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Construction, Repairs & Retrofits

From site renovations to simple upgrades, environmental considerations in construction projects can save you cash and leave your space looking fresh and stylish. This section covers green construction materials, construction waste, salvaged materials, living walls, and design concepts for larger projects. You'll learn about companies which have employed these concepts/ideas and how they have reaped the benefits of thinking outside the box.



Construction Materials

When repairing or retrofitting your space, consider using green construction materials. These materials are becoming more affordable as sustainable elements are transitioning to mainstream building design. Some examples of 'Green' building materials include FSC Certified lumber, renewable alternatives, low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) finishing and recycled drywall, metals and stone. A reasonable level of sustainable design can be incorporated into new or existing buildings with little or no additional cost. Below are categories with the greatest opportunity for alternatives and their respective green options.


  • Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paint with zero odor, usually made from natural ingredients such as vegetable based dyes and minerals
  • VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids and include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects
  • Familiar brands such as Benjamin Moore, General Paints, and Cloverdale all have low-VOC options and can be found at any general hardware store


  • EcoStar line of roofing products, incorporate shingles made from recycled plastic and rubber
  • Living or green roof, insulating your building with vegetation


  • Bamboo, recycled cork, coconut timber and natural linoleum (biodegradable and non-toxic)
  • Recycled tiles made from discarded glass or porcelain
  • Recycled or wool carpeting (biodegradable and non-toxic)
  • Rubber flooring, made from a rubber tree, a 100% renewable resource
  • Salvaged wood from wreck homes and commercial demolition sites


  • Cellulose insulation, made from wood fibers or pulp, typically of 75% recycled materials
  • Cotton made from recycled denim or other textiles
  • Mineral wool made from steel slag or natural rock (typically made from 75-90% recycled materials)
  • Cacoon insulation, made from recycled paper fiber

Wood Materials

  • FSC-certified wood products
  • Salvaged wood products (wood from demolition sites)

FSC-certified wood is wood that is certified under the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC label on wood products guarantees that consumers can trust it comes from a sustainable source.

Artistic Moldings and Millwork Ltd. (250-384-3013) carries building materials and wood products that are FSC certified.

Dockside Green recently released a list of the Top 10 Green Building Products for 2011. Some innovations include mushroom insulation and windows that self-tint.

Construction Waste

Most construction materials can be recycled or reused. Get away from the 'landfill all' approach to construction waste. The chart below identifies the major waste management companies serving Victoria and the construction materials they accept and recycle.








Construction Materials          
Fluorescent Tubes      

Steel Pacific will take your metals! What is more, they go to great lengths to sort and re-sell metal items to artists, mechanics, hobby welders, or anyone with idea for metal (250-381-5865).

Hartland Landfill bans certain products that have viable recycling alternatives. Current landfill bans include drywall, cardboard, directories, large appliances, fill materials, yard and garden waste, and product stewardship materials. Wood waste and organic materials are currently being evaluated.

Consider giving excess construction materials to local salvagers. They will gladly take your materials and in some cases, even give you money for it.

Salvaged Materials

Incorporating salvaged materials into design, retrofits, and building asserts environmental commitment and adds something special to any space. Salvaged materials often have a unique story behind them that will impress customers and employees. From floors made of wreck home wood to tables made of old industrial doors from the 1940s, the possibilities are endless with these types of materials.

Most of the furniture found in Wild Coffee on Broad Street is from Live Edge Design, a Cowichan Valley based company that salvages trees brought down by storms!

Sitka Surfboards used salvaged wood from the BC Museum's old longhouse display for the walls and shelving of their new shop on Yates Street.

Synergy has a board room table made from salvaged fir beams and an old industrial door. “It is possible to have an office space furnished with 60% salvaged materials!” – Joty Dhaliwal, Synergy

Salvage Contacts
Allan Hall
250 881 4809

Living Walls

By having greenery in retail shops, malls, restaurants, cafes, bars and other businesses, the number of patrons increases”.
–Green Over Grey

Living walls are an extraordinary addition to any space. They improve indoor air quality and give a space a west-coast appeal. Living walls range greatly in price depending on their complexity and size ($1,000 - $15,000).

Benefits of Living Wall

  • Aesthetics (create living works of art)
  • Indoor air quality (purify your air)
  • Health and wellness (reduce stress and improve overall well-being)
  • Green image
  • Energy savings

Metalab, a local interface design company, installed a living wall at their downtown office on Langley Street. The living wall is simple, requires little maintenance, and is watered with a canister.

AJ’s Organic Café, a local health hub in the Atrium building, has a living wall that mesmerizes customers, adding a unique feature to their establishment. The living wall was designed and installed by Green Over Grey, a Vancouver-based company that designs and installs interior and exterior living walls.

A living wall can increase the property value of a business. Studies have shown that by simply having plants in and around a building or home can increase real estate values by up to 20%. –Green Over Grey

Large-Scale Design and Building Projects

"Buildings account for almost one-half of the world's material and energy consumption, one-sixth of fresh water use, and a quarter of all wood harvested"
- World Watch Paper #124

Designing and building green can work for your bottom line. A higher market value and reduced vacancies are just two of the many benefits. With the green building movement largely underway, Victoria already has a collection of LEED and BOMA BESt certified buildings that incorporate elements of passive design and creative concepts. From large-scale condo developments to a single retrofitted retail space, these spaces are aesthetically appealing, while delivering reduced operating costs and increased value.

