Thursday, September 24, 2020

Metro Vancouver pilot program to reduce strata energy usage a success

Strata Building

In Metro Vancouver about 31% of households live in stratas, in Langley City that number is 43%. We also know that around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in our region is a result of building energy usage which includes lighting, hot water, heating, and cooling.

Reducing energy usage in buildings is a key requirement if we are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to help mitigate some of the impacts of climate change.

Both the provincial and federal governments have programs to help people that own detached housing retrofit their homes to reduce energy utilization. These programs have missed people that live in stratas.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District partnered with some municipalities in our region to launch a pilot program to help strata corporations reduce energy usage, and “make smarter choices, save money over time, and improve their building.” This program was supported by BC Hydro, Fortis BC, and BC Housing. The pilot program was called “Strata Energy Advisor.

82 strata corporations took part in the pilot program which included a walk-through energy assessment and business case report outline ways to save energy and money.

As a result of the program, 38 stratas completed energy efficiency retrofits which represented 2,642 households. This pilot program has resulted in 640,605 kWh of electricity and 3,758 GJ of natural gas being saved per year. The total lifetime greenhouse gas reduction for the pilot program is 2,265 tonnes.

These are large numbers show that the pilot program was a success. The pilot program also had some challenges, but the pilot program report outlines how these challenges were met.

As the pilot program was a success, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff are looking to roll out a full region-wide Strata Energy Advisor program.

I live in a strata apartment that was build in the 1980s and rebuilt in the early 2000s due to a fire. I know that our strata corporation would benefit from a program like this as completing an energy audit without the support of a program like Strata Energy Advisor would be a difficult endeavor.

I hope that the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors (which consist of mayors and councillors) approves moving forward with a region-wide program. It will help people save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

August COVID-19 Cases by Municipal Area in South of Fraser/Fraser Valley

The BC CDC has recently shared the number of COVID-19 cases by Local Health Area. They included a map which has a colour-coded representation of the cases per 100,000. To help quantify the data further, I thought I would create a chart which shows the new case rate for August.

This chart is based on new COVID-19 cases as shown in the following table. The new cases are extrapolated from the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases from January until the end of July, and January until the end of August. You can read my prevoius post to see a chart from January until the end of July. Data is from the BC CDC, and the 2019 municipal population estimates.

Municipal Area Population Cumulative Cases
- End of August
Cumulative Cases
- End of July
August New Cases Rate per 100,000
Chilliwack 94,534 38 34 4 4
Ridge Meadows 110,950 119 96 23 21
Delta 109,490 101 62 39 36
Mission 43,202 175 158 17 39
Langley 158,642 219 138 81 51
Abbotsford 158,457 561 454 107 68
Surrey/White Rock 605,553 1097 585 512 85

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Three rules for creating strong downtowns and main streets. Why these rules are almost impossible to follow today.

This summer, I’ve spent time rediscovering many of the villages, towns, and cities in BC’s Interior that I haven’t visited (or lived in) since I moved away from there almost 20 years ago. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that many of these places have strong walkable downtowns and main streets. What is the secret to their success?

One prerequisite is that these walkable areas must be in communities that have a stable or growing population though it takes more than population growth to create great walkable places. There are three things that I’ve observed that are required to create strong walkable downtowns and main streets.

The geometry of streets is critical. Streets must have intersections at least every 200 metres, have sidewalks, and be connected with each other. This doesn’t mean that every street has to be on a perfect grid. Langley City’s Downtown has streets that are connected at various angles, but they are all connected.

Streets should also be slow. People need to feel comfortable walking along a sidewalk, crossing a street, riding a bike, or parallel parking. Slower traffic is quieter which makes it pleasant to have a conservation while walking on a sidewalk or sitting on a street bench. This promotes wandering which is good for retail.

Nakusp's main streets are 30km/h. Select image to enlarge.

Shops must front the street in a continues wall of windows and entrances. There should never be a parking lot between a storefront and the streets, and there should never be a blank wall. These windows and doors encourage people to continue walking down a street to discover what’s next. Malls emulate this concept.

Parking can be accommodated on-street, via lanes, or with strategically placed parking lots/facilities.

On Broadway in Nakusp, there are sidewalks and on-street parking. Shops all front the main street. Select image to enlarge.

In Nakusp for example, their Save-On grocery store is located at the intersection of two of their main streets. The Save-On fronts both these main streets. Parking is provided on-street and via a small parking lot off the main streets.

These three rules are a basic formula that has been replicated in more than a hundred villages, towns, and cities in BC. With this proven formula, why is it almost impossible to create new main streets and downtowns? Much of it has to do with our municipal bylaws and master transportation plans.

Most municipalities place new connected streets every 400 to 800 metres. Internal streets are places within these 400-plus metre mega-blocks. On-street parking is usually prohibited on these connects streets. The speed limits on these streets are also 50km/h or higher. Internal streets, within these mega-blocks, are designed to be disconnected, making them difficult to travel whether by foot, bike, or car.

Most zoning bylaws in BC make it impossible to build new downtowns or main streets. Minimum parking requirements mean that more space is needed for parking than actual shops. Many zoning bylaws also require that on-site parking be place in front of and around shops making it unappealing to walk or bike.

In most BC municipalities, including Langley City, there are provisions that exempt older downtowns and main streets from current minimum parking requirements.

By encouraging a closely spaced street network, slower streets, and on-street/shared off-street parking, we can build downtowns and main streets that create a strong local economy, sense of places, and sense of community.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Langley City public projects under construction. Library branch service enhancements.

This summer has been a busy construction season in Langley City. Council received an update about on-going projects from Rick Bomhof who is the Director of Engineering, Parks and Environment for the City.

One of the largest projects in Langley City is the replacement of the Logan Creek culvert and watermain under the Langley Bypass near the Gateway of Hope. This $1.2 million project is jointly funded between the City and TransLink. The project is scheduled to wrap up at the end of this month if the weather remains dry.

Presentation about Logan Creek Culvert Replacements. Select image to enlarge.

On the topic of culverts, Langley City is also cleaning many other culverts that go under streets throughout the community. Over time, sediment and debris build up in culverts which impacts water flow.

The new walking trail and dog off-leash area at Brydon Park is nearing completion. This new section of the park is scheduled to open in the next few weeks.

One of the requests from residents along Grade Crescent was to pave the walkway that connects Grade Crescent to 48th Avenue, just east of 201A Street. This paving was recently completed.

Traffic calming was also recently completed at Upland Elementary School with the installation of delineators to narrow the road. City crews also repaired the bike lane delineators on 53rd Avenue.

Langley City’s library branch is now open for people to browse in-branch material and use the computers. Curbside pickup is still being offered as well. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of library services has been growing.

On Monday night, council approved funding upgrading the automatic book sorting machine and installing a countertop glass barrier for our library branch with $20,750 from the library’s “Salary and Benefit Reserve.”