Calgary gets first LEED Platinum multifamily residential development

The $8 million Vento Residences incorporate sustainable features rarely attempted in smaller residential projects, including heat recovery ventilators in each suite and stormwater recycling for flushing water and irrigation.
August 11, 2010

                         
The Vento Residences in downtown Calgary, Alb., earned LEED Platinum certification in October from the Canada Green Building Council. The 39,000-sf project is the first multifamily residential project in North America to earn LEED’s highest honor. Vento Residences is part of a large-scale brownfield redevolpment that will bring more than 1,500 housing units, as well as parks and community space, to Calgary. PHOTO: BUSBY PERKINS+WILL
                            




























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he Vento Residences in downtown Calgary, Alb., illustrate perfectly that living green—deep green, in this case—is possible regardless of scale and budget.
























The 39,000-sf project, which earned LEED Platinum certification in October from the Canada Green Building Council, is the first multifamily residential project in North America to earn LEED's highest honor.

The $8 million development's 22 townhouse units incorporate sustainable features rarely attempted in smaller residential projects, including heat recovery ventilators in each suite and stormwater recycling for flushing water and irrigation. These somewhat unusual approaches, combined with more traditional green initiatives—including dual-flush toilets, radiant flooring, double-glazed low-e argon-filled windows, occupancy sensors, and abundant daylight—all help reduce water consumption by 50% compared to typical condo developments and energy use by 47% versus Canada's Model National Energy Code.

           
All 22 townhouse units at the Vento Residences feature a south-oriented private garden and a shared courtyard terrace on the second level that serves as interaction space for the residents. PHOTO: BUSBY PERKINS+WILL
                    
Each unit features a private garden. PHOTO: BUSBY PERKINS+WILL
                     
Anatomy of a LEED Platinum townhouse. ILLUSTRATION: BUSBY PERKINS+WILL Click to enlarge.
                      

Vento is one of two condo properties developed by Ottawa-based Windmill Development Group on the site of the former Calgary General Hospital. The hospital was decommissioned and demolished in the late 1990s, leaving four blocks of brownfields for redevelopment into an urban village, called The Bridges. The city divided the brownfields into eight smaller parcels, built utility infrastructure, and then auctioned off the parcels to private developers. Zoned as residential/mixed use, this first phase of the project called for the construction of 425 condo units within a four-block radius. Subsequent phases will bring an additional 1,141 housing units to the community.



This influx of condo development in such a compact area created a marketing nightmare for Windmill Development, says Robert Drew, LEEP AP, associate with Busby Perkins+Will, Vancouver, which designed Vento and its twin sister, Aqua.

“Eight local developments were all on the market at the same time,” says Drew. Vento had to compete with condo projects that were right across the alley and across the street. Single-family homes were being offered at the same price as most condo units in the city.

Instead of going head to head with neighboring developments on price alone, Windmill decided to best the competition by going all out on advanced green features and high design. While other developers were building condos with a few “light green” features (as required by the city), Windmill offered fully loaded green units for just “a few thousand dollars more,” says Drew.

The strategy paid off, as both Vento and Aqua sold out at a slight premium even before the official groundbreaking.

“They hardly marketed these suites because so many people caught wind of the development in the newspapers,” says Drew. “A couple of suites have actually flipped already. The owners are getting a great return on their investment.”

         
 

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