West Vancouver council will soon consider allowing its first ever zero-emission, mass timber housing development.
The Delta Group is seeking to build seven strata units in an eight-storey condo at 2204 Bellevue Ave. The developer intends to build the project to Passive House standards, meaning it will produce zero carbon emissions, thanks to its solar panels, geo exchange heat transfer system, heat recovery ventilators and insulation.
Mass timber can rival the strength of concrete and steel but instead of requiring carbon to be produced, the buildings actually store carbon in the wood itself.
“We've done preliminary calculations and we found that we'll store more carbon than it takes to build the other things that go into the building,” said Derek Newby, architect with Perkins & Will, when he presented the idea to council on June 8.
The project largely complies with the official community plan, and at eight storeys, it would only be a “modest” addition to the area, according to district staff. But In 2017, council adopted a policy of not considering new developments in areas until the local area plan had been finished unless they “deliver significant social benefit,’ as determined by council.
District staff say Delta’s proposal should meet that criteria.
“The mass timber construction and other sustainable features of the proposal warrant consideration ahead of the local area plan in order to respond to council’s climate emergency and to advance low-carbon construction,” said Michelle McGuire, manager of current planning and urban design.
Having a working proof of concept should also inspire other developers to pile on, Newby added.
“It can act as an important demonstration to others that this is feasible today,” he said “Developers love predictability and the ability to copy. We hope we can influence every other developer that comes subsequently.”
While there were some quibbles that the project had too many parking spaces for so few units and that all the condos would be at the very high end of the market, council members were largely supportive of sending the project forward.
From the economy to the environment, Coun. Craig Cameron said the project ticks a lot of boxes.
“If we want to be forward looking and leading edge as a community, we have to support innovative projects like this. If we want to see more sustainable buildings, we have to support developers who propose to do the right thing and show how it can work on a practical basis. And if we want to restart the economy, after COVID, we have to support economic activity and we can't freeze lands in an underdeveloped state,” he said.
With its relatively small size and proximity to transit, shopping and amenities, the project will almost certainly fit within the local area plan when it is finished, Mayor Mary-Ann Booth added.
“I think it's a no brainer, to be honest,” she said.
Coun. Bill Soprovich was the lone voice opposition, even though he said he liked the project.
“We have an awful lot of planning to do in that entire area and jumping the gun is not in my books for any of that development along that corridor,” he said. “My first reaction is get in line with all the rest.”
The Ambleside local area plan is tentatively scheduled for 2021.