SunRidge Sets Bar for Sustainable Communities in Canada
Public discourse and expectations around environmental sustainability have become pervasive across industries and government. As a result, municipalities are finding creative ways to embrace sustainable practices within the communities they serve. The City of Lethbridge set the pace with the development of its SunRidge neighborhood, which was the first community in Canada to require BUILT GREEN® certification as a standard for residential building compliance.
The development of SunRidge came from City Council’s commitment to the environment, the social housing needs of the population, the building community and the public—showing leadership and innovation in the process.
Builders working on SunRidge lots followed the BUILT GREEN® Single Family program towards third-party certification. This program—like Built Green Canada’s High Density, Renovation, and incoming Communities program—includes energy efficiency as a fundamental component, integrating the EnerGuide label through Natural Resources Canada, and goes beyond energy efficiency for a holistic approach that includes the preservation of natural resources, reduction of pollution, ventilation and air quality, and the improvement of home durability. Homes under Built Green Canada’s programs can be certified to BUILT GREEN® Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum, and homeowners receive a two-in-one: the EnerGuide label and the BUILT GREEN® seal.
By 1999, the City of Lethbridge had a plan in place and later set BUILT GREEN® Bronze certification as the minimum requirement for houses built in SunRidge. At the time of construction in 2005, sustainable building was in its infancy, and Built Green Canada’s programs were just beginning to become known. Earning the minimum Bronze level certification meant stepping beyond the standard building codes; Built Green Canada’s checklists show builders where they might improve on the construction of their homes to expand on the good work they’re already doing. As such, builders were able to improve the quality of the home, stay ahead of building code, and gain a competitive advantage. As an added incentive, the City of Lethbridge offered builders up to five per cent on the lot price.
Participating builders were also able to pass on the benefits of a BUILT GREEN® home to their prospective homebuyer—a healthier, more comfortable, durable home with a lower environmental impact, a reduction in monthly operating costs, rebate eligibility, and more. The City of Lethbridge went on to offer homebuyers a rebate of $2,500 for purchasing a BUILT GREEN® Silver certified home and $3,500 for a BUILT GREEN® Gold certified home.
In SunRidge, the benefits of a sustainable community extend well beyond the walls of the home. A 28 acre storm-water pond acts as home to over 22 bird species, and circulates stormwater through a solar-powered pump system. Solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt hour than any other energy type and allows for large savings in energy costs. SunRidge leverages the many benefits of renewable energy with a solar-powered garbage compactor, and is the first community in Lethbridge to implement LED lighting and round-abouts are in place as an alternative to traffic lights.
The neighborhood is also distinguished by Lethbridge’s “Living Home,” which allowed City Council to act on their interest in a public-private partnership. A collaborative project between Cedar Ridge Quality Homes, Lethbridge College, and The City of Lethbridge the Living Home inspired learning, improvements in residential construction, and an enhanced quality of life. A green roof, Teragren bamboo cabinetry, a rainwater harvesting system, and an EnerWorks solar hot water appliance are just a few of its low-impact features. As a development that advanced communal learning and environmental goals, the Living Home now exists as a “bricks and mortar” testament to partnership, big thinking, and common goals.
Not long after the establishment of SunRidge did other communities begin to follow suit. A 325-unit townhouse development in Burnaby, British Columbia, appropriately known as “The Green,” was completed in the BUILT GREEN® program in 2007, making use of the City of Burnaby’s guidelines for green building, such as water and energy efficiency measures, and a car-sharing program available through a car co-operative. Also in B.C. that same year, Lakeside at Yorkson, in Langley, introduced 35 single family homes all constructed to BUILT GREEN® Gold standards. The push for sustainable communities continued this spring, when the City of Edmonton launched Laurel Green, which will also require BUILT GREEN® Gold certified homes, a slightly higher standard than Edmonton’s first energy-efficient community, Oxford, which was developed in 2013.
Over time, environmental concerns have become widely recognized, and sustainability practices have increasingly been adopted. The City of Lethbridge led the way for sustainable communities with the development of SunRidge, and continues to be a pioneer in creating healthy living environments.