Both the master plan for the project and its first phase, called Synergy, were designed by Busby Perkins + Will, which has been responsible for numerous high-density condo towers and mixed-use projects in British Columbia and beyond — the Meriwether Condominiums in Portland, Oregon's burgeoning South Waterfront district being just one example.
Dockside Green occupies a brownfield site across the water from downtown Victoria, with its picturesque harbor and provincial parliament building. The new development will include direct access to the shoreline, with a new waterfront walkway along Point Ellice Park. A public wharf will also offer water taxi service and a boat launch. It's entirely conceivable that a member of the provincial government could kayak to work daily while living at Dockside Green.
The first residents began moving into the condos, townhouses, and garden flats of Synergy in March 2008. Occupancy of Balance, a second residential cluster designed by Busby Perkins + Will, is set for early 2009. Those two clusters, along with shops, nature trails, and an onsite wastewater treatment plant, will form the Dockside Wharf neighborhood. Two other neighborhoods are planned to follow.
Synergy includes four detached buildings, going around counterclockwise in plan: a nine-story residential tower anchoring the corner, a two-story townhouse, a six-story building with retail on the ground floor and residential above, and an additional four-story residential building.
The buildings themselves are handsome if relatively unremarkable. Featuring ample amounts of glass with interlocking metal panels, they possess exceptional daylighting and a gentle curve that gives the forms of the larger structures in Synergy and Balance the feeling of motion.
The intent here was for simple, timeless forms. And as Dockside Green’s extensive green roofs, garden patios, and parklike surroundings mature, the simple, contemporary architecture will take on a new life as a backdrop for those natural elements.
"Some of the most rewarding things about designing for Dockside were not the architecture per se," says Adam Fawkes, who was one of the project's designers for Busby Perkins + Will. "The envelope and what the building looks like has some play in it. But a lot of it was the guts, the mechanical systems and how they operate."
Since the project began, other design firms have contributed to Dockside Green. For example, Terence Williams Architect Inc. partnered with Busby Perkins + Will on the master planning, then merged with the firm before design of Phase I.
To achieve so many LEED points, emphasis had to be placed on integrated design, involving a wide consortium of contractors, subcontractors, engineers, and other specialists in addition to the architects.
"Some of the meetings could get pretty large," recalls Fawkes, who has since moved on to another firm. "But I think everybody was so excited about the project that it was productive and positive."
"In terms of managing the work between the meetings and the different people," he continues, "that takes extra effort, especially when you are designing buildings that are multiphase. We'd have a phase with underground structures that would then connect to a future phase, so you'd have do design with some leeway and be thinking of future phases at the same time."
Ultimately, says developer Joe Van Belleghem, co-chair of Windmill West, architecture needs to be about more than buildings.
Among its numerous sustainable features, Dockside Green is employing an integrated energy system designed to ensure the development will be greenhouse-gas neutral, while also creating the opportunity for the project to become a net-energy provider. The system includes a biomass gasification plant that converts locally sourced wood waste into a clean-burning gas for heating and hot water.
Other features include heat-recovery ventilation units and low-e double-glazed windows. All told, energy savings at Dockside should be well over 50 percent compared to buildings meeting stipulated energy code requirements.
A comprehensive approach to water is another of Dockside Green's bold moves. All of the development's sewage will be treated in the onsite wastewater plant, for reuse in toilets and irrigation on site. Inputs into the facility are reduced by efficient plumbing fixtures in the buildings. Of the treated effluent, Van Belleghem reassures, "The quality of the water has been phenomenal."
More visually prominent will be a creek and pond system spread throughout Dockside's central greenway. The water features assist in stormwater retention, and are further fed by excess reclaimed wastewater. The greenway provides significant public open space.
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