Green Development Guidelines
These Green Development Guidelines provide advice and guidance on how to reduce the environmental impact of development in Moncton.
As a source of best practices, these guidelines recommend actions that go above and beyond the minimum requirements of applicable law. Nothing in these guidelines should be read as an exemption from complying with municipal by-laws such as the Zoning By-law, nor from the Building Code or other provincial or federal legislation.
In developing these Guidelines, we followed several principles:
1. Relevance to Moncton.
Some environmental issues, such as climate change call for largely the same response no matter where you are. Others are more or less relevant depending on the local climate, electricity system and other differences. A set of guidelines written for a desert community in Arizona should emphasize different actions than one written for a coastal town in British Columbia, and both will be distinct from one suited to Moncton's conditions.
2. Attention to scale and relative importance.
Too many green development guides present a "laundry list" of environmental actions side by side, with little guidance about the scale of their respective impacts. That makes it hard for the user to know what should be a priority or how tradeoffs can be made. These Guidelines start with what we see as the most important topics and devote more space to addressing them.
3. Explanations for the various recommendations.
It helps to understand why a given action is worthwhile, especially if doing it is hard or expensive. We have tried to explain the reasons behind our recommendations, especially where common knowledge may misunderstand them. For instance, in our section on waste separation, we point out that keeping plastic out of the rest of the waste stream has environmental benefits beyond recycling.
4. Urgency and ambition.
Dealing effectively with the climate and other emergencies demands that we do things fundamentally differently from how we have in the past, and to make those changes quickly. Much of it will be difficult. If it was easy, we would have done it already. Moncton has reinvented itself again and again in response to adversity; we can and must do so again. These Guidelines will help builders and developers who wish to do so in their development projects.
5. A living and learning document.
These Guidelines are based on our best knowledge at this time (May 2023.) Facing up to our environmental challenges will be an ongoing learning exercise. There may be advice in this document that changes over time, and new tips may be added, in later additions. When that happens, we'll highlight the changes and explain why we've made them.
The world's climate is heating up. This is mostly because of the greenhouse gases (GHG's) that are released when we burn fossil fuels for energy. Unless we reduce our GHG emissions, the world's climate will continue to warm, leading to rising sea levels, more destructive storms and wildfires, floods, famines and worse. Reducing GHG emissions is the single most important thing we can do on the environmental front.
This is not to say that deforestation, water quality, biodiversity and other issues aren't important. But if we do not address climate change, very little of what we do on those fronts will matter.
Almost everything we do leads to some GHG emissions, but some aspects of our buildings and cities are such big emitters as to be in a class by themselves.
The climate emergency and other environmental challenges can seem daunting, and the changes are needed throughout society. We hope this guide helps to inform and inspire the development industry in Moncton to take the lead in building a more sustainable city.
New resources, programs, grants, tax rebates and other incentives are constantly being developed and offered by the Federal, Provincial and municipal governments, as well as utilities such as NB Power. You can find up-to-date links here.
The single biggest thing you can do to "green" your development is to locate it and design it to minimize the amount of car travel needed, and to help create environments that encourage more walking, cycling and transit use instead of driving.
The overarching principle is that buildings should be at least as easy and convenient for a pedestrian, cyclist or transit user to access as it is for a motorist.
Locating in or close to Downtown or within a short walk of a major transit route
Moncton's Downtown area is one of the few relatively walkable urban areas in Canada where people can reasonably live without constant driving and, for many, without having to own a car in the first place. The more people we can enable to live and work in such environments, the more we reduce our future carbon emissions.
Developing within a 400-600 m walking distance of a main bus line will make it easier for residents and customers to get around without driving. It will also help to concentrate higher densities and more services along a transit corridor, enabling a higher level of transit service in the future.
Complementary mixed use
The most effective way to reduce travel demand between homes, jobs and services is to locate them all in the same building!
Integrating retail and other services into an otherwise residential building depends on there being an adequate customer base living nearby to frequent those businesses. Once built, a building will stand for decades, living into a future where the city is much different than it was at the time of construction.
Conversely, building residential units into the upper floors of an otherwise commercial building is straightforward. Essentially all of Moncton's commercial zones also allow residential use and integrating housing into commercial buildings will help alleviate an ongoing shortage of housing units.
