Dockside Green 

Victoria, British Columbia

Photo Credit: PWL Partnership


Initial Research by: Karissa Noselski

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019



Project: Dockside Green 

Type of Urban StrategySustainable Design, Smart Cities 

Type of ProjectIndustrial reclamation / Community redevelopment 

LocationVictoria, British Columbia

Date Designed/Planned: 1989

Construction Completed 2006 + ongoing

DesignerPWL Partnership


Dockside Green is a progressive mixed-use neighbourhood in Canada, designed for self-sufficiency. A sustainable master-planned community, Dockside Green is the first of its kind in North America to meet LEED platinum standards. Design features include a central interactive wetland, green roofs and natural stormwater filtration, extensive onsite water collection and reuse, as well as wastewater treatment mechanisms, and a central biomass energy system. The design focuses on a triple bottom line approach, with social, economic, and environmental elements all instrumental in the success of the project.

Located on the harbour-front in Victoria, British Columbia, the community currently boasts variety in residential housing units (including affordable housing) and retail spaces on land that was once dominated by industry. The development is not yet complete, with only 25% in operation, but plans for a full-build out are planned, with the intention to be constructed over the next decade. Even so, the development has caught the attention of the media as a precedent for 'complete communities' in North America and even around the world. It stands as a uniquely Canadian example of what collaborative efforts can achieve in the journey to sustainability. Final plans include connection via an active transportation network to the rest of the City of Victoria, water access points, and boat docks in addition to a variety of new community amenities.



Dockside Green is a model master-planned community intended for demonstrating innovative ‘green’ technologies and integrated systems. With built-in water capture, storage and recycling and reuse mechanisms, Dockside Green is known as “one of the greenest communities in North America” (Mamo & Fosket, 2010).

The design incorporates principles of “new urbanism, smart growth, green building and sustainable community design” facilitating social cohesiveness through shared green spaces and a variety of accessible amenities (Mamo + Fosket, 2010). A triple bottom line approach to sustainability was taken, placing value on the social, environmental, and economic elements through each stage of the project (Benfield, 2011).

Sitting on a large piece of industrial property overlooking the Victoria harbour, the ambitious and proactive, ‘smart growth’ development features a mix of housing and retail spaces (Benfield, 2011). It is sometimes referred to as both Victoria’s most extensive ‘green development,’ as well as “the worlds greenest neighbourhood” (CBC News, 2017). With an overall focus on improving quality of life and the health of the human and natural communities, the development encompasses what a sustainable lifestyle can look like on the coast in Canada and provides lessons on how communities elsewhere can begin to address climate change at a neighbourhood scale.


While the total cost is unknown, clean-up of the site before development cost $20 million alone (Benfield, 2011). Funding for the project was provided in partnership by Vancity and Windmill Development (Benfield, 2011), and also gained support from the City of Victoria (North, 2013).


The Dockside Green site was both a brownfield property and a former industrial site on the waterfront with extensive views of the water (North, 2013). The site required intense remediation, thus an understanding of the local ecology was vital. The City of Victoria is home to vibrant and diverse ecosystems. The Gorge Waterway “a saltwater inlet travelling through the city of Victoria […] contain eel-grass beds [that] provide key salmon habitat, act as a nursery space for thousands of marine species, prevent erosion, and are a direct food source for migratory birds” (Geography Open Textbook, n.d.). The area surrounding Dockside Green is partially made up of existing industrial sites and a variety of spaces in transition, which have created some limitations for connectivity until more redevelopment can occur (Benfield, 2011).


“Vancity worked with the city of Victoria to create and incorporate an affordable housing strategy to assist the project’s goal of mixed-income living” (Benfield, 2011).


The main problem in this case was the lack of visible behavioural change or local community-based action towards tackling climate change. The designers approached this location intending to create a ‘complete community,’ prioritizing sustainable living and closed loop-system design (Alissa North, 2013). The site required remediation, and the designers responded through the creation of a central educational wetland that acts as a greywater filtration system (Alissa North, 2013). The latest in technological innovations and collaborative efforts of various stakeholders have contributed to the success of this green building precedent, and sustainable urban design is achieved through systems thinking.

The project was born out of a response to the significant number of post-war suburban style single-family dwelling neighbourhoods contributing to sprawl, globalization and population increase, and greater awareness of the limited space for development on Vancouver Island. This project aims to make people think differently about how they might live on the land. By designing systems that centralize well-being and clean water as vital elements of a ‘healthy city’ for the future (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan, 2010), to address water issues, it is important to implement an alternative water management system, including the recycling of greywater for other non-potable uses (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan, 2010). “Wastewater for the entire development is collected and treated onsite using a membrane bioreactor to a level of treatment fit for unrestricted, public access” (p. 61). The water then gets used for a variety of non-potable uses such as for irrigation for the green roofs, for flushing of toilets, for planter beds, and also supports the constructed wetland (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan, 2010, p. 62).


Some of the major goals for the project were:

-To achieve the highest level of standards for sustainability, including top of the line energy-efficiency throughout, following LEED platinum standards, (Dockside Green, 2008)

-To integrate ecology and technology into multiple aspects of the project to encourage mindfulness and sustainable living (Benfield, 2011)

-To be accessible to a diverse mix of people (North, p. 170)

-To connect the community to an alternative transportation system and the City of Victoria, fostering active, healthy living (North, p. 171)

-To achieve carbon neutrality (Benfield, 2011)


Visible systems aim to encourage “thoughtful water consumption” (North, 2013, p. 171), and aid in the development of healthy human and natural ecosystems in coexistence within urban conditions (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan, 2010). “The design intent is to encourage the community to further evolve the site towards desired goals” (North, 2013, p. 171).

Material selections were made to follow sustainability standards, choosing only energy-efficient and durable options to reduce emissions, built to last and save people money in the long run (Dockside Green, 2008). LEED standards required the developers to reuse or recycle over 75% of the construction waste (Dockside Green, 2008, p. 41).

The landscaping and infrastructure are designed with the highest ecological standards to collect, reuse and recycle rainwater as well as sewage treatment and greywater management (Benfield, 2011). Decisions were made to limit parking above-grade, to truly maximize environmental impact and minimize runoff from surface parking lots (North, 2013, p.171). There is also a central biomass plant and new renewable energy technologies throughout the site, with both wind and solar incorporated into the design (Benfield, 2011).

Financial challenges resulted in a stall after the 2008 economic downturn hit (CBC News, 2017). An updated plan was drafted in 2017, with proposals to ‘scale down’ some of the initial project scopes to get it back on track (CBC News, 2017). The anticipation of the final build-out is to be completed by 2027 (Dockside Green 2019) - 75% of the project remains unbuilt. The plans for the future include a total of 26 buildings, finishing out to be 1.3M ft2, for an estimated 2500 residents in three distinct neighbourhoods