I went to Quest 2014, a 3-day conference, thinking I knew quite a bit about alternative energy, but this conference opened my eyes to the latest and greatest in energy generation, recovery, and distribution. It also focused on the environmental, financial, political, and economic impacts that this technology produces. The technology talked about the most was district heating.
District heating is a technology in which a medium like water is heated by a source at one central location and pumped to many other residential, commercial or industrial buildings to be used to heat the building’s space and heat the water. This system is much more efficient at heating (and cheaper in the long term) than a dedicated heating system in each building.
Did you know that Downtown Vancouver has a district heating system that heats 45 million square feet of space in 210 buildings, which began in 1968? – I didn’t.
It was more expensive to set up a district heating system, and it presented more risks which is why in the past it was not seen as additional value to people looking to buy an apartment in a new development that contained this technology. That is all changing now, and this conference’s topic was how to go about implementing these technologies.
One of the best aspects of the conference was that industry leaders would speak about their real life experiences and give their input on what was going on in Vancouver. My favorite speaker was Ian Gillespie, the founder of Westbank Corp. He genuinely believes that sustainability aspects of some of his past development have added enough value for the buyer to justify pursuing sustainability on a financial basis. To me that is huge because if sustainability doesn’t make financial sense, then only the few developers who think it’s the morally right thing to do (while taking an economic loss on it) will pursue those projects. Alternatively, if potential homebuyers value sustainability enough to justify the cost, then nearly all new developments will be built this way, which would mean that environmental sustainability can be economically sustainable.
On the third day we went on a field trip.
We visited a property owned by Concert Properties behind the North Shore Automall in North Vancouver. Jonathon Meades explained Concert’s vision for the land. One interesting detail was that a few of the streets were going to be arranged in such a way that would allow a clear line-of-site to the Two Lions mountains in the distance. Another detail I found compelling was that they are planning to encourage smaller mom-and-pop type restaurants and business to move into the commercial space in the development, so that there will be more of a community-oriented feel.
Next, we went to SFU where we met Dale Mickelson, and he talked about the UniverCity development, the vision behind the original SFU construction and gave us a guided tour of UniverCity. I bet quite a few of the students don’t know that the blue shipping container in the parking lot near Cornerstone heats over 1100 units in the development through district heating, or that the UniverCity Childcare centre is on its way to be the first Certified Living Building in Canada. Since it’s literally in our backyard, I would encourage students to learn more about this project.
All in all, the conference was a great experience. I learned what was going on in Vancouver, what the sustainable energy market is like, and even learned more about my favorite post-secondary school.
Chris Melnyk is in his final year at the Beedie School of Business concentrating in Finance and Entrepreneurship. After having worked in different roles in the construction industry, Chris grew an interest in Real Estate Development and Brokerage. He is currently a Beedie Ambassador and enjoys meeting new people in various industries.