Pedestrian-friendly site design
Buildings close to the street - Zoning often requires buildings to be set back from the street, both for practical reasons (such as future road widenings, snow storage) or for esthetic or design reasons. However, excessively deep front yard setbacks beyond the minimum requirement add to the distance a pedestrian or transit user must travel. (It also increases the amount of walkway to clear and salt during the winter.) Locating your building as close to the front lot line (and, in the case of a corner lot, to the street corner) as possible makes the building more accessible to non-drivers and encourages people to go there on foot or by transit.
New subdivisions tend to be laid out to minimize the amount of street that must be built; this often results in disconnected arrangements of crescents and cul-de-sacs. This model reduces infrastructure costs and shelters residents from motorized through traffic; however, this comes at the expense of being able to move towards one's destination in a straight line. This is less of a problem for motorists, who can cover the distance quickly, than for pedestrians using the same streets who often end up having to walk far out of their way to reach a destination.
Subdivisions should include a clearly-defined pedestrian network to supplement the street network, providing mid-block shortcuts and crossings, paths between cul-de-sacs and other pedestrian-only connections. Designing subdivisions with this kind of connectivity makes walking more practical and by extension reduces the need for motor vehicle trips.
Recognizing that allowing pedestrians to move in a straight line to their destinations is often not feasible, some principles include:
- Walking is slow and takes energy, so pedestrians need a relatively direct route to where they're going. The same detour that takes a minute or two in a car can add ten minutes or more to a pedestrian's trip (and more if it's a child.) Try to ensure that the walking distance along roads and footpaths between any two points is not too much longer than the "as-the-crow-flies" distance;
- Pedestrians should not spend too much of their walk moving away from their destination. In other words, avoid street networks that force the pedestrian to walk on a bearing that is more than 90 degrees away from their destination.
- The internal network of a subdivision should also connect readily at several points to the adjoining lands. This is true even, or especially, when the adjoining lands are not yet developed; providing multiple pedestrian connections in addition to the required stub streets provides the most options for integrating the next subdivision's pedestrian network.
Similarly, large commercial sites often cut themselves off from abutting neighbourhoods, when a short pedestrian connection would greatly reduce the walking distance for residents. This should be avoided, and multiple pedestrian options to neighbouring lands should be provided.
One useful exercise in designing sites and subdivisions is to set aside the expectations of driving, and imagine that you had to get to, from and around the subdivision entirely on foot. How would you want it laid out in that case? Having established a network on that basis, then move to the question of which links in the network will be streets and which ones will be pedestrian cut-throughs.
Even if the building is already built, it's not too late to improve pedestrian connections. Pedestrians will almost always take the shortest path available, even if it requires them to cut across lawns and over obstacles. Look for cues like informal paths worn into the grass or snow, and consider installing and maintaining permanent, hardscaped pathways to accommodate these paths of least resistance.
Active transportation network connectivity
Moncton's active transportation (AT) network is still being developed, and the design of buildings and sites is a critical component of shifting travel away from cars. Moncton has over 72 kilometres of multi-use trails and 44 kilometres of bike lanes, and these numbers will continue to grow as the city invests in new infrastructure.
New infill developments should be designed to make the best use of nearby existing and planned AT infrastructure They should also anticipate that future, as-yet-unplanned AT connections may be established in the future, and make sure the site design does not preclude a similar integration in the future.
Meanwhile, new subdivisions should include AT infrastructure that in turn connect directly and efficiently with the rest of the active transportation network to create a seamless experience for pedestrians and cyclists. The more convenient the link, and the safer AT users feel, the more likely they are to use the network. This is particularly true if they live within 2 km walking distance and 2-5 km cycling distance of where they work, learn, shop, or play.
Adequate, secure and convenient parking for bicycle users encourages people to cycle instead of driving. This means:
Quantity and accessibility of bicycle parking spaces.
Bicycles offer an opportunity to replace a lot of car trips, and a bicycle parking space takes up a fraction of the space that a car parking space does. The Zoning By-law requires relatively few bike parking spaces as a minimum. However, a large development, and particularly one with a big parking lot, has space to offer significantly more bike parking spaces at the expense of three or four car parking stalls.
Although bikes take up less space than cars do, they still need enough space for users to be able to access them easily. Cyclists need to be able to easily maneuver their bicycles into and out of the parking space, and lock them up.
Security of short-term bicycle parking spaces
Short-term bicycle parking spaces should have a solid post or fixture, securely attached to the ground or to a building, allowing the bike to be locked at the frame with an 8" U-lock. A proper bike parking space allows the bicycle frame to lean against the fixture to which it is locked. Conversely, racks that hold a bicycle at the wheel are known derisively as "wheelbenders;" do not provide the needed support or secure locking points.
