Triple Bottom Line in Practice: From Dockside to Dockside Green

Chris Ling, Katherine Thomas and Jim Hamilton
Published March 22, 2007

Case Summary

This case study explores the planning process that has led to the development of the Dockside area of the City of Victoria. The adoption of a tendering process for potential developers based on Triple Bottom Line (TBL) methodology has meant that smaller, more progressive development companies were able to compete for the land. It has also meant that developers were given the flexibility to offset a lower bid for the land in favour of social and environmental benefits.

Two Canadian companies, VanCity and Windmill Development, partnered to design and develop a $600M bid for the development of the 15-acre Dockside Green site, which will incorporate remediation of contaminated land and the ultimate development of a green community. The completed site will consist of residential, office, commercial and light industry buildings, and public spaces that are greenhouse gas positive from an energy perspective and will be substantially built to LEED Platinum building standards.

The development is currently being built and, therefore, it is hard to say exactly what will be successful or not for the community that eventually lives there, but the foundation for a sustainable community has been put in place.

Sustainable Development Characteristics

Sustainable development is a reconciliation of environmental, social, and economic imperatives (Dale 2001; Robinson and Tinker, 1997). Possibly nowhere is this more important than in the design and construction of the neighbourhoods and developments that make up our human habitat (Register, 2006). Many innovative developments are made more difficult through the planning and governance regimes of our municipalities that can work against progressive solutions to development problems (Moore, 1996).  It is vital, therefore, that ways of encouraging and supporting, rather than hindering innovative design and sustainable buildings are incorporated into municipal decisions.

This case study demonstrates one such decision-making technique that was used by the City of Victoria. The method used a decision matrix of criteria representative of local environmental, social, and economic concerns. This allowed potential developers to discount environmental and social benefits from the price they were prepared to pay for the land. In addition, the bid process set minimum sustainable development standards. These standards included financial capacity for the project, knowledge to deal with the contaminated land found on the site, a commitment to at least LEED silver standard development, and a commitment to partner with local community associations in the design of the site.

The criteria matrix follows Triple Bottom Line principles (Elkington, 1998): an accounting mechanism that allows environmental and social components of business activity to be considered alongside economic considerations. This was used as a basis for a list of criteria developed by the City of Victoria in collaboration with cross disciplinary and cross institutional partnerships including the local community and the developers interested in bidding on projects. What resulted was an opportunity for developers genuinely interested in sustainable development being able to compete on an even footing with more traditional single bottom line developers. What has resulted is development with as small a footprint as technically feasible, and an opportunity for the introduction of state-of-the-art environmental technology. With the Dockside Green site, what has happened is the full integration of all local partners, including the developer, community associations, and the City of Victoria, in the conceptualization, design and ultimate development of a significant public amenity on what was previously a derelict and dangerous site. Both the city and the developers have, or are on track to receive a profit from their investment.

The attempt in the development stage of the project is to create a sustainable community that, through integrated design, is cheaper and more energy efficient in which to live, offsetting any increased development costs through the use of green technology and system thinking. It could be said that the development is a sustainable community using green buildings – if it is considered that a green building is one that adopts energy technology without considering the economic and social component, a sustainable building being one that also incorporates social and economic components (Dale and McDonald, 2004). This development had the increased costs of the technology offset in the early stages by an acceptance of a lower purchase price for the land, which was compensated for in a holistic way by gains in social and environmental benefits.

Critical Success Factors

  1. Transparency – the Triple Bottom Line criteria were publicly published so that prospective developers and the community knew what was being asked for.

  2. Partnerships – At all stages of the project, interdisciplinary and open partnership were developed. Some of the key ones include:

    1. Interdepartmental partnerships within the City of Victoria
    2. the City of Victoria and British Columbia Building Corporation (no longer in existence)
    3. the City of Victoria and the Vic West Community Association
    4. VanCity and Windmill Development
    5. Dockside Green Ltd and the City of Victoria
    6. Dockside Green Ltd and the Vic West Community Association

      Every one of these partnerships was vital in the development of the project. Initial partnership with the city provided necessary real estate and inter-disciplinary expertise that enabled the creation of a valid and sustainable business plan for the site. Later partnerships with the Vic West Community Association enabled local needs and requirements to inform the design and build process. Finally, the partnerships during development helped ease some of the institutional difficulties inherent in the implementation of a novel and progressive development.
  1. Windmill Development as a company had the necessary flexibility of operation and sustainable development knowledge to take the Triple Bottom Line bidding mechanism and make the most of the opportunities presented. Joe Van Belleghem's leadership throughout the process meant the developers were more innovative than the city required, leading to a more sustainable development than the minimum asked for.

Community Contact Information

Joe Van Belleghem
101-1117 Wharf Street
Victoria, BC V8W 1T7

Detlef Beck
Director, Community Enterprises
Vancity Enterprises + Dockside Green
3075 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC, V8T 4N3
T 250.519.4249

Kim Fowler (Formerly of City of Victoria)
Director of Development Services
City of Port Coquitlam

What Worked?

  1. The TBL bidding mechanism enabled added value development without compromise for financial gain.

  2. Involvement of community associations and other groups allowed the concerns of the community to be fully incorporated into the development process.

  3. Incorporating a full range of environmental, social, and economic concerns into the development and the master plan.

What Didn’t Work?

