgroup has met these targets in all rezoned areas and proposed building a portion of the market homes as secured market rental homes, adding to Vancouver’s supply of purpose-built rental homes. The City also has plans to purchase some properties back from Wesgroup to construct its future affordable housing.
Creating a compact, complete community reduces the need for vehicle use which, by design, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. While River District accommodates all modes of transportation, the development plan prioritizes walking, cycling, and transit to maximize non-automobile trips.
Pedestrian-priority connections and greenways, including a pedestrian-focused retail street crisscrossing River District. The main links through the community to the West Fraserlands and Burnaby are along Kent Avenue and the Fraser River Greenway.
A variety of on-street and off-street cycle routes, such as the Kent Avenue Greenway, provide cyclists with safe passage. All buildings require secure bicycle storage for every resident. Several public bike-share stations will also be located throughout the community.
As River District grows, transit service will expand with it. Currently, the community is served by Route 100 — an east-west bus service that runs along Southeast Marine Drive — and Route 31, which operates between West Sawmill Crescent in Town Centre and Metrotown. Route 80 is a forthcoming limited-stop bus route directly connecting River District to Marine Drive Station.
River District developer, Wesgroup also participates in onsite car sharing to reduce the number of cars on the road. This also allows residents to enjoy the benefits of car ownership without most of its costs.
Efficient water use was a key consideration in the master plan design. This includes rainwater and groundwater management to minimize potable water use from the municipal supply, high-efficiency drip irrigation, and drought-tolerant planting.
Measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change and sea level rise have also been integrated into the design of buildings, infrastructure, and landscaping. Continuous shoreline protection and flood control measures will be constructed from Boundary Road to Kerr Street.
As a former industrial site, there were no trees and little vegetation on the property. The official development plan adopted ecological designs and strategies to restore, create, and enhance wildlife habitat that supports biodiversity. New trees are being planted. Native landscape planting is designed to support birds and key pollinators, such as honey bees.
Consideration has also been given to improving the fish and wildlife habitat along the Fraser River foreshore by introducing intertidal marshes and mudflats, a wildlife sanctuary island, and native riparian landscape planting. Rain gardens will reduce storm runoff, while a biofiltration wetland helps clean the water draining into the river.