What not to do: This "wheelbender" bike rack only supports the bicycle at the wheel, can easily damage the bicycle and and prevents the bike from being locked at the frame. Racks of this type should be avoided.
Visibility of bicycle parking spaces
Short-term bicycle parking areas (such as for customers of a restaurant or store) should be located where people on the street and/or in the building can easily see them. They should be well-lit at night and ideally would be located close to the principal entrance.
Shelter from rain and snow
Outdoor bicycle parking areas should be equipped with a canopy to keep the bikes out of the rain (including keeping the seats dry.)
Clear and level access to bike parking spaces
Cyclists should not have to navigate steep stairs or significant grade changes to access bicycle parking areas. If located in a parking garage, bicycle parking should be located on the level closest to grade. If bicycle parking is located above or below grade, a shallow ramp will make access easier, as will making sure the path of travel is wide enough to navigate around corners.
This staircase, leading to a basement-level bike storage room, is shallow enough for easy access and wide enough to allow users to turn the corner easily. The ramp down the middle of the stairs allows the bicycle to be smoothly rolled up and down the grade with minimal effort.
Long-term bicycle parking
The principles of bicycle parking largely apply whether it is to be used short-term (generally two hours at a time) or long-term. However, office, institutional, employment and residential uses should provide long-term bicycle parking spaces, and these face some slightly different considerations.
For long-term spaces, some ease of access can be traded off against security: a given space will only be accessed a few times a day, but will put the user's bike out of their sight for hours at a time, leaving it at greater risk for theft or vandalism.
Enhanced security should be provided through some combination of:
- Locating bike parking inside the main building or an accessory building. Allowing bicycles to be stored indoors minimizes the risk of casual theft.
- Bicycle corrals. A fenced-in area with controlled access (e.g., an electronic or other lock to which only the building's users have the keys or codes) provides an added level of security.
- Individual bicycle lockers are the most secure option.
Bicycle corrals, with racks inside a controlled-access fence, offer excellent long-term bike security for commuters and other cyclists who have to leave their bikes out of their sight for hours at a time. Note also the loop racks outside the corral, suited to more short-term bike parking.
Unfortunately, the design of modern cities makes a certain amount of car trips inevitable and the response to this reality is too often to prioritize car access over almost all competing concerns. At the same time, excessive parking supply can actually cause more traffic, by encouraging people to drive who would otherwise have walked, biked or taken transit.
Right-sizing parking lots
Many developments overestimate the core demand for parking and pre-emptively provide as much parking as can fit on the lot. This results in parking spaces that are unused most of the time. Multi-unit residential buildings have on-average significantly fewer cars per unit than ground-oriented housing such as detached houses or townhouses. In apartment buildings downtown, there are on average only six vehicles for every ten units , and additional parking often becomes an unrecovered cost. Carefully assess the actual rate of parking usage in an area, and calculating the number of spaces to (at most) align with it.
Compact parking spaces in preferential locations
A compact car emits about one-third less GHG's than a full-size pickup truck or SUV. A tier of smaller parking spaces reserved for compact cars can be located closest to the building's entrance; meanwhile, larger truck-sized parking spaces can be allocated to the outer edges of the parking lot.
EV-ready parking spaces in preferential locations
Electric vehicles are not yet common in New Brunswick (as of December 2022 there are approximately 2,500 on the road), but over time this may change. Providing EV-ready parking spaces close to the main entrance, with the wiring in place for future chargers to be installed, will encourage and reward motorists who choose these more climate-friendly vehicles. Most EV charging is expected to be done at home. It is much easier and less expensive to build an 'EV-ready' parking lot in the first place, compared to retrofitting an existing parking lot later on.
Level 2 electric vehicle charger. These medium-fast chargers do not take up much space and can recharge an electric car's batteries in several hours.
Locate parking behind the building
Parking, and especially large parking lots, should not be located between the building and the street. Street-adjacent parking lots degrade the pedestrian environment and force pedestrians to walk through parking lots to get to the building, creating one more reason for someone to drive instead of taking transit or walking.
Not Just For Downtown
Many of these guidelines are commonly associated with downtown development. Downtown's pedestrian- and transit-supportive design is a natural side effect of its age and location; however, such design is appropriate and necessary everywhere. The fact that this style of development is mostly found downtown is the result of the area being built in the days when no one drove anywhere!