  1. Subsequent conditions added to the bid process have frustrated development. For example, the initial proposal from the city was that the social component of the Triple Bottom Line approach would be met by public amenity open space and general neighbourhood and social space improvements in the area; this was in agreement with the Vic West Community Association. Due to political concerns raised on city council, a social housing component was added to the development bid. This was not integrated in a way that made it fully workable, and has proven to be one of the biggest challenges to the development.

  2. There has been a lack of understanding in the city of the complexity involved in creating a novel development. On occasion, this has led to frustrations on the part of the developers with the amount of time taken for city approvals involving novel techniques and technology.

Financial Costs and Funding Sources

The Dockside site was initially sold to the city by the province for $1 due to the environmental liabilities on the site. The city invested a significant amount into site remediation prior to development, and as a minimum, had a requirement to recoup these investments and did not want to take any loss on the transaction.

The city's break-even point on the sale was slightly less than $6 million, although the market value of the land was likely higher. So with this as its baseline, the TBL  approach allowed added value from the proposed social and environmental benefits to offset the financial payment for the land itself.

The actual cost of the development for Windmill/VanCity is estimated at $600 million, of which $8 million is slated for the purchase of the land. The Windmill/VanCity proposal represented the lowest of the received bids in terms of what was offered for the land, but included significantly more environmental and social benefits.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities made $350,000 available to support the development of innovative sustainable infrastructure. These funds were used in part to offset the costs for documentation, the processing costs for the sewage treatment infrastructure, and to help address the costs associated with developing and obtaining approval for the treatment system, which required amendments to the Waste Management Act.

Development charges within the City of Victoria are uniform, and do not vary according to the impact that a particular development may have on existing infrastructure. This can be perceived as a disincentive for developers to implement sewage and storm water treatment systems that minimize water use and the city's costs. However, the development charges are an order of magnitude lower than what provincial auditors recommend, and consequently any review by the city could result in a large hike in development charges across the board. It should be noted that in some Canadian cities developers’ charges for contaminated sites have been rescinded to encourage brownfield recycling, for example, in Kingston, Niagara Falls, and Ottawa.

Part of the partnership process between the developer and the city has involved the sharing of administrative costs for the Dockside project. The City of Victoria provided a dedicated staff member for the development and Dockside Green Ltd pays for part of the costs of that position.

Research Analysis

The TBL mechanism used to deliver a sustainable masterplan for the city's Dockside lands resulted in an innovative and successful development that would otherwise likely not have been possible. The development gives clear indications of being environmentally and economically sustainable. What differentiated this development from other similar developments, such as South East False Creek in Vancouver, is that the city did not intend to simply award to the highest bidder for the land and, therefore, the winning bid was able to offset financial costs with the potential non-economic benefits the proposed development would provide; these being judged through the decision matrix in the RPF.

The one possible shortcoming of the development is the social component to the project. The final master plan incorporated a social housing component that appears not as well integrated as it could have been. As to whether the difficulty with incorporating the housing has compromised the sustainability of the project is moot. The social housing component was not requested by the local community association, and it was not originally part of the city’s business plan, which saw the social component coming from increased public amenity and the creation of a walkable neighbourhood.

There were many challenges faced by all partners in the development process. Nevertheless, the project has provided profist for the city, potential profits for the developers, and significant environmental improvements to the Dockside site. Included within this has been the creation of a state-of-the-art sustainable development, which minimises energy consumption and incorporates other ecologically-friendly systems into the site up to LEED Platinum standards. There are internal elements of social sustainability, with a walkable design and public transit solutions for transport from the development, as well as significant public amenity. There are many proposed community design elements in the project that will provide these benefits including:

  1. First ever master planned neighbourhood to reach LEED Platinum status
  2. Fresh air ventilation systems
  3. All appliances and fixtures and fittings designed to be low energy
  4. Neighbourhood heating provided by a wood gasification plant
  5. On-site sewage treatment and heat recovery
  6. Grey water recycling systems
  7. Permeable surfaces to improve water drainage
  8. Car sharing program and integrated transport planning with a shuttle bus serving the community and harbour ferry terminal
  9. Public amenity open space
  10. Working relationships between the community association and First Nations

Details of these can be found on the Dockside Green website.

These innovations happened despite the inertia of the city’s development by-laws and the attitude of the utilities; it is a testament to the strength of the partnerships involved in the development that, by and large, the combined effort of the stakeholders worked through the problems.

At the root of the project is the use of the TBL criteria matrix in the Request for Proposals (RPF), with respondents encouraged to offset the maximum bid price with social and environmental benefits. The city then chose the bid which had the highest value to the community rather than the highest monetary offer for the land. This, along with strong leadership within the city and Windmill Developments ensured that the sustainability of the project was assured.

Detailed Background Case Description


For many years, the abandoned Dockside site has been a problem for the City of Victoria. Initially owned by the Province of British Columbia, the province sold the site to the City of Victoria for $1. Environmentally damaged, the site had seen previous failed attempts at remediation, mainly for light high-tech redevelopment. These failures, combined with general dissatisfaction with respect to other redevelopments in the area, had drawn the concerned attention of the local community associations as well as other interest groups. The reasons for failure are various, but a critical factor was the lack of strategic planning to guide such a process and the absence of a “champion” committed to leading the redevelopment of the site. 

In 2001, another attempt was started to redeem the site, and generate new vitality in that part of the City of Victoria.  The approach this time, however, was to first form key partnerships to assemble the knowledge and experience required and to keep front and centre the desire to create a sustainable development on the site. 

