Viewpoint (January 01, 2006)

Our magazine receives weekly press releases announcing projects receiving recognition of some kind for sustainable design competencies. Awards are important, but we shouldn’t neglect the value of the front-end efforts required for a sustainable design proposal to become a reality. One upfront strategy is the ability to access additional funding through grants and loans for clients who are considering a “green” design option. Knowing what resources are available will improve our abilities to convince clients and consultants alike that sustainable design is feasible.

Several practical resources already exist that can provide projects with additional funding to be earmarked for sustainable architecture. In addition to continuing education programs, organizations such as the Canadian Urban Institute and the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy are invaluable resources that speak the language of our clients and have access to a broad range of resources. Other useful options include the Green Municipal Fund offered through Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM); the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC); and the Commercial Building Incentive Program (CBIP) administered through the Office of Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Canada. This list is merely representative of what is available to client-architect teams yearning to be entrepreneurial as they develop their sustainable design portfolios.

The Green Municipal Fund (GMF) was established by the federal government in 2000 to stimulate investment in innovative municipal infrastructure projects. Sitting on a $300-million endowment, the various funding categories include sustainable community planning, brownfield redevelopment, water conservation, renewable energy and sustainable transportation services. The GMF has already assisted more than 350 municipal governments, leveraging more than $1 billion in investment. Projects range from research on subdivisions, sprawl and strategic planning for a brownfield site in Cornwall, Ontario to wind generation on Cape Breton Island. The recent redevelopment proposal for the Brickworks by Evergreen in Toronto is but one example of a project that was tipped into the realm of the feasible, thanks to a grant from the GMF.

Beyond their technical studies and best practice guides, the CMHC offers useful strategic advice to strengthen design concepts by providing intellectual ammunition for architects through case studies that include everything from a former brownfield site at Brandt’s Creek Crossing in Kelowna to mixed-use strategies at Oliver Village in Edmonton to affordable housing in Charlottetown. These projects may not exemplify architecture of an international calibre, but they certainly provide concrete examples developed within Canada.

CBIP is yet another avenue that allows the architect to find more money for a client’s project. This program encourages the design and construction of new, energy-efficient commercial, institutional and multi-unit residential buildings. CBIP helps offset the extra cost of designing energy-efficient buildings by offering a one-time financial incentive of up to $60,000 for eligible organizations. This may not be much but it can make the difference between whether a project gets built or not.

We may not always be fortunate enough to have a client willing to support sustainable design strategies just because it seems like the right thing to do. Therefore, being able to sweeten the pot with additional funding and grants will only strengthen the cause for progressive architecture.