Building Energy Efficiency
The other big contributor to urban greenhouse gas emissions is the building sector, that is, the energy consumed by the buildings themselves.
Space heating is particularly important for two reasons. Firstly, it accounts for 64% of the energy use in housing, more than appliances, water heating and lights combined. (Space heating is also the main energy consumer in commercial and institutional buildings, at 54% of energy consumption.)
Secondly, most homes in New Brunswick are heated by electric resistance (baseboard) heaters. The NB electricity grid has to bring carbon-intensive thermal generation plants online during the winter to meet the added demand. As a result, reducing the energy needed to heat homes is essential.
Several factors can influence demand for space heating energy:
Size of dwelling units
All other things being equal, a smaller space will take less energy to heat than a larger one. Building more compact housing units means not only reducing their energy footprint but also adds to the supply of much-needed smaller and more affordable housing units.
Typology refers to whether a home is a detached dwelling, row house, apartment unit or other form.
Multiple-unit housing reduces heat energy demand, with much of the heat lost by one unit radiating into a neighbouring unit. (It's the same principle as how mittens keep your fingers warmer than gloves.)
A detached house loses heat through all four walls plus the roof and basement. Meanwhile, apartments and row houses share several walls, so that each unit helps keep the other units warm. As a result, an apartment takes on average 38% less energy to heat than a detached house of the same size.
Heating in commercial/institutional buildings
The question of heating commercial and institutional buildings is less straightforward since different building types serve different functions and face different challenges. That said, these buildings on average are more energy-intensive to heat than residential buildings. There are some practices in common commercial building types that could be improved upon:
- The large, one-storey buildings ("big box stores") that have dominated the retail landscape in recent decades are almost certainly harder to heat than most other configurations. Since heat is lost through a building's envelope, all other things being equal, a building's heating demand will be proportional to how much wall and roof area there is relative to its interior volume. A one-storey building has a higher floor-to-envelope ratio than a multi-storey building; a 10,000 m2 retail building on one floor will have 45% more envelope to lose heat through, than the same 10,000 m2 on three floors.
- Office buildings with glass curtain walls are problematic from a heating standpoint as well; although high-performance windows can reduce heat loss, glass is generally not a good insulator. Designing buildings with an appropriate amount of fenestration, without giving over most or all of the facade to glass, would help improve a building's heating efficiency.
Most houses in New Brunswick are directly heated by electric resistance heaters (often called baseboard heaters). Unfortunately, this is a very inefficient way to produce warm air. Heat pumps also use electricity, but instead of just turning electric current directly into heat, they pull heat from the outside air, concentrate it and deliver warm air inside the house. This lets them provide the same amount of warmth using a fraction of the electricity and associated GHG emissions.
Smaller "mini-split" heat pumps are often not big enough to do the whole job, but installing them helps reduce the overall amount of electricity used to heat a home. Mini-splits can also remove heat from your house in the summer, acting as air conditioners when you need them.
This "mini-split" heat pump provides energy-efficient space heat in winter and acts as an air conditioner during the summer.
Insulation and building envelope
Large buildings in New Brunswick are currently required to meet the 2011 National Energy Code for Buildings, while smaller ("Part 9") buildings continue to be governed by the National Building Code. However, two more recent versions (the 2017 and 2020 NECB's) have been published. New Brunswick's climate plan commits to adopting new versions of the energy code within 18 months of publication. So, although there has been a delay in adopting the newer versions, builders should expect higher energy efficiency standards to apply in the near future. Voluntarily building to these higher Energy Code standards today will not only improve the energy performance of new buildings but will also allow builders to familiarize themselves with the new rules before they become mandatory.
"Net Zero" construction generally means reducing the outside energy needed to run a building to as little as possible, while making up the rest with on-site renewable energy sources. Moncton's Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) calls for new buildings to be built to "net-zero ready" standards starting in 2030, and defines these standards as follows:
|Heating energy demand (TEDI)||Overall energy demand (EUI)|
|Residential||=< 35 kWh/m2||=< 75 kWh/m2|
|Non-residential||=< 25 kWh/m2||=< 65 kWh/m2|
Modelling by the National Research Council, undertaken during the development of the 2020 NECB, shows that these standards can generally be met in Moncton's climate by building to Tier 4 of the 2017 National Energy Code for Buildings. Perhaps surprisingly, modelling by the National Research Council finds that meeting Tier 4 incurs minimal extra cost (for most building types an extra 3%-8% compared to the base 2017 NECB standard. Indeed for some building types, the higher efficiency building is actually cheaper, due mainly to having less fenestration.