The first partnership of note was with the British Columbia Building Corporation (BCBC). The City of Victoria had a memorandum of understanding with BCBC to support each other when appropriate. This partnership was activated for the Dockside project in order to bring significant real estate experience to the project, a set of skills lacking within the city's administration. BCBC was able to provide the necessary skills to assess site development risks, to address preliminary archaeological and heritage concerns, and to manage the site prior to sale to a private-sector developer.

Next, the City of Victoria created an interdisciplinary project team, deviating from the city’s standard operating procedures, which like most cities are highly “silo-ised” and hierarchical. This internal partnership brought together planners, development economists, engineers, financial personnel from within the city as well as representation from the local community associations. A steering/management group directed the development of a business case to include an analysis of contamination on the site, an exploration of development options, and proposals with respect to land-use and design. 

The Vic West Community Association was particularly concerned about the site as it had serious reservations about other recent developments in the same area, both in the way in which they were managed and the resulting outcomes. The city project manager ensured that the community association was involved from the start in the development of the business case and design parameters for the project, and that community association representatives were integrated into the project’s management and steering committees. As a result, from the start the community association was in a position to veto the development and to be fully engaged in the decision-making process at every stage. The city, however, also took a policy decision to only involve the community at large at key moments in the process to avoid consultation fatigue.

The tendering process

It was during the initial business plan development phase and development of the partnerships that the city made the decision to employ a fully sustainable approach to the project using a TBL methodology. In the words of the city’s project director:

“Why wouldn’t you? If you can sell the land for $12M then fine, but if you can sell the land for $8M and can get $6M of public amenity developed for you then even better.”

The design of the evaluation grid permitted the awarding of additional points for proponents' bids which exceeded the minimum environmental standards, set at LEED Silver, and encouraged the winning developer to put forward a proposal based on achieving Platinum standards for most buildings. Interested proponents were informed as to the general nature of the contaminants within the soil, and were required to include appropriate remediation in their development proposals.

The second stage of the process was the creation of the development context. There was a strong desire to avoid focusing on zoning because of the perception that it tends to preclude flexibility and ,therefore, innovation and, by extension, sustainable development. Instead, a ‘sandbox’ approach was taken, whereby the zoning was applied to the desired masterplan, rather than set up in advance, therefore limiting the final proposal.

The main financial requirement from the ity was that the development should at least pay back the city's costs of remediation and other works already carried out on the site. Two general approaches to the site were developed: a high-tech light industrial development, which the city preferred; and, a mixed use development, which the project team backed. Both options were considered commercially feasible and within the city’s risk tolerance limits in that they would enable the city to at the very least break even – meaning the site needed to be sold for at least $6 million.

These two options were then presented to the Vic West Community Association. The light industrial option retained the current density of development and was the city’s preferred option. The second option was a mixed use development with residential, office and light industrial elements – and a significant public open space amenity and storm water management. This option represented an increase in density from the previous use of the site of 2:1. The city project manager would have preferred an increase of 3:1, but this was considered too much by the Vic West Community Association and the city council. The mixed use ‘New Urbanist’ style development was the one chosen by the community, and was also the preferred option of the city’s multidisciplinary project team.

Planning guidelines were then issued to seek expressions of interest from interested developers. These guidelines included the TBL assessment grid against which all expressions of interest and tender were going to be assessed. The assessment process and the scoring mechanism were made publicly available online for full transparency.

The assessment grid was based on a total of 300 points, with 100 points allocated to each of the three components - economic, environmental, and social elements – in accordance with typical TBL methodology. The method encouraged a holistic approach to building and infrastructure design and the provision of public space. In essence, the grid would place the emphasis on sustainability, and sustainable land use planning. Interested parties had to fulfill two mandatory criteria: the demonstrated capacity of the developer to finance the project; and, demonstrated capacity and knowledge necessary to address the environmental remediation requirements of the site.

The criteria and weighting for the evaluation were determined by the project steering committee and included recommendations from the community, from the business development process, and the various members of the transdisciplinary project management group. Expression of interest respondents were also asked to comment upon the criteria and suggest improvements that would lead to a more sustainable project.

The process returned five short listed expressions of interest and a number of suggestions to the TBL criteria.  Modification to the criteria, largely limited to a movement between categories and to the weighting, was then carried out and the RPF distributed to interested parties. One part of the bid process was for developers to present proposed development plans to an open meeting of city council. This fostered an openness and transparency in the bid assessment process, and also allowed council members to gauge the reaction of the general public to the bids. By this stage, three of the bidding developers had withdrawn from the process. The reasons are unclear, but it is suspected that the TBL approach proved to be too progressive for some larger more established development companies – meaning that the risk involved with the process meant that the development was not a priority for them in a very vibrant development market in British Columbia. The eventual winning bid – that of VanCity and Windmill Development for Dockside Green – was awarded a standing ovation when the formal presentation was made to council.

Despite the increased complexity of the tendering process, selection of the successful proponent was gained in a shorter time span than typical for a project of such a scale.

The developer’s perspective

Windmill Development has experience and expertise in developing environmentally responsible ”green” building projects in various sites across Canada; Dockside Green, which will cost approximately $600M is the largest and most ambitious project to date. Capital for the project was raised through a partnership with VanCity Credit Union, split 1/3 for Windmill Development, and 2/3 for VanCity. Windmill Development brought the environmental expertise to the project, while VanCity provided the expertise related to the social aspects of development. Both organisations have significant development expertise and both have a commitment to sustainable development.

