Creating sustainable futures/CSF104/Prioritising/Flexible platforms

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Working towards sustainability takes time, and there are no silver bullets. That means that, usually, there will be many steps to reach the end goal. At the same time, as technology advances and becomes more affordable, new options become available that may have previously been out of reach. Designing for future flexibility to allow continual improvement is a smart way to go. It enables further steps towards the desired long-term outcomes, and can help future-proof investments.

An example is in Christchurch NZ, the University of Canterbury’s NZ$60 million BioSciences building project completed in 2012. As well as integrating a flexible internal layout to maximise the utility of the building over it’s lifetime, the design incorporated future options for renewable energy, like photo-voltaic solar generation. At the time of construction, grid energy was reasonably cheap and the business case for the additional cost of installing PV generation was not sufficiently strong to come within the project’s tight financial controls. However, the roof was designed to be sufficiently strong to install both PV and solar-hot-water panels in the future. This incurred a small cost increase, but preserved future options to move towards a more sustainable building that could generate its own energy and hot water from the sun when it made financial sense to do so. The intitial design also incorporated a demonstration PV panel for learning purposes and to show how solar energy could power some of the buildings other smart features.

When Whistler was confirmed as the host for the 2010 Winter Olympics, an interesting issue arose about the development of a sustainable energy solution to meet the forecast increased energy demands of the games, and whether the solution proposed was the most ideal given the community vision establish in the Whistler 2020 process. Whistler had long needed a more reliable supply of energy, but what Terasen, the utility company, proposed assumed a long-term reliance on fossil fuels that didn’t fit with the community vision of Whistler aiming for a carbon neutral future.

Watch this video about how the decision was made to invest to develop an energy system that enabled a flexible platform for the future while still meeting the community’s needs whilst ensuring an appropriate return on investment.

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This case study video features interviews with Whistler's municipal decision makers about the decision making process used to evaluate a new Natural Gas pipeline and the long-term energy needs of the community using the Natural Step Framework, and working with Terasen Gas to evaluate options. Community consultation, co-operation, and partnerships resulted in a successful process. The 2010 Olympics allowed the pipeline to be built at the same time as the road from Vancouver to Whistler. Renewable energy and natural gas provided a blended solution with optimal capital costs, and a flexible platform. Other subjects include Return on Investment (ROI), TNS System Conditions, Environmental Costs, and Technology Innovations.
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