An even more ambitious standard is the international Passive House standard, which calls for a maximum space heating demand of 15 kWh per year—just over one-tenth as much as a typical Canadian detached house. To get these extreme efficiencies, Passive House development relies on simple and airtight building envelopes, high insulation values, high-efficiency windows, and heat recovery in ventilation systems. However, as with the NECB, meeting a Passive House standard does not add much cost; seven estimates of the cost premium range from 7% - 15%. And, of course, significant energy savings over the life of the building must be weighed against this relatively modest initial cost.
Other climate impacts
Space Cooling (Air Conditioning)
Currently, much of New Brunswick's summer electricity comes from non-emitting sources, mainly nuclear and hydroelectric. Coal and oil-fired plants are used more during the winter, to meet the additional demand for heating.
But in the coming years, electric vehicles and the transition of industrial and other energy users away from fossil fuels will move more energy demand onto the electricity system. Installing more clean generation capacity is much more expensive than making more efficient use of what's already there. (We'll have to do it anyway, but the less we have to install the better!). So anything we can do today to limit the need for air conditioning will increase the amount of clean energy headroom in the system, making room for things like electric vehicle charging.
Managing demand for air conditioning is more relevant in commercial buildings, which are generally more energy-intensive and where space cooling accounts for 4.5% of energy demand, compared to residential buildings where it is only 1.6%. In any case, most of the space heating actions noted above also work to reduce space cooling energy demand.
Further measures to reduce cooling demand include:
A green roof is essentially a lawn or garden on the roof of the building. The popular image of green roofs is as rooftop gardens or parks designed for people to access as amenity space. This is certainly one way to do it. However, a simpler and cheaper green roof design is not meant to be accessed on a regular basis; it simply covers the roof with simple, hardy plants and the soil medium for growing them. The plants absorb sunlight instead of letting it heat up the building; they also have the benefit of helping to control storm water runoff, another important consideration as climate change is likely to deliver more severe precipitation events.
A green roof is designed with a layer of vegetation that helsp absorb and control storm runoff and reduces the heating and cooling demand in the building. A green roof can be designed to be accessible and used as an amenity space, or it can remain inaccessible.
Simply painting the roof white or using a light-coloured roofing material can reduce summer cooling demand; compared to the typical black asphalt material used in conventional roofs, lighter colours will reflect sunlight instead of absorbing it and turning it into heat. A cool roof also has the advantage of being relatively simple and cheap to install, since it does not need the additional structural strength or engineering required of a green or solar roof.
Green and cool roofs are particularly useful on one-storey buildings with big footprints, such as industrial buildings or large retailers. These buildings have a very high ratio of roof area to interior space; with a conventional black asphalt roof, they are very prone to absorbing heat in the summer.
Solar PV roofs and solar hot water heaters
Mounting a solar array on the roof has the double benefit of keeping sunlight from hitting the roof surface and heating up the building, while also generating electricity. Currently, small-scale solar installations are only permitted to use "net metering," whereby electricity produced by a solar array is fed into the grid and its value subtracted from the cost of the building's total electricity use.
Larger solar arrays may be accommodated by the Provincial power grid, depending on the programs in effect. Large-scale renewables currently face the challenge of integrating into a distribution grid that was not designed for them. However, as the power grid is upgraded, NB Power is expected to offer power purchase agreements to qualifying projects. We recommend keeping abreast of NB Power's available programs; the revenue from adding a solar array to your rooftop or mounting one over your parking lot could be substantial.
Solar domestic water heating (SDWH) is another energy-saving measure, whereby the sun's energy is captured to heat water. Using the sun to heat water has many of the same advantages as photovoltaics, but is simpler in that it delivers heat directly to the building's water system instead of sending electricity to the grid where it will often be used to then deliver space or water heating.
Solar arrays should be oriented to face south and angled at about 45 degrees. When installing a solar array, it is important to check the zoning and other land use regulations for the surrounding lands, to make sure no one can build a tall building that will block the sun!
