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Ecocity World Summit 2019: Vancouver Leads the Way into the New Age of Green Building

Groundbreaking, revolutionary, trendsetting. What do these words have in common? They have all been used to describe the 2019 Ecocity World Summit by Ecocity Builders.

Held every two years since 1990, the Ecocity Summit Series has risen to significance around the globe for the important role the summit series plays in the development of innovative solutions to some of the most complex issues of our time.

The UN estimates that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by the year 2050. With rapid changes to urban areas comes rapid increases in the volume of challenges we will face in coming years.

The 2019 Ecocity World Summit series will address urbanization through the theme “Socially Just and Sustainable Cities”, with the help of over 1000 thought leaders, decision-makers, researchers, and green industry leaders. Held right here in Vancouver from October 7-11, 2019, we can look forward to innovative conversations and debates on topics such as:

  • Urban Design (Safe and Affordable Housing, Green Building)
  • Socio-Cultural Features (Well-being and Quality of Life)
  • Bio-Geo-Physical Conditions (Clean Air, Renewable Energy)
  • Ecological Imperatives (Ecological Integrity)

The Ecocity World Summit will highlight the green construction industry, putting a spotlight on Vancouver and British Columbia’s progressive green building scene.

ecocity world summit 2019 vancouverWhy Vancouver?

Each city is unique; the layout of the city, diversity of inhabitants, and the surrounding landscape can vary from place to place.

To be considered an ecocity, there must be common characteristics from one city to the next. The working definition of an ecocity (adopted in 2010 by Ecocity Builders and the International Ecocity Framework & Standards) was developed right in Vancouver and is defined as:

                “An Ecocity is a human settlement modeled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems. The ecocity provides healthy abundance to its inhabitants without consuming more (renewable) resources than it produces, without producing more waste than it can assimilate, and without being toxic to itself or neighboring ecosystems. Its inhabitants’ ecological impact reflect planetary supportive lifestyles; its social order reflects fundamental principles of fairness, justice, and reasonable equity.”

Perhaps, instead of looking at why the Ecocity World Summit will be held in Vancouver in 2019, we should be asking why not?

Vancouver aims to be the world’s greenest city and we’ve set ambitious environmental goals to earn that status. Unlike most municipalities, Vancouver’s source for electricity is already close to 100% renewable. Our urban landscape sprawls with green roofs, rooftop gardens, solar panels, and green transportation.

Community spaces contribute to Vancouver’s unique position as an ecocity. The topic of Affordable Housing at the upcoming Ecocity World Summit could not be at a better time for Vancouver, as the city prepares to build over 1000 affordable housing units by 2021 to accommodate lower and middle-income families.

Efforts to create adequate community space for city residents go beyond affordable housing units, but also include outdoor spaces that the city can experience together.

vancouver community garden ecocity 2019

Map of Vancouver’s Community Garden Spaces via the City of Vancouver


Vancouver is home to over 110 community gardens, which can be found at City Hall, municipal parks, schools, and on private property. Another unique aspect that Vancouver brings to the table at the Ecocity World Summit is the VIVA Vancouver program, which is dedicated to creating “vibrant people spaces”. VIVA Vancouver focuses on projects that transform road spaces into vibrant people spaces, helping to make the city a more liveable and walkable place for residents to enjoy.

If you live in Vancouver or have visited the city, you may have already encountered one of VIVA Vancouver’s projects! The Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza was permanently closed to traffic in the summer of 2017, creating a space for visitors to socialize and enhancing the sense of community in the city centre.

north plaza redevelopment vancouver ecocity 2019

VAG North Plaza redevelopment via HAPA

The city is also leading the way in the ecocity movement with the new Zero Emissions Building Plan, which changes building bylaws within the city to reduce the level of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from new buildings.

Vancouver is writing the book on what it means to be an ecocity. Did you know that the concepts of carbon footprint and ecological footprint were developed in Vancouver?

In addition to the city of Vancouver’s environmental initiatives, the province of British Columbia is also making waves in green building. In April of 2017, the province introduced the BC Energy Step Code which intends to make all buildings net-zero energy ready by 2032.

To support the construction industry with transitioning to the BC Energy Step Code and Vancouver’s Zero Emissions Building bylaws, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) created the BCIT Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB) Learning Centre.

Renown nationally for academic leadership, BCIT is a key player in green employment training within the construction and trades sector; the ZEB Learning Centre showcases BCIT’s dedication to propelling our city and province forward toward a sustainable future through the provision of resources (technical guides, brochures, installation manuals), tradesperson education, workshops, presentations, and so much more.


Ecocity Builders and BCIT; Better Together.

In the Greater Vancouver area, BCIT is unmatched in their variety and level of educational programs specializing in trades and the environmental field. With programs in Ecological Restoration, Environmental Engineering, and Sustainable Energy Management (just to name a few), BCIT is a leader in environmental education and a pillar of support in the Ecocity initiative.

BCIT has partnered with Ecocity Builders in sponsorship (and as the host) of the upcoming Summit next year. BCIT’s School of Construction and Environment is the academic lead for developing the International Ecocity standards, which will be launched at the Summit.

The school’s participation in this event demonstrates their commitment to education that goes beyond the classroom to empower the role of trades in green industry; education in skilled trades can play a key role in helping change how cities are built in the future. 


The Impact on the Construction and Skilled Trades Industry.

This is an exciting time for a career in trades and construction in Western Canada.

British Columbia has one of the highest percentages of green building jobs in the labour force in the country, largely due to new progressive building code requirements, provincial and municipal green building legislature, and market leadership.

Going forward, what do the new regulations in Vancouver and British Columbia mean for builders and tradespeople?

How will the innovations and new initiatives unveiled at the 2019 Ecocity World Summit change the construction industry?

It will create the need for innovative and creative solutions to meet new demands.

New positions (think “Construction Site Manager” for a new low-income housing complex) and exciting opportunities in green infrastructure will require great talent.

The exciting part: industry changes are already happening!

Recent research on “green employment” in the Canadian workforce shows that the Construction and Trades sector accounts for 55% of all green employment. This is equivalent to an estimated 164.445 jobs and $13.13 billion dollars in GDP, making green employment and building initiatives highly influential on the economy.

With an increasing amount of government initiatives in the near future, we can expect the number of jobs (and influence on the economy) to rise steadily.


It doesn’t stop there.


The job market in green construction and trades is rapidly growing. An industry survey conducted by the Canada Green Building Council (in collaboration with McGraw Hill Construction) revealed that over half of the survey respondents reported 30% of their job duties involve green building projects. Participants in the survey revealed they expect that number to rise to at least 70% of their job duties involving green building projects in upcoming years.


Fun fact: Job creation in the green building sector has already exceeded the combined total of Canada’s oil and gas extraction, mining and forestry industries.


Canada’s construction industry will likely continue to see significant increases in the green infrastructure market. One example of this market shift is noticeable with the increase of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings in Canada.

The LEED green standard rewards builders for using locally sourced materials, environmentally friendly glues, paints, primers, and sealants. Today, there are over 5000 buildings in Canada registered for a LEED rating; the LEED initiative forever shifted the construction industry in Canada.


New Age in Construction and Trades.

The 2019 Ecocity World Summit will showcase how Vancouver is growing while maintaining balance with nature.

The innovation and ideology that are bound to break through at the Summit, combined with the changes to bylaws and legislature in Vancouver and British Columbia, and BCIT’s advancements in assisting the construction and trades industry with the transition to low-emission buildings reveals to us that there is a new age in construction and trades: green.


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