How We Will Build A Sustainable All-Season Resort In Squamish

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Garibaldi aims to be the most environmentally friendly resort ever built and operated. But what does that mean? It is a fair question.

In order to fully define what we can do to make our all-season resort a showpiece project for Squamish and the world, we recently sat down with some leaders in sustainable building ideas and practices who live in Squamish for a "brainstorming" session to get their ideas on what a sustainable resort should include.

Vice President Rod MacLeod stated that we want to look first at "Made in Squamish" solutions. We have an abundance of expertise here in sustainable building practices, and we want to tap them as a starting point. The discussion was enlightening and highlighted just how fast the technology and ideas are moving in this area. Done right, we can build the most sustainable resort in North America, if not the world. While "sustainable building" often can mean things are more expensive, the fact that we are starting from scratch and that these technologies are getting better and less expensive means many of these things could be both money and energy savers by the time we complete our first phase.

Here are some of the ideas that were brought forward at our first Sustainability Seminar:

The 100 Mile Home. The objective is to ensure that the construction of a home includes as many building materials as feasible from a 100 miles (160 km) radius, thus reducing transportation costs, and promoting local employment.

Prefabricated Houses that are constructed in just days. Kelvin Mooney of Factor Building Panels told the group about a 4000 sq.ft home his company completed in just 6 days on site. The computer-designed wall and roof panel components were pre-fabricated in the company warehouse in Squamish, shipped to Comox, and then the structural and insulated aspects of the house were erected and ready for roofers in 6 days. In addition to being more cost effective, reduced commuting for construction workers can be ideal in a mountain environment with a short construction season. The home was also certified by the homeowner as a "Passive Plus" home. "Passive homes" are buildings that earn internationally-recognized certification due to their low demands on energy by way of leveraging advanced construction techniques, materials and energy modelling.

  • Build buildings to uber-efficient standards- ensure that all new construction is built to a certification standard like Passive House, so that energy use for space heating (winter) or cooling (summer is minimal). This will drive down building energy demand, while ensuring quiet and comfortable buildings that have good air quality (even during forest fire season when people stay inside to avoid smoke).

Charging Hubs: Create future proof communities by installing enough electric vehicle recharging stations or hubs to support every household or large numbers of visitors.

Eliminate or Extensively Reduce Natural Gas. The entire site already is GHG free, and the development can and should be built to stay that way. Don’t invest in expensive fossil fuel infrastructure or tanks. Instead, design the development based on renewable energy. Heat can be generated from locally sourced wood waste and pellets, geothermal, and Solar. Hydroelectric energy is GHG neutral..

Mass Transit. As major community priority, mass transit is seen as essential for the resort to reduce vehicle traffic. The resort is already committed to working with local authorities on ensuring there is ample mass transit to the resort and improving transit between Vancouver and Squamish. At some time over the resort build-out, electric buses should be the optimal choice. By building a walkable resort, we are planning a town where people will not need cars when they visit.

Kinetic Energy Recapture. Utilities planning will include exploration into how kinetic energy from water sources can be harness into an alternative energy source.

“Wood First” as a building material. It is the most sustainable building material and can be locally sourced. Embodied carbon GHGs can be reduced by up to 40% when you build with wood.

Solar Energy Systems. Both Thermal and PV - particularly for hot water. We could also build houses with rooftop solar panels and create a grid that will store or use the power when it is available by, for example, pumping water up to a reservoir.

Rainwater Capture and separate clean water and grey-water systems. This could tie in to a natural swimming pool that is kept clean without chlorine. Designed right, this could be an ice rink in the winter.

Design for the Environment. Architectural design should be based on fundamentals of creating a cohesive landscape that complements, supports and enhances the existing natural backdrop and blends into the forest. Considerations in vantage points, view obstructions, colouring and materials will all be priorities during the design process.

Participants also pointed out this is a huge game changing opportunity for Squamish to participate in the emerging green building economy, which the Vancouver Economic Commission values at $3.3B based on lower mainland and Vancouver Island communities working towards Step 5 of the BC Energy Step code. By delivering high-standard green buildings, and by committing to sustainable building practices, the project can open tremendous job opportunities for skilled trades and product manufacturers in Squamish. With businesses, products, and employees who have the expertise and experience in the best sustainable building products and practices, we can create a world-leading industry that can create jobs in Squamish for decades into the future.