VanCity is the largest credit union in Canada with 325,000 members and encompasses a number of subsidiary companies, such as VanCity Capital Corporation and VanCity Enterprises, which have different areas of expertise and have participated in different aspects of the project. For example, VanCity Capital Corporation provided funding for investments in alternative sources of energy (biomass heating system) for the project.

VanCity Enterprises has expertise in developing innovative and affordable housing as well as working with NGOs.

With its focus on sustainability, the Dockside Green project fits with the VanCity brand, its reputation, and interest in social issues. VanCity will also have an opportunity to potentially leverage its investment in Dockside Green by developing financial products tailored to meet the needs of Dockside Green businesses, residents and workers.

Joe Van Belleghem, partner in Windmill Development and the public face of Dockside Green is one of the founders of the Canada Green Building Council. He became interested in environmentally sustainable development and realized that to achieve the most benefit and the most sustainable systems, it was necessary to work with large scale projects, which, because of size, can incorporate features supportive of sustainability.

Windmill Development found the collaborative and iterative planning process based on the TBL to be a very positive feature of the process, and welcomed the opportunity to bid on a project using these principles. In addition, the transparency of the process made the City of Victoria’s TBL-based process easy to work with. The rating criteria and points allocated within the grid matrix were published on the city website and available for all to review upfront, a mechanism existed to facilitate proponent responses, and a fairness advisor was engaged during the process to ensureall developers were treated appropriately.

The part of the project that has proven the most difficult is the provision of social housing. Within the grid on which the RPF’s were evaluated, affordable housing was awarded proportionately few points, notwithstanding the political pressure to include social housing within the project. Social housing was not a major part of the city's nor the community association’s initial aspirations for the site, but emanated from a subsequent decision of city council. In alignment with VanCity’s interest in affordable housing, Dockside Green will include a contribution of $3M towards providing approximately 50 rental units and 26 ownership units geared towards families with incomes in the range of $30,000-$60,000.

It should be noted that the affordability of housing is a major issue in Victoria, which is one of the most expensive cities for housing in Canada. The project's critics have found the housing component of the development an easy target in that the number of affordable units is lower than originally suggested, and the majoritiy are small, one- or two-bedroom units, and not larger dwellings more suitable for family use.

During consultations with the community, the developers addressed concerns that included sightlines, architecture and pedestrian-friendly design. For the developer, working with the community was a positive experience, involving regular meetings, which started at the beginning of the process, and were ongoing. The process started with consultations over a largely blank canvass, rather than a set model around which details were discussed. The general attitude was to explore issues until a solution evolved that everybody could accept. The main concerns of the community were sightlines and the appearance of the architecture as the community felt that previous developments in the area had not provided an attractive environment. Meetings occurred bimonthly and involved 15 members of the Vic West Community Association and the developer’s staff. The community association has a long history of local activism, and is considered to represent the local population.

One challenge faced by the Dockside Green partners has been the difficulty of managing expectations. The Dockside Green development is innovative and has generated considerable publicity, as well as support, and has been perceived as a vehicle to resolve a number of the City of Victoria’s problems with respect to housing, social issues, business challenges, and the environment. Throughout the evolution of the project, it has been necessary to reconcile financial management imperatives, which are typically conservative and risk adverse, with the desire to test new technologies and complex approaches.


The Dockside model and TBL assessment mechanism has not been used for subsequent City of Victoria developments. A contributing factor is that the personnel that championed the method have departed. As a consequence, there appears to be little interest or expertise to apply sustainable development approaches to planning decisions. The model has been exported to the Municipality of Port Coquitlam by Kim Fowler, the former city project manager for the Dockside Green project.

Strategic Questions

  1. Is there any way to embed the learning from novel development projects into changes to the municipal by-laws, zoning and so forth?
  2. What sustainability assessment mechanisms are best suited to tendering processes?
  3. Can inter-disciplinary working practices be institutionalised?

Resources and References

Dale, A, 2001. At the edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Dale, A and McDonald, R. 2004. The Economics of Green Buildings in Canada,. E-Dialogue held on October 7th 2004.

Elkington, J. 1997. Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Chichester: Capstone Publishing.

Moore, J. L. 1996. "An introduction to what is stopping sustainability, part three." New City Magazine, Vol. 17. No. 1, p 24.

Robinson, J. and Tinker J. 1997. 'Reconciling Ecological, Economic, and Social Imperatives: a New Conceptual Framework' in Surviving Globalism: Social and Environmental Dimensions. ed. T. Schrecker. London: Macmillan p 71-94.


From Dr. John Robinson's video shown Monday morning on barriers to achieving sustainability:

The most important issue to deal with lies in governance - all of the big collective decisions based on land use need public and community involvement - there needs to be a focus on collective decision making. This is characterized in the Dockside Green project through addressing institutional barriers, encouraging public support,and creating partnerships between private and public sectors.


Often the context of current issues is very normative. Dockside Green is no exception. The fact that the City of Victoria, specifically the planning department, valued the social and environmental benefits was instrumental in implementation of the project.

Furthermore, current sustainability issues are often beyond any one sector to solve. This was clearly evident in the Dockside Green. The City alone did not have the real estate expertise to assess and develop the site. The developer alone would not have been able to build the project without the financial support from the lender and concept and administrative support for the City of Victoria.