Landscaping and trees
Deciduous trees planted to the south, east and west sides of the building provide shade in summer without impeding sunlight during winter when the leaves are down. Conversely, evergreen trees on the north or northwest side of the building help shelter a building from the prevailing winds and reduce heat loss during the winter.
Reducing asphalt paved surfaces
Asphalt pavement heats up in the summer, creating a heat island effect that makes it much hotter than more vegetated areas such as parks. This increases the demand for air conditioning nearby. Minimizing the amount of land that is paved, especially with dark materials like asphalt, helps reduce heat and overall energy use. Where some kind of pavement must be used, lighter-coloured pavers absorb less heat and help mitigate the heat island effect.
Reducing the amount of paved surfaces also helps to manage stormwater runoff, and reduce the risk of flooding.
Awnings, shelters and trees over paved surfaces
If a large parking area needs to be paved, the heat island effect can be mitigated by erecting a light-coloured canopy over it to reflect sunlight and reduce the amount of heating the pavement undergoes. (Such awnings can also help by keeping walkways clear of snow and generally offering shelter for pedestrians moving through the site.) Such canopies over parking lots also offer an opportunity to mount solar PV panels for charging electric vehicles. However, please note that for urban design reasons, winter car canopies are not permitted over individual driveways.
Trees also reduce the heat island effect that is particularly acute in parking lots. Large parking areas should include multiple islands of landscaping large enough to support one or more trees. Such islands need to be large enough to support tree growth and protect the root systems. However, the design and operation of the parking area has to protect the long-term tree health. Tree islands should not be used for winter snow storage, as the snow and road salt quickly kills young trees and harms more mature ones.
Other building energy
In commercial/industrial buildings especially, but also in homes, lighting is a significant consumer of electricity. Traditional incandescent light bulbs are extremely inefficient; from an energy standpoint, the light they produce is literally a side effect of the heat they generate. Far better technologies such as LED (light-emitting diode) lights, which use a fraction as much energy to produce light directly, are much more efficient and less GHG intensive.
Other Environmental Impacts
Thus far, this guide has concentrated on the aspects of building and development that mainly help to mitigate climate change, since the scale and urgency of that issue warrants its own detailed treatment.
However, there are a number of other environmental improvements that can and should be integrated into new development, provided doing so does not conflict with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Stormwater and meltwater management
Flooding might well be the most pressing environmental impact facing Moncton specifically Climate modelling suggests that Moncton in the future will see:
- More intensive rainfall events, where more rain falls in a short period of time than was typical in the past;
- More precipitation falling as rain instead of snow, since part of what previously was the snowy winter season is now warm enough to rain instead; and
- Winter temperatures that more often hover around freezing, resulting in snowfalls that begin melting within a few days before freezing again.
These trends are compounded by Moncton's clay soils, which absorb water more slowly than other soil types. Together, this means a need to better control and limit how much storm- and melt-water flows from a building or site within a given period.
Reduce impervious surfaces
Normally, when it rains or when snow melts, a lot of that water seeps into the ground. But in the city, hard surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and rooftops don't let the water through. That water has to go somewhere, and if there's a lot of it all at once, it can cause localized flooding.
Right-sizing parking lots (see Section 1, above) is one way to reduce excessive paving.
Ribbon or 'Hollywood' driveways
In the case of detached, semi-detached and other housing types where each house has its own driveway, a ribbon or 'Hollywood driveway' can greatly reduce the amount of paved surface. Instead of paving an entire car-wide strip of land, a ribbon driveway provides just two hardscaped strips at the width of a car's wheelbase; the rest of the driveway is left as gravel, grass or other low-growing vegetation.
As the name suggests, rain barrels are containers positioned below the downspout from a roof to collect rainwater. Rain barrels are often proposed as a way of capturing rainwater to water lawns and gardens, instead of using tap water. Doing this does have some environmental benefit since it takes energy to purify and pump potable water, and plants don't need that level of water quality.
However, the bigger benefit in Moncton might be to help capture runoff from big storms that dump a lot of rain all at once and contribute to flooding when it flows off the roof. However you look at it, rain barrels aren't a bad idea. Just make sure you keep water from pooling in exposed places, used a closed-barrel design, and cover any openings with mosquito-proof 1/16" mesh.
Rain gardens, naturalized stormwater ponds and sand pits
Where the lot is big enough, stormwater can be partly managed by establishing a rain garden, a depressed and vegetated area on the lot designed to catch some of the site's drainage. Some of the site's stormwater is then taken up by vegetation instead of being channeled into the city's conventional hard storm drains. The vegetation assists in removing pollutants contained in stormwater runoff. At the subdivision scale, naturalized stormwater ponds are larger and more biologically complex versions of a rain garden.
