Alberta Green Condo Guide: Saving money and helping the environment

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta outlines how to capitalize on energy saving opportunities in common areas of a condominium, including centralized heating, cooling and ventilation systems and lighting.

Reducing a building’s energy bills is a huge opportunity to save money and reduce a building’s impact on the environment.   In fact, at least 40 per cent of a condominium building’s operating costs go to gas, electricity and water bills, making utilities the largest controllable expense for any condo corporation.

And most older condos can cut these costs by 30 per cent by doing a few upgrades, adding more efficient lighting or boilers.  Even a newer building can realize savings of at least 15 per cent.

This simple to follow and easy to read 14-page guide outlines a number of steps that will not only reduce a condo’s energy use—saving money and reducing emissions—it will result in a more comfortable and well maintained building.

The step-by-step overview of how you can green a condo begins with information on how to baseline and benchmark a building’s energy use, perform an energy audit and set goals.  Next, it goes through a high level explanation of how to identify opportunities for improvement, assess the business case for upgrades and improvements and develop and track a retrofit plan.

A good energy retrofit will help protect the capital that’s invested in a condo by ensuring the building’s systems are in good operational order and operating costs are under control. A green building is comfortable and cost-efficient, which protects an owner’s investment and is more attractive to buyers.

The Green Condo Guide for Alberta, funded in part with a grant from AREF, is based on work originated by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and adapted for Alberta by the Pembina Institute.

What Lies Beneath? Buyer beware

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: You buy a home, move in, then find out there’s an abandoned gas well beneath, leaking and contaminating your property. Think it can’t happen to you? It can. According to the Energy Resources Conservation Board in November 2012 over 150,000 abandoned well sites dotted the Alberta landscape, making it essential that buyers do their homework.

These nightmares happen because of gaps between what Albertans should know, could know and actually do know about their environment,” says Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel and author of a new Environmental Law Centre publication, What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta.

In real estate transactions the onus is generally on the buyer to do their due diligence and the general rule for buying and selling real estate is ‘buyer beware’. Unfortunately there’s no checklist to prove due diligence and no one-stop shop for environmental information.

The best way to demonstrate due diligence is to identify environmental concerns, learn what information is available about those concerns and act on that knowledge. Buyers who make inquiries into the environmental conditions of the specific site and the local area are in the best position to make sound choices and solid deals.

Most land in Alberta has already been used for something. In Calmar, oil and gas extraction took place on farmland that was re-zoned, subdivided, developed into a residential community and sold without exposing what lay beneath or what other activities had taken place on the land previously.

And in Alberta it isn’t just oil and gas activities that are concerning. Whether you’re looking to buy a giant parcel of farmland or a tiny infill lot in the city, there are many activities that can impact the land, air and water that surround your potential new home. Feedlots, pesticide application, old dry-cleaners or landfills – even recreational activities like off highway vehicle use – can affect your quality of life.

What Lies Beneath? Access to Environmental Information in Alberta provides practical information-finding tips, outlines environmental concerns you may want to think about and describes where to get started to find the information you need to make the best choices when buying property in Alberta. A twelve-page booklet based on this guidebook, Buyer Beware, is also available.

The Environmental Law Centre is Alberta’s leading environmental public policy and law reform charity. The full publication and booklet can both be downloaded on the Environmental Law Centre website.

CURB Magazine: Boomtown Edition

Boomtowns – a familiar concept for Alberta. Rapid growth, while providing economic opportunities for communities, also comes with challenges of sustainability and quality of life. The City-Region Studies Centre is pleased to present its “Boomtowns” issue of Curb Magazine, the second part of its “Place-making in a Growing Economy” project, supported by AREF. This issue of Curb, reaching municipal offices and planning departments across the province, as well as available online and through retail outlets, explores shared challenges facing booming communities and planning and policy strategies to overcome them. Specific topics include the affordability and availability of housing and commercial space, homelessness, regional planning, planning for population and demographic changes, and creating engaging public spaces. This issue features case studies from Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Camrose, and Cold Lake, and includes interviews with members of Alberta’s real estate community. A preview version of Curb’s “Boomtowns” issue is available through the AREF online library, and a full version is available through the CRSC website at http://crsc.ualberta.ca/CurbMagazine.aspx.

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by Brittany Stares, CRSC

Placemaking Issue by CURB Magazine

Placemaking has become a popular term in policy circles for making a city, region or community more inviting for residents and investment, both existing and prospective. In growing economies such as Alberta, placemaking can help balance growth pressures with liveability, in addition to attracting new talent. But successful placemaking is complex, requiring the engagement of a wide array of stakeholders and going well beyond the branding and beautification exercises often associated with it. Housing forms and availability, community design, transportation, sustainability, local narratives and governance all weigh into the success of any placemaking initiative.

 The City-Region Studies Centre (CRSC) is pleased to present the first of its two-part “Placemaking in a Growing Economy” project, supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation. Delivered through the CRSC’s national publication Curb Magazine, planners, researchers and community members across Canada explore the nature of placemaking generally as well as provide specific lessons for placemakers through discussion of: the complex nature of place-marketing; the dangers of gentrification; bridging the gap between the real estate community and placemaking projects; connecting plans to the community, and more. Curb’s “Placemaking” issue also includes case studies in Canadian placemaking and an interview with the City of Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat.

 Curb Magazine is available through the City-Region Studies Centre (http://www.crsc.ualberta.ca). A complimentary digital copy of “Placemaking” is available in the AREF Resource Library. The “Placemaking in a Growing Economy” project will conclude with an issue of Curb Magazine on “Boomtowns,” due out in spring 2014.

Back by popular demand: Green Acreages Guide

If you or a client escaped the city to a small acreage, would you know how to protect and maintain it? Would you know where your water comes from or where your septic tank resides? What are your responsibilities when it comes to weed control and how could municipal bylaws affect you? These are just some of the topics explored in The Green Acreages Guide Primer, Stewardship for Small Acreages. This Primer was written and released by Land Stewardship Centre, accompanied by a more detailed and self- directed Green Acreages Guide workbook for landowners.
Land Stewardship Centre (LSC) is an Edmonton-based organization, working throughout Alberta and western Canada, that helps people improve their understanding of healthy ecosystems. They encourage the development of practices and policies that support sustainable resource use. LSC has watched the ownership of small acreages, hobby farms and recreational properties grow over the years. In 2002, LSC developed its first booklet for this audience entitled “Tips and References for Owners of Acreages and Small Farms.” A subsequent production was released in 2005. Demand for this publication was strong and in 2010, LSC was approached about reprinting the original. The demand for information on how best to manage rural properties in a sustainable manner was still strong. This provided the ideal opportunity for Land Stewardship Centre to update their information and try something a bit different.
Land Stewardship Centre has published two connected documents: a Primer and a Workbook. When property owners understand the basics outlined in the Primer, they may be ready to discover new ways to steward their acreage or recreational property. At this point they are ready for the Workbook. This comprehensive guide features charts and templates they can use to plan and store information about their property.
The Alberta Real Estate Foundation was the key sponsor of the Primer and in helping distribute both documents through real estate professionals. Cheryl De Paoli, Executive Director at the Foundation said, “We welcomed news of this initiative as it provides a single source for this type of information. We believe it will become a valued resource for new and existing landowners who wish to be more sustainable.”
The Green Acreages Guide Workbook is available for purchase from Land Stewardship Centre for $29.95 plus GST. For a REALTOR, it may be the perfect gift to give a new rural customer. For more information on the Land Stewardship Centre, or to purchase the Workbook, visit their website at www.landstewardship.org