Sustainable development demands collaboration from many partners. In Dockside Green the multiple internal and external partnerships and networks were instrumental.

Scientific uncertainty, incomplete information as well as impossibility of predicting an outcome are also common to the context of sustainable development. To what degree do you think these were a factor in the Dockside Green case study?


In Dockside Green many common barriers to sustainable development were overcome. For example, some solicitudes, silos, stovepipes were addressed through creation of internal partnership of various departments within the City of Victoria.

A lack of shared meaning, which is another common barrier, was articulated by the City through publicly posting TBL criteria, being open to proposals, rather than unilaterally creating a zoning policy and master plan, as well as transparent discussion of development option with the Vic West Community Association.

Similarly, a technological lock in was avoided through being open to proposals and not identifying any particular technology. Instead, the City of Victoria and the Vic West Community Association provided guidelines and TBL criteria.

Furthermore, in Dockside Green a piece-meal approach was overcome through the use of comprehensive TBL criteria. Even social housing, which was initially left out, was latter added to the project requirements.

Among other barriers to sustainable development are the mismatch between political and ecosystem boundaries and multiple jurisdictions in a given area. The fact that these barriers were not an issue in the Dockside Green is a factor that assisted with the implementation of the project.

Do you see any other barriers that were overcome in this case?

Several barriers were encountered on the front of permitting/approval throughout the development. One such barrier identified was the sewage treatment system and necessary ammendments to be made to the waste management act. Costs associated with the development and approval of this system were in part supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.


There are several critical factors that can foster innovation, creativity and competitiveness. Among them is rapid knowledge diffusion. Posting TBL criteria on the website and making it publicly available was the first step in achieving it. However, dialogue and contact with community association as well as establishing relationships with developers was more important for rapid knowledge diffusion.

Another factor in fostering innovation, creativity and competitiveness is the formation on multi- and trans-disciplinary partnerships. Although many partnerships were formed, public-private partnerships seem to be missing. Had the City of Victoria formed a partnership with the developer, more affordable housing units could have been implemented. For example, the City of Vancouver followed a Collaborative Planning Model, under which the developer would build affordable housing units, which are then managed by a housing society. Similarly, partnerships with research entities also seem to be missing. Had such networks been created, more innovative solutions would have emerged.

To what extent do you think other forms of collaboration could have benefited this development?


Various types of social capital are needed to implement sustainable development. When bonding, bridging and vertical capital has been formed, it becomes possible to make the collective decisions that Kristi referred to in her post of Feb 21, 2008 :

"The most important issue to deal with lies in governance - all of the big collective decisions based on land use need public and community involvement - there needs to be a focus on collective decision making. This is characterized in the Dockside Green project through addressing institutional barriers, encouraging public support, and creating partnerships between private and public sectors." (Kristi Peters Snider)

In Dockside Green bonding and bridging social capital has been formed, which made it possible to make collective decision by the City of Victoria and Vic West Community Association and the proponents on the type of development and TBL criteria.

It also seems that specific nodes, i.e., certain individuals, were key to moving Dockside to Dockside Green. When these key individuals left the City, the City of Victoria did not use the TBL mechanism that they developed. Loosing the nodes resulted in the loss of the other social capital that these nodes were connected to.

What was the role of the vertical social capital in this case study?

Re: What was the role of the vertical social capital in this case study?

The vertical social capital likely consisted of those individuals with the initial vision who pitched the idea and to the higher levels within the City management who eventually approved the concept.

I agree that bonding and bridging capital has been created and would add that this is not limited to the Dockside Green project or even the City of Victoria itself. This is evidenced by the fact that at least one of the champions (if there were indeed several) of this idea has exported the concept to another municipality within the province. Given the ease with which information is exchanged through the internet and other media, the project participants will likely serve as bridging social capital for a multitude of communities looking to implement similar projects.


Dockside Green has required what was referred to in a lecture as "unprecedented levels of collaboration and partnership". This project would not have gone much past the conceptual stage if it hadn't been for progressive thinking. As the summary indicates, there was a champion or champions within the City itself who first had the vision and the foresight to realize that something this innovative could not be implemented within the silos that are typically associated with urban development. By issuing an RFP that utilized a triple bottom line criteria the City set the stage for those wishing to participate. Companies bidding for the project by default had to consider the ecological and social aspect as opposed to following the traditional economically dominated design. Public consultation and consideration of environmental impacts is slowly becoming part and parcel of large project management however these activities are normally a small part of the overall effort. The criteria set out for Dockside Green required that social and ecological aspects be critical portions of the project throughout its design, construction and operational phases. Although all the entities that have seen the project to completion deserve credit, a significant portion of the accolades should go to those with the initial vision for having the courage to think beyond the common model.


The extent to which different stakeholders were consulted/engaged in the Dockside Green project has contributed significantly to the success experienced to date.

By involving the community association from the outset the developers ensured that their input was not only considered but that it became an integral part of the project. Unlike projects that are carried out under the traditional structure and have consultation only at the front end, Dockside Green developers held regular meetings with the community through the design and construction of the site. It is likely (though not clear from the summary) that the bonding capital at the community level that contributed to this process (i.e. the community as it existed before) will continue as the building becomes inhabited and will expand to include the building inhabitants. By involving the community from the start the developer helped not only lay a foundation for the initial members of the community to accept the project (assuming their concerns were not only heard but were also incorporated to the extent practical) but also easy for the residents of the building to become part of the community (no resentments, not considered outsiders). On a less positive note, there was apparently a sector (perhaps not from the immediate community but from the community at large) who felt thst these efforts were not comprehensive enough since there has been criticism claiming that the project itself did not include a social housing component.