Even on a small lot, when there is not enough space for a full rain garden, digging out a low point on the lot and filling it with sand or sandy soil can help some water infiltrate faster than it would in Moncton's usual clay soils. This is a low-cost way to, in some cases, prevent or reduce surface flooding that would otherwise occur in unusually heavy rainfall.
A naturalized stormwater pond uses vegetation to help detain and filter runoff from a subdivision or development site. The resulting pond resembles a natural waterbody, providing wildlife habitat and a more attractive neighbourhood feature compared to conventional dry ponds.
Recycled and reclaimed materials and design for reuse
The embodied energy of a building includes the energy that went into making the materials from which it was built. When a building is demolished, that embodied energy and resources is lost. Much of the material sent to landfills consists of construction of demolition waste. While a lot of this material is too degraded to use, some materials may be salvaged and re-used in new buildings. This can be particularly true of materials like hardwood floorboards and other materials that were common decades ago but have become more scarce or expensive since then. There can be opportunities to reuse these materials in a new building.
At the same time, many materials from old buildings are too difficult to reuse, because the design and construction was not concerned with how the building would eventually come down. New buildings provide an opportunity to plan for the eventual deconstruction of the building, and planning for as much of the material as possible to be re-used in future buildings. A design that plans for the entire life cycle of the building, including the eventual demolition or disassembly, provides an opportunity to save energy and resources well into the future.
Waste collection and sorting
There are many reasons for separating your garbage, including
- Recycling valuable or useful materials like paper, metal and some plastics;
- Reducing the impact of producing more of such materials from scratch; and
- Composting of food and yard waste.
These are great reasons, but they're not the only ones! Landfills are expensive and take up a lot of space. The more material we can keep out of the landfill, the less it costs and the longer before we have to build a new one. Less material in the landfill also means less leachate and landfill gas are produced, making it easier to manage the landfill and reducing our carbon footprint.
As well, different kinds of waste break down in different ways over time. Keeping all the waste from being jumbled together in the same landfill also allows different kinds of waste to be treated in the most effective ways. For instance, it's worth keeping plastic away from everything else, because decomposing plastic breaks down into a more toxic product than, say, food waste. So waste separation is as much about quarantining different kinds of waste from each other, and thereby treating each kind of waste in the most appropriate way, as it is about recycling or composting.
Eco360 provides waste management services in Southeast New Brunswick. Residential customers are already familiar with the three-stream collection system (green bags for Organics, blue bags for Recyclables, clear bags for Garbage). However, multiple-unit residential, industrial, commercial and institutional buildings can also participate in the waste sorting program. Participation is voluntary but is encouraged through lower disposal fees for sorted Recyclables and Organics.
Eco360 is eager for you to participate in multi-unit and ICI (industrial/commercial/institutional) waste separation. Every site will have different needs, but Eco360 will work with you and your waste hauler to find a solution that works best. You can reach Eco360 through their website; by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by phone at (506) 877-1040.
Set aside adequate space for different waste containers
A well-designed waste area is more likely to be used appropriately. Ease of access for residents and employees is key. So is sheltering and maintaining the waste area so it remains accessible after winter snowfalls.
Ensure adequate paths of travel
Clear, level, hardscaped paths of travel from the storage to the collection area make it easier to manage waste appropriately. A flat grade is particularly important for heavy wheeled dumpster-type containers.
Signage and instructions
Ensuring that users understand what waste goes in which container is important. As well, asking users to break down and flatten cardboard boxes before recycling them will make better use of the collection container and keep it from overflowing. Eco360 can help design clear and effective signage for your building and provide training and education for residents and/or employees.
Beverage container basket
Most beverage containers (including wine and beer bottles, pop cans, and juice bottles) in New Brunswick have a deposit charge and can be redeemed for money. These containers are often saved by residents for later redemption, or sought out and collected by other individuals. If residents or employees pool redemption revenues for use as a group, it makes sense to set aside space to store these containers prior to redemption. You may also wish to provide an area readily accessible from the street where such containers can be placed for easy recovery by those inclined to do so.
Eco360 also accepts all non-glass beverage containers for recycling in the regular Recyclables stream.