Passive Design

Passive Design is an approach to building design that minimizes energy consumption while maintaining an ideal temperature. It removes the need for electrical or mechanical devices to heat or cool a space.

Dockside Green is an internationally recognized model for sustainable communities. They utilized passive design by implementing double glazed windows, which prohibit internal heat from escaping and eliminate excess heat on sunny days. The buildings have automated awning blinds blocking the steepest angle of sunlight during summer days and vertical blinds on the west side blocking the direct sunlight.

Green Roofs

 "An extensive green roof can reduce the daily energy demand for air conditioning in the summer by over 75%."
- National Research Council of Canada

Green roofs, also known as living roofs, are building roofs that are purposely covered with vegetation. Green roofs can cost between $75-$90 per square metre (Ryerson University), which is over and above the cost of a traditional roof. While being aesthetically appealing and modern, a building with a green roof also has the following benefits:

  • Reduced heating and cooling costs
  • Increased roof lifespan and sound insulation
  • Tenant recognition
  • Building value and marketability
  • LEED Points and BOMA recognition

Extensive green roofs were installed on four roof surfaces at the Capital Regional District’s head quarters. The intensive green roof, which is accessible by staff, is installed on the second floor patio just off the lunch room.

BC Green Roofs is a company of choice in Victoria, bringing over 15 years of green roof experience mainly completed in Europe.

The green roof energy calculator allows you to compare the annual energy performance of a building with a vegetative green roof to the same building with a conventional roof.

Parking Lots

If you own a parking lot and it is time to re-pave, consider permeable pavement. Permeable pavement is a type of hard surfacing that allows rainfall to percolate to an underlying reservoir base where rainfall is either infiltrated to underlying soils or removed by a subsurface drain. Some benefits include the mitigation of runoff volumes and pollutant removal.

Sooke Harbour House has a parking lot made of grass turf that can accommodate 44 vehicles. The parking lot is built on a rock and sand base. The sand base was pressed with a heavy roller and then a recycled plastic grid was placed on the sand.

Native Landscapes

About 10 per cent of all plants in Canada are considered invasive species. The most well-known invasive plant species in the Victoria area is Scott’s Broom”.
– Government of Canada

Natural landscaping, also called native gardening, is the use of native plants including trees, shrubs, groundcover and grasses which are indigenous to the geographic area of the garden. Some benefits include:

  • more sustainable
  • require less maintenance
  • require no harsh pesticides or fertilizers

You don’t have to have a traditional yard to have a native garden. Even as a downtown business there are plenty of places to grow these plants such as roofs, inner courtyards, balconies, railings, sidewalk planter boxes, foyers and lobbies.

At the University of Victoria you can find cascades of wild strawberries below Arbutus trees. This natural landscape is part of the strategic plan to develop sustainable landscaped environments.

Victoria has several landscaping companies that provide native landscaping services. Contact locally owned and operated Edibella Organic Landscapes or Landeca to get started.

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Building low impact energy efficient buildings is not a fad. It is a better way to build and results in more durable buildings, lower lifetime costs, and improved occupant comfort and engagement.
–Robert Jawl, Jawl Properties

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally recognized third party assessment for green buildings. LEED has created global sustainability standards for site development, water and energy efficiency, site selection, indoor air quality and innovation. LEED uses a Green Building Rating System and allocates points to qualify certified, silver, gold, or platinum ratings.

Benefits of Being in a LEED Building

LEED Buildings don’t just benefit property owners. As a tenant, choosing to lease green space has multiple advantages, including marketability and lower costs. Listed below are a few of the benefits associated with renting a space in a LEED certified building:

  • Sustainability goals: Reduction of green house gas emission, conservation of natural resources and native species
  • Marketing: Transparent evidence of sustainability commitment, opportunity for brand differentiation
  • Human resources: Productivity gains in employees, talent attraction and retention
  • Investment: Lower operations and maintenance costs, higher retail sales

The cost of applying for LEED standard certification ranges from $4,000 for a building under 500 m2 to $28,000 for a building more than 25,000 m2. Learn more about specific project fees here.

Vancouver Island Technology Park has the first LEED Gold certified building in Canada.

Going green isn't just for new construction. In fact, LEED has developed LEED-EB for existing buildings.


"By providing a framework for environmental management, BOMA BESt helps managers to differentiate buildings in tight markets and is a value-add for tenants."

BOMA BESt certification is available for office buildings, shopping centers, open air retail and light industrial properties. Four levels of certification are possible; Level Four is the highest standard and is no small feat. Application fees are based on building type and size and range from $1,500 to $6,000.

There are over 226 BOMA BESt buildings in BC, 22 of which are in Victoria. These include the Victoria Conference Centre (Level 3), Richard Blanshard Building (Level 3) and The Bay Center (Level 2).

Designed for energy efficiency and environmentally-conscious operation, the Atrium building has targeted LEED Gold Certification through the Canada Green Building Council.


  • Ultra energy efficient HVAC system
  • Wastewater runoff management via rain swails and a green roof
  • Pine beetle killed wood elements
  • Low-flow plumbing fixtures
  • Regionally sourced construction materials, where possible
  • Comprehensive waste stream management systems
  • Tenant amenities including bike lockers, a fitness room and shower facilities
  • Urban infill location close to transit and bike routes

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