The TBL methodology utilized in this development became a tool for engaging the community in sustainability. Citizen engagement can improve the development processes of projects through cooperation and inclusion, and by contributing to a vision of what the development will add to their community. "People feel more attached to an environment they have helped to create, and therefore, they will manage and maintain it better"(Chris Ling). Community engagement provides an important source of information about the nature of that community, the environment in which it is situated, and what the needs are. (Community Profiling)

There is a great paper on community engagement from Smart Growth BC ( This reminded me of the 3 questions at the end of the case study:
Could the Smart Growth principles in general be a way of encouraging change in municipal zoning and bylaws to ensure more sustainable development? Does anyone know what the role of Smart Growth is? (It is fairly new to Alberta)


One would suspect that through use of SD practices,records would be kept as to who participated (stakeholders), what were the concerns (environmental, social, economic), and what challenges were encountered and how these were resolved.

In terms of stakeholder engagement, the city of Victoria could potentially map stakeholder interests. The map could be then be used to steer planning sessions. Although the innovation of this project likely may inhibit the ability to draw upon current interests for various areas, key organizations are could be assessed for inclusion into the initial map.

How could we incorporate "technological innovation" into municipal by-laws? The Dockside Green project identified financial risk as the lead contributing factor to inclusion of technological innovation.

I'm not sure how technological innovation could be incorporated into municipal by-laws, but one option that has been identified is to give precedence to projects that include green technology/LEEDs certification etc., in the permit process. Incorporating this into building and land use planning (if that is what the departments are called in BC!)would encourage developers to produce more green projects.

"I'm not sure how technological innovation could be incorporated into municipal by-laws, but one option that has been identified is to give precedence to projects that include green technology/LEEDs certification etc., in the permit process."

With out a doubt we need to see stricter regulations in building codes. It is not a green bandwagon issue, it just makes economic sense. More efficient building design will ease the problems are country will be facing with power and water in the years to come. This could be put forward by the ministry of municipal affairs and housing (federally), or the Ministry of Forests & Range and Minister Responsible for Housing (provincial). I am not sure the extent to which the municipality has power over such regulations.


The main criticism that is often levelled at the Dockside Green project is the lack of affordable housing provision. A criticism that is levelled at 'green' or 'sustainable' developments such as this is that they are for the rich - and that being 'green' genuinely or otherwise - is an added value commodity and not for everyone.

How can such sustainable projects be made available for everybody, and what needs to be in place to make these developments affordable (if that is indeed a laudable or realistic goal)?

It may be that the high costs associated with Dockside Green residencies are a function of the housing costs in Victoria in general and downtown Victoria specifically. In many ways sustainable choices come at a premium (organic foods, fuel efficient vehicles, etc.) and therefore a higher income is required to afford them. Paradoxically people with low incomes often have a smaller environmental fooprint (no vehicle, no air travel)that is often a result of purposeful actions directed at saving money rather than good intentions towards the environment. Perhaps one way to make projects like Dockside Green available to everyone is through the use of subsidies for sustainable housing.

The idea of offsets has been discussed in the sense of land costs. As discussed amongst our group, encouraging home offices or business (such as an artist studio) could offset the costs of the lower cost unit. I'm not a fan of handouts nor am I a fan of living in a 500sq. foot box, but perhaps a fund could be establihed through which tenants with businesses or home offices could borrow from at a low rate of interest in order to top up their mortgage. They would essentially be paying more upfront, but offsetting it with savings attributed to their need for office space or business. Although, this would have to also be looked at in the sense of how they will account for this on their taxes.

On another note,

Social housing often brings with it a social stigma, such as "it will lower the value of my property." A sense of ownership is likely necessary to remove this stigma while at the same time an opportunity to feel part of a community. Would the conversion of adjacent buildings (i.e. older units)and inclusion of those into the sustainable community be one means to offset the costs associated with new development? Therefore, rather than looking to build to serve that new complex (i.e. utilities, services, etc.), the developer and city could be encouraged to look at inclusion of existing older buildings to within their plan. I sense that I may be creating a ghetto here...

There is definitely a stigma associated with social housing, despite the fact that not all tenants are created equal. A comment I heard floating around the classroom the other day that I thought was interesting has to do with affordability, but from another point of view. "My partner and I both work hard and would love to live in downtown Vancouver, but we can't afford to - instead we are way out in Surrey. Why should low income citizens have the opportunity to live downtown in social housing that isn't available to people like us?" --- I would love to hear everyones opinion on this comment!
On another note, there is a social housing complex at the end of my street (about 12 units), and it is a complete disaster - donated furniture, mattresses, and garbage on the lawns and spilling into the streets, scary looking men sitting in idling cars in front of the townhouses, etc. Who wants this on their street?
On the other hand, I do know the False Creek co-op housing has been quite successful, so I try not to generalize...

"My partner and I both work hard and would love to live in downtown Vancouver, but we can't afford to - instead we are way out in Surrey. Why should low income citizens have the opportunity to live downtown in social housing that isn't available to people like us?" --- I would love to hear everyones opinion on this comment!

