This Just In

Vancouver Convention Centre Expansion Provides a Model for Sustainability


Vancouver, BC – At a time when talk of green buildings is common, there is little that is common about the green design of the Vancouver Convention Centre expansion, which opened in April. The environment was a consideration in every phase of the expansion project, from the building’s living roof to the marine habitat skirt for sea life at the building’s perimeter.

“Without a doubt, there’s interest globally in lessening the environmental impact of coming together to meet and do business,” says Ken Cretney, general manager, Vancouver Convention Centre. “We have a long history of being green at the center, and we know that our expansion will become an example of best practices for our industry.”

The convention center is on track to achieve LEED® Canada Gold certification, according to Seattle-based LMN Architects, design architect for the expansion, in association with local architects Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership and DA Architects & Planners.

“This building is situated in a spectacular location, with the mountains, ocean and parks on one side and the rich urban core on the other,” says Tom Burgess, project manager at LMN Architects. “And when the Winter Olympics come to Vancouver in 2010, the Vancouver Convention Centre will be a powerful visual testament of this community’s commitment to sustainability.”

The Living Roof

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the expansion is its six-acre living roof. It is landscaped with more than 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses, providing a natural habitat for birds, insects and small mammals. Four beehives were placed on the roof to house a colony of bees that is expected to pollinate the flowers and plants.

In addition to being a living habitat, the green roof also provides neighboring buildings a pleasant view to enjoy. The living roof will help to reduce heat gains in Summer and heat losses in Winter. It will also help keep sound out, an important feature since float planes continually take off and land just outside the building. The living roof will be completely irrigated by reclaimed water from the black water treatment system within the building.

No chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides will be used on the roof. Each year, the roof will be mowed in the Fall and clippings will be composted and used as fertilizer.

Shoreline and Marine Habitat Restoration

The expanded convention center is built on a platform that is 40% over water. As a part of enhancing the marine environment, a pre-cast concrete skirt was added around the building, creating an artificial reef that has become a flourishing habitat for barnacles, mussels, seaweed, starfish and other sea life. LMN collaborated with marine biologists to develop the restoration plans for 200 feet of shoreline and 1,500 feet of marine habitat.

Water Conservation and Reuse

The convention center’s water conservation and reuse strategy is projected to dramatically reduce potable water use. The system features black water treatment, which processes the building’s sewage water to render it appropriate for other uses. It will provide approximately 80% of the gray water needed for toilet flushing and supplemental water for irrigation of the living roof. A desalinization plant draws water from the harbor and processes it to meet additional non-potable water demands.

Heating, Cooling and Ventilation

An energy-efficient seawater heat pump system takes advantage of the constant temperature of the adjacent seawater to produce cooling for the building during warmer months and heating for the building in cooler months. Back-up heat is provided by steam when needed.

Pre-function spaces on the west side of the building have natural ventilation to support healthy indoor air quality. Also, five-story high, ultra-clear windows enable the building to be flooded with natural light.

Recycling Program

The Vancouver Convention Centre’s facility-wide recycling program recovers nearly half the total amount of waste generated, including paper and cardboard, wood, metal, plastics, glass, batteries, food and organic waste, and electronic equipment. The plan is to recycle more than 320,000 lbs. of waste material each year.

Also, everything from the kitchen is made from scratch so there’s a lot less packaging to throw out, enabling the convention center to reduce its carbon footprint. Green Seal certified cleaning products and restroom papers are used throughout the facility.

Reach Ken Cretney at (604) 647-7201 or; Tom Burgess at (206) 682-3460 or




Vancouver Convention Centre’s Green Features


  • Six-acre living roof, the largest in Canada and one of the largest non-industrial living roofs in North America
  • Shoreline and marine habitat restoration
  • Water conservation and reuse system that features black water treatment and desalinization
  • Heat pump system that takes advantage of the constant temperature of adjacent seawater
  • Energy efficient fixtures
  • Natural ventilation
  • Extensive use of controlled day-lighting
  • Facility-wide recycling program
  • Local materials used, including locally harvested Douglas Fir and Hemlock wood finishes
  • Radiant floor cooling
  • On track to achieve LEED® Canada Gold certification

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