A great deal of perfectly good stuff gets thrown out, simply because the owner doesn't want it anymore. Unfortunately, most consumer goods, including clothes, furniture and appliances, generally can't be recycled and end up in the landfill when discarded.
Establishing a dedicated "freecycle" box where residents can put books, clothes and other goods to be picked up by whoever wants them, is a good way to keep things out of the garbage if you have the resources to manage it. Choosing a space in a common interior area, or sheltering exterior freecycle areas under a canopy also ensures goods aren't ruined by the first rainfall. Freecycle boxes are especially useful with apartment buildings, whose residents have less storage space and are less likely to have cars to bring unwanted goods to a more central donation centre.
Many green development standards and systems emphasize conserving water. However, many of these frameworks were designed in, or for, water-scarce areas like the southwestern United States. To be clear, we shouldn't waste water; it does take energy to produce and distribute, and avoiding water waste reduces the need for expanding treatment facilities. But New Brunswick's context calls for a different emphasis, and some measures promoted in areas of extreme water scarcity are likely not worth the additional complications here.
Low-flow shower heads
Efficient shower heads save water but, more importantly, since showers are usually hot water, they save a lot of energy as well. About 15% of household energy use goes to water heating, so making a building's showers (and other hot-water-using appliances) more efficient helps to reduce GHG emissions.
We do not recommend single-setting low-flow toilets, that is, toilets where the water used in flushing is always reduced. A low-flow fixture might have difficulty disposing of bigger solids; the resulting use of drain-clearing chemicals to clear clogged drains are likely not worth the water saved. However, dual-flush toilets, with two flush levers or buttons allowing the user to choose a small or large volume of flush water depending on what they're flushing, are appropriate.
Not recommended at this time: gray-water recycling
Some green building guidelines recommend using gray water (that is, used water from bathtubs, sinks and washing machines that is too dirty to drink but is not actual sewage from the toilet) to water lawns and non-edible garden plants. However, gray-water connection requires complicated plumbing and introduces the risk of backflows contaminating the potable water plumbing in the building. On balance, we do not consider water scarce enough in New Brunswick to warrant reusing gray water.
Not recommended at this time: xeriscaping
Xeriscaping is landscaping adapted to dry climates and relies on gravel or stone and little to no vegetation, thereby reducing the need for watering. Xeriscaping is often promoted in southwest-U.S.-based green building guidance. However, we don't recommend this in Moncton; all other things being equal, here, plants are better than no plants!
Bird-and bat-friendly windows
Windows can pose a hazard to birds and bats, who may not realize there is an invisible solid wall in their flight path. Windows can be equipped with etched designs, window films, external coverings, and other treatments that send a visual cue to flying animals so they can avoid a potentially lethal collision.
Conversely, netting, UV treatment, tinted glass, and interior approaches such as drapes are not recommended; these approaches are either ineffective or the research is inconclusive.
Limiting light pollution
Some degree of outdoor lighting is necessary for safety in the city. However, excessive outdoor lighting degrades the human environment, affecting (among other things) people's ability to sleep. It also affects the natural environment, confusing some species of wildlife who rely on the natural cues of sunlight, moonlight and darkness for mating and feeding. Light pollution can occur anywhere, but it is particularly prevalent in commercial development, where lighting and signage is designed to be seen from far away down a highway.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) outlines five principles for responsible outdoor lighting. Lighting should be useful, targeted, low light levels, controlled, and uses warm colour where possible. The IDA maintains a searchable database of certified Dark Sky Compliant lighting products that meet the required minimization to glare, reduction of light trespass, and that help protect visibility of the night sky.
Alternatives to turf grass
Turf grass has long been used as the "go-to" vegetation for ground cover. However, keeping a lawn green and tidy takes a lot of energy, water, fertilizer and chemical maintenance. For all the environmental impacts of maintaining grass, the result is a monoculture offering little in the way of ecosystem services. Some alternatives include:
- Nitrogen-fixing plants such as clover. These plant species absorb nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil, instead of demanding continuing inputs of artificial fertilizer.
- Wildflowers and groundcovers such as thyme are attractive to look at and provide greater biodiversity. They also support pollinators such as bees, whose populations are declining.
- Intensive landscaping such as shrubs and trees. More vertical, volumetric plantings such as shrubs do not require mowing. They offer more visual interest and presence than turf grass.
- As noted above, we do not recommend xeriscaping in Moncton.
Clover lawn. Clover has many advantages over turf grass