This is one topic I would prefer not to touch with a ten foot pole. In general I feel I am not knowledgeable enough on this topic to give opinions or insights. The guest speaker in Ann Dales class today may have been a useful resource in this regard. I can relate to both sides of the argument, and it is a case by case scenario. Examining it from the perspective of my neighborhood I grew up in, I would have to say the concept of NIMBY easily applies. I worry that anything I say on this topic can be taken the wrong way so I will stop here....


I wonder if affordability criticism arose from ineffective community engagement. The fact that social housing was a requirement added by the City of Victoria later in the process demonstrates that neither the City nor the community association, nor the developer engaged all stakeholders who had an interest in the development.

It appears that there was no wide and open community engagement. The community was represented by the Vic West Community Association. However, it is unclear who is represented by the community association and who is not. It seems that engagement of the community association almost reached the point in the engagement wheel that was close to the tipping point when empowerment transforms into elite and manipulation.

The fact that there were no more green developments after the key individuals left, means that engagement was very basic and did not reach out far enough. It did not translate into the capacity building.

Good community engagement results in ownership of the result. Improving the site is part of living there. From this case study it’s unclear whether the people who planed to live in this location participated in the concept design process.

Good points Katherine - it is not clear who the Vic West Community Association was, and to what extent they represented the opinions of the community at large.
It is unlikely that the people who plan to live at Dockside Green had any involvement in the planning process, unless they were already living in the Vic West community. However, development of that site might have been seen as a huge improvement over the contaminated waste land that it had been for so long. It may not have been too difficult to achieve community support with limited community involvement based on this alone.


Currently the green development costs more than traditional development. And cities are trying to require social housing components within those developments. I wonder if these artificial requirements result in social alienation of individuals who end up living in this social housing. Does this artificial incorporation of social housing help create a functional diversity?

On the other hand, as pointed out earlier, the ecological foot print of people with low incomes is lower. So people with higher incomes can afford to pay to reduce their ecological footprint, because even though direct benefits (such as pride and comfort of living in a green community) occur to them, the indirect benefits occur to the society as a whole.


The concept of sustainable community is subjective. To me a sustainable community is the one that mimics a living system. Such a community, in the process of their existence, would be able to create conditions for the enhancement of the system of which they are a part. It means that it would use the waste generated by others as a recourse and would only produce waste that can be used as a resources for others.

A living system is a representation of recursion. It’s an autopoietic network of networks. Thus, to be sustainable, communities need to be not only autopoietic living systems themselves, but also consist of neighbourhoods and individual buildings that are autopoietic living systems. To be sustainable communities need to achieve the same level of complexity as mature ecosystems.

In order to achieve this vision of a living community, communities must meet a number of principles that are met by biological living systems. For example, there must be a functional diversity. In sustainable community this would translate into a diversity of uses: residential, commercial, industrial and natural uses, as well as a diversity of people who live there: singles, families, people of different ages, incomes, occupations. Furthermore, a system must be created uses benign manufacturing processes. In sustainable community it would translate into green building materials and processes. A comparison of ecological footprint of social systems, like a community with a footprint of natural living systems can be used to design a sustainable community. These principles were articulated by many authors, one of whom is Janine Benyus and the Biomimicry Institute.

I think the Biomimicry model fits well in the sustainable community model for new developments, and perhaps works best for larger developements (although Katherine perhaps your knowledge and expertise in this area could expand on this further), but what about established communities? Or single family residential developments? I think that governance plays a large role, and the municipality has the greatest opportunity for influence through urban and land use planning.


Kristi brought up an interesting question on whether incorporation of biomimicry is easier at the single dwelling level or a multi-unit/neighbourhood development. I believe it is actually easier to implement at the single dwelling unit, because you have much more control of the house as system. Any individual can create a “living building”, which would generate its own energy process its own waste, etc. The technology to do so already exists. The main barrier at this level is cost. In comparison at the neighbourhood level (either new or existing), a developer does not have full control over the project. Not only you have financial barrier (which is complicated by the fact that lenders do not want to finance unproved technologies), you also have legal barriers in the form of building codes, by-laws, zoning that cannot be addressed by the developer alone, or the residents alone.


I agree with Kristi’s point that governance plays a large role. I think it is particularly apparent during the integrated community planning. Dockside Green appears to be an example of a project that supports the broader Capital Region plan, particularly with respect to water and waste management. One of the key success factors of the Dockside Green was the development of place-based policy. TBL criteria were specific to the Dockside site and the context in which it exists, rather than the use of generic criteria.


The Dockside Green is a prime example of environmental leadership. Had it not been for a few key individuals who were driving the TBL assessment and were prepared to take risks, the project would not have happened. Dockside Green is also an example of what I call “tough” leadership – an ability to make unpopular or risky decisions. It may look like common sense to an outside, but the decision to sell the site for $8M, rather than $12 may have been a difficult one, so is the decision to insist on social housing component. Do you see any specific learnings related to leadership in this case study?

Dr. David Bell suggested that leadership needs to be in all sectors and requires things to be brought forward in order to make change. Also, leaders must avoid hopelessness and despair to envision a different reality. Dockside Greens inclusion of "low-income" housing was difficult and seen as limited. However, the ability of a multi-diciplinary team to reach their objective shows leadership in this case. The focus on governance to set the objectives and formulate this partnership with the developer is something to follow for future development. Although, I am unsure as to how well the process was documented. Failure to audit/monitor the progress would limit success of leadership.

