Cranberry Commons is not unlike many cohousing groups in that we have
placed a high priority on respecting the environment. We have attempted
to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of the community design,
starting with the selection of the site right up to the solar hot water
panels that were installed on the roof.
The site was chosen because it is located within a block of a busy commercial
street with grocery stores, a wide variety of shops and restaurants, banks
and other amenities. It's close to a major public transportation corridor
and is an easy half hour bus ride to downtown Vancouver. This makes it
easier for residents to rely less on the automobile as a primary means
Some of our sustainability features are listed below.
Energy and Water Conservation
Using a centrally located, commercial grade high efficiency boiler for
domestic hot water and space heating combined with an in-floor radiant
heat distribution system increases both energy efficiency and occupant
comfort. The extra cost of the in-floor system was made more palatable
by the anticipation of a warm floor under bare feet, avoiding the dust
and noise issues associated with a forced air or electrical heating systems,
and the $3,500/year savings in energy costs for the project.
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Using compact fluorescent lighting in appropriate locations, such as the
numerous porch lights, and by maximizing the halogen lighting within the
units, we save almost $1,000/year. Compact fluorescents use 75% less electricity
than normal incandescent lights and the extra capital costs for fixtures
and bulbs is balanced against the fact that these lights last ten times
With the support of the Canadian government's Renewable Energy Deployment
Initiative and the BC provincial government's Renewable Energy Technology
Program, solar hot-water panels were installed, which offset the domestic
hot water load by 50%.
Low flow toilets and showerheads reduce the requirement for potable water
significantly. The Briggs model that was installed works great - no need
to flush twice!
Landscaping employs native plantings, which require lower maintenance
and water use and enhance the local natural ecosystem. Rain barrels located
near planted areas such as the common garden further reduce potable water
The use of high volume flyash concrete in the parkade and building slab
reduced the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of
cement by up to 50% while providing a constructive use for a waste product
from burning coal. The production of cement in the Vancouver region results
in almost 50% as much CO2 emissions as all the personal automobiles combined!
About 10% of the wood used for the buildings were reclaimed timbers. There
were a few challenges using this material - it was difficult to get a
good supply and the cost to de-nail the wood on site was expensive.
While the cost of "eco-shakes" or long life metal roofing systems proved
to be more than the budget could manage, the use of long-life asphalt
shingles extend the expected time to replacement from 25 to 40 years.
Waste Reduction and Behavioral Alternatives
Construction site recycling was mandated in the construction contracts
to minimize materials sent to landfill. The following items were sorted
on site and recycled: cardboard, clean dimensional timber and palette
wood, concrete, scrap metal, drywall, and paint (to hazardous waste depot).
Shared composters near landscaped areas and designated community recycling
bins located near the project garbage facility make it easy for community
members to engage in these behaviors.
Sharing resources and bulk purchasing are easier because the extensive
common facilities shared by the community support the social fabric, which
makes the sharing of resources a daily reality. Although all of the homes
are equipped with connections for private washers and dryers, there is
also a shared laundry in the common house. More than 50% of the residents
have chosen to share the laundry facilities. In addition, there are a
number of people who are sharing cars and other equipment such as canoes
and kayaks. About 1/3 of the 38 parking stalls are never used because
of the reduced number of vehicles! Sharing reduces the impact on the environment
by lowering production needs for consumer products.
The parkade has lots of secure bicycle storage.
To facilitate at work-at-home and telecommuting arrangements, all units
are equipped with two runs of CAT5 wiring. The community also shares a
local area network and a high-speed Internet connection similar to that
found in most offices making it easier for residents to work at home.