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Sustainable buildings good economic cents: Montreal’s Rachel Julien

Not only is sustainable development more important than ever in real estate but developers can pr...

IMAGE: Le Bassins du Havre in the Lachine district of Montreal. (Image courtesy Rachel Julien)

Le Bassins du Havre in the Lachine district of Montreal. (Image courtesy Rachel Julien)

Not only is sustainable development more important than ever in real estate but developers can profit by constructing LEED-certified buildings.

That was the message from Mélanie Robitaille, vice-president and general manager of Montreal-based residential developer Rachel Julien. She was one of the speakers at the recent Forum immobilier de Laval (Laval real estate forum).

Rachel Julien has built more than 4,000 housing units in Montreal during the past 35 years,. The firm’s current projects include Laurent & Clark, two condo towers with 334 units in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles (Montreal’s festival neighbourhood), and U31, a 320-unit, three-phase condo project in the Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie borough.

Given the effects of climate change, “we are at nothing less than the most important moment in human history,” Robitaille said.

She noted 35 per cent of greenhouse gases are produced by buildings, 80 per cent of water consumption takes place inside and around buildings, and demolition and construction are responsible for 35 per cent of landfill waste.

Robitaille also said people are mobilizing to demand immediate action on climate change. In Quebec, #LePacte, an online initiative launched in early November in which people agree to change their wasteful habits, reduce their consumption of gas and meat and take other environmental measures, garnered 210,000 signatures in its first two weeks.

Le Bassins du Havre development

That’s why real estate developments like Les Bassins du Havre, co-developed by Rachel Julien and Prével, are important, she said. The condo development, located on the banks of the Lachine Canal in Montreal’s Griffintown area, is certified LEED New Construction 2009.

Launched in 2011, Les Bassins du Havre has been built in four stages, three of which have been completed. Pier 4, the final phase, will be completed later in 2019 and consists of a 21-storey building with 112 units, many of which contain three and four bedrooms. It includes a 6,000-square-foot fitness centre with indoor swimming pool and spa.

Designed to have a minimal ecological footprint, green spaces make up 26 per cent of the Bassins du Havre site and all parking is underground. The development has three parking spaces for the Communauto car sharing service and 107 spaces with charging stations for electric cars.

As part of the LEED certification, Bassins du Havre has lower-than-usual parking space ratios, which translates to cost savings for developers, Robitaille said.

Other measures which reduce greenhouse gas emissions at Bassins du Havre include bike storage and easy access to the Lachine Canal bike path, next to the development.

Many sustainability features

Rainwater is filtered at the site and used for irrigation, so no drinking water is used for that purpose.

Other measures such as water-saving toilets, sink faucets and shower heads have reduced overall water usage at the development by 36 per cent (LEED certification requires a water-usage reduction of 20 per cent).

About 95 per cent of construction waste has been recycled, she said.

Measures like rooftop solar panels, which heat the pool water and some of the hot water, have resulted in overall energy cost savings of 31 to 35 per cent for owners.

Recurring maintenance costs of LEED certified buildings are lower than for similar non-certified buildings, which can be used as a good selling point for buyers.

A balanced heat recovery ventilation system and oversized windows provide more natural light and improved thermal comfort.

Novoclimat compatible with LEED

Heat islands at the development have been reduced through the use of roofing materials with a lower solar reflectance index and landscaping which absorbs heat.

Robitaille noted developers who are already part of Quebec’s Novoclimat program have only small steps to take to qualify for LEED certification. Novoclimat calls for improved insulation of roofs, walls and foundations, higher minimum requirements for doors and windows and a ventilation system that uses a heat recovery ventilator.

Robitaille said LEED certifications can be used by developers to market and boost awareness of their developments.

LEED-certified homes also have improved resale values, she said. For example, a U.S. study found the resale value of LEED-certified homes is eight per cent higher than for similar non-certified homes and they typically sell faster.

In addition, building LEED certified projects not only “develops habits that can be used for other projects,” Robitaille said, but “they also open the door to new projects.”

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