The planning process for Dockside Green was proactive in terms of support, influence, and integration of the social, economic, and environmental imperatives required to maintain equity, diversity, and the functionality of natural systems in communities. (Chris Ling). The case study definitely demonstrated the principles of integrated planning; integration, scale, governance, and inclusion. It seems however that the project was the result of a vision of a small group of leaders, not the result of a culture of change in the governance structures or municipality. Perhaps the circumstances around Dockside Green (contaminated abandoned land on prime waterfront) made it a unique project for testing this type of community planning. (Where the City of Victoria was prepared to sell the land at a very reasonable price - perhaps the case would have been much different if the land was not contaminated.)


This is in reference to discussions regarding private and public partnership towards achieving goals that are otherwise unattainable.

Michael Williams was instrumental in revitalizing many degraded buildings in downtown Victoria. The most notable being Swans hotel and restaurant. Though his process of community involvement was negligible compared to the dockside green project, I bring up this comparison because it would not have been feasible for him to achieve this goal without considerable financial assistance from the public sector. Likewise the government would not have had the vision nor the expertise to do the job as well as Mr. Williams. This is often a necessary partnership towards building a more vibrant community, as long as interests of the private sector are not overpowering. The late Michael Williams donated the majority of his possessions including a considerable amount of real estate to the University of Victoria.

"Michael Williams was instrumental in revitalizing many degraded buildings in downtown Victoria."

Again, and example of an individual that has made a difference - why is it that so much positive work is done, or driven on, by a relative small number of people? What is about the governance system that relies on these (often maverick) individuals to achieve important advances?

"why is it that so much positive work is done, or driven on, by a relative small number of people? What is about the governance system that relies on these (often maverick) individuals to achieve important advances?"

These "mavericks" possess the vision, drive, connectedness and guts to go where people entrenched in governance systems would not dare go for fear of making a mistake. After all, the goal of an elected official is to get re-elected (in most cases).


Not to stray off topic here, but I will anyhow. This approach to development is a relatively new concept that I believe is a good one. So in looking at how this can be examined and reapplied to other cities I thought of my home town. There are vast expanses of lakefront land in the Greater Toronto Area GTA minutes from the downtown core that are too polluted for residential zoning. It would be in the city and the provinces best interests to develop this area (or part of it) into a functioning LEED certified community. The city is broke so we would have to look to the province for assistance on this one. One would think that this would be an attractive endeavor for the provincial government, not only to buy GTA votes but also to hop on the green wagon a bit. It would also reduce commuting and redefine the cities waterfront.

Paramount to a project like this one is timing. I believe it would be much more difficult if not impossible to implement an alternative project such as the dockside green if the real estate market was not booming as it is. Also in times of recession green is not a priority for many, sadly it is often more of a luxury. Feeding the family is more important than buying recycled toilet paper (or any other green product at a premium). I bring up these issues of timing to stress the need for expediency in exporting this methodology to other projects across the country. In re-applying this project to other cities, it will be important to keep in mind what did not work. I see this method as a valuable tool for future developments.

In reply to by pdixon


Agree that timing is an important factor with regards to sustainable community development. Another factor that seems to go hand in hand with this is the 'environmental' or 'sustainability' culture within the municipal administration. I say hand in hand because there might be champions at lower levels within the City administration but if they are unable to build vertical capital by influencing their superiors their initiatives go nowhere. On the other hand, if the ideas exist, if there are champions and management is receptive you end up with a culture that can see the project through. This is not to say that timing and receptiveness alone will result in success as there are many other influencing factors such as governance structures, community involvement, funding, etc.


This sustainable community looks great and incorporates many green infrastructure techniques to become low emitting but not self-sustainable. With all the green technology used I am curious to know why this project did not use solar technology to help power the community. Since there is a major solar project subsided in the City of Colwood right next door. I understand that this project took place in 2007 and the Colwood project wasn’t until 2011 but if it was going to be a transparent and open floor, the project would have had more than just Vic-west community association as the social aspect of the TBL.I understand the cost of solar photovoltaic cells is costly but if the city of Victoria is selling the land well below the market value and the point of the project is to have a green sustainable community, why not solar energy?
An example of a truly greening community is Feldheim, Germany. In 2009 in Feldheim, a village of 43 homes near Berlin, households put down about 3,000 euros each to help pay for the village heating system. Half of the 1.7 million-euro cost was covered by a grant from the European Regional Development Fund (That is close to how much The City of Victoria gave away the land below market value) the remainder was financed with a bank loan paid back through heating bills. As renewable energy prices drop, every household and business has the incentive to become a stand-alone power plant. The soccer pitch lights are hooked up to a 450,000-euro local grid that in October 2010 made Feldheim the first German municipality to run entirely on its own renewables-fueled generators.
Since the major disappoint of the project was the social housing and the difficulties of incorporating that aspect into the project. Wouldn’t it be important to reduce long term costs on low income families? This is just one example of new community developments that cities might want to think about when greening a project. Of course the utility companies don’t like this idea at all, but I can’t stand paying overly inflated hydro with new smart meters.
Overall I believe the city and the government had best intentions to take contaminated land create something useful and liveable. With more planning I believe that they could have built a truly self-sustainable green community that people could live, work, and play and be off the grid. Furthermore sell energy back to surrounding communities. However when private business is involved the end result of the triple bottom line is profit.