All future downtown developments must connect to district energy
With a new proposed by-law, the City could be making its most significant move to go green since the introduction of the Sustainability Charter. Staff are asking Council to approve a new policy that will mandate all new developments in the City Centre be designed to connect to a district energy network that will span the downtown.
District energy is a system of thermal exchange between a centralized renewable energy source and the buildings it connects to. The thermal heat from the main source is transferred via pipes to buildings or suites to heat water or rooms, before returning back to the centralized energy source to be re-heated once again. District energy systems already exist locally in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale, SFU’s UniverCity, Victoria’s Dockside Green, and Vancouver’s Olympic Village, among others.
The City is currently building a geothermal exchange node below the new City Hall, which will power one of three main energy sources for the future district energy system. This source will initially fuel both City Hall and the City Centre Library, but will eventually extend to service private developments around the Surrey Central SkyTrain area. The City proposes to build two other renewable energy nodes at Gateway and King George SkyTrain stations, although their source (geothermal or otherwise) is unknown at this point. Some councillors have expressed a desire to locate a waste-to-energy plant in the City Centre, which could become one of the energy sources for this expansion.
Under the proposed District Energy by-law, the City Centre will be split into two service areas based on planned future densities and distance from a planned renewable energy node. All new developments within Service Area A, outside of a small pocket of low density land near Old Yale Road, will be required to provide connectivity capacity to the district energy system. This will include connectivity to hot water, HVAC systems, and in-suite hydronic heating (in lieu of electric baseboards). Developments in Service Area B will be required to connect the buildings HVAC system and hot water to district energy, but not space heating for individual suites. Developments in Service Area B with a high density Floor Area Ratio of 2.5 or greater will have to include the in-suite hydronic heating connectivity.
For the next three years, the City is proposing to support early adopters with a financial assistance policy, providing up to $1.50 per sq. ft. of dwelling unit space. Half of the property taxes collected on these projects will be transferred as repayment to the district energy utility to amortize the debt. It is estimated debt repayment would take roughly 3 years for a typical project.
Developments currently in-stream can seek partial exemption from this by-law. Projects with an FAR of 2.5 or greater that have received a development permit, but not a building permit, will be allowed to exempt in-suite hydronic heating, but will be required to provide a connection for the building’s hot water and HVAC systems. Rize’s Wave, Concord’s Park Avenue, ‘King George Developments’ planned 46-storey and 20-storey towers, and the Lark Group’s Brighton Place, all in-stream, can seek this exemption. All other developments will be mandated to meet the full engineering requirements of the proposed by-law.
With this proposed by-law, the City Centre will finally begin harnessing its potential as an undeveloped area and re-define what sustainability in a downtown core means. Unlike many older cities, including Vancouver, Surrey has the opportunity and ability to build green right into the foundation of the community. With this mandatory district energy network that could span most of the downtown, Surrey is living up to its mantra as a city of the future.
Now, let’s move on to mandatory LEED building requirements!