The resort will look at these ideas and further discuss the best ways to improve environmental sustainability and reduce carbon footprint with consumer affordability in mind. However, the rapid growth and innovation in green technology has continued to show that over time, these technologies consistently improve and become more affordable. For example, according to Doug Bonde, “When I installed my first solar system in Squamish, the payback period was about 20 years. Now it is down to 12 years, and it continues to come down every year."

Because this is a new resort, it will be designed and built sustainably from the start. Many resorts are retrofitting more efficient water or electrical fixtures. The Garibaldi Resort will be designed to be sustainable from inception. For technologies such as solar panels, high grade insulated buildings, or electric vehicle chargers, building new is almost always much less expensive than refits on established buildings. When building Passive Houses - homes that use 90% less energy than typical Canadian houses – lots and homes may be oriented to take maximum advantage of the sunlight - something that is much easier to do when you can create subdivisions with exactly that in mind.

Resort proponent Aquilini Development Group recently added Bill Aujla to the Garibaldi at Squamish Team.  Bill has extensive experience in sustainable development and facilities management. He previously held a position as General Manager of Real Estate and Facilities Management with the City of Vancouver, where he also served as the Project Manager for the Southeast False Creek and Olympic Village development in anticipation of the 2010 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games.

As Project Manager for the Olympic Village, Bill oversaw a team that achieved LEED Platinum certification, which recognized it as North America’s greenest neighbourhood. LEED is a third party certification program that recognizes performance in five key areas of human and environmental health, including energy efficiency, water efficiency, sustainable site development, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The Olympic Village features sustainable design, including rainwater harvesting, sewer heat recovery, and green roofs. It encompasses Canada’s first residential multi-unit Net Zero Affordable Housing Project, Habitat Island (a man-made island off the west shore of the Village), and the restoration of a heritage building (Salt Building).

One of the key challenges of building a Sustainable Resort will be planning to intercept the rapidly advancing technology while planning years ahead. When questioning Maxime Charron and Doug Bonde, experts on Solar Power and Electric Cars respectively, on where their technology will be in 5 years, they hesitate to give certain answers because the science is improving so quickly. There is no way to be certain where things will be when we begin phase 4 construction in 2040. However, it is clear that the industry is improving rapidly in solar and battery technology, and costs are coming down. Building for advancing technology will be essential.

The phased construction will also be an advantage - after each phase of construction, we can look at what worked well, and what can be improved upon for the next phase, ensuring we keep ahead of the curve.

The Resort Team plans to continue to meet with this group and other businesses and individuals in Squamish that have the expertise, great ideas, or just enthusiasm for environmentally friendly building, and further discuss what we can do to make this the most sustainable resort in North America.

These key principles will be put into our final Master Plan to be approved by the Province. If we are part of the District of Squamish, then Squamish Council can set guidelines and ensure they are met through each phase.

If you have a business in Squamish that focuses on sustainable building practices, have some great ideas to share, or would just like to get involved, please sign up at and note your business or interest in the comments section. We look forward to more great ideas and discussion at our next meeting.

Thanks to all our Workshop Participants*

• Chief Dale Harry - Squamish Nation interests in local training and jobs for you youth, and contracting opportunities for members

• Kelvin Mooney – Factor Building Panels - prefabricated, healthy, and energy efficient homes constructed with sustainable and natural building materials

• Marnie Lett – BC Timberframe & Brand Squared Agency

• Maxime Charron – Leading Ahead Energy – electric charging stations

• Eric Anderson – wood use, energy efficiency (Eric clarified that he was NOT attending in his role as a Squamish Council Member, but as a longtime volunteer for many environmental groups and committees)

• Doug Bonde – off-grid energy specialist Synergy Renewable – net zero warehouse, off grid at Ring Creek for 18 years

• Scott Logan – Scottywood – locally grown and produced wood decking products

• Sabina FooFat – Former planner DOS for 10 years, Senior Planner in the Sustainability Division with the City of Vancouver

*Participant were attending and offering thoughts on the questions “When we build this resort, what should we do to build it as sustainably as possible”. Their presence does not confirm they necessarily 100% support the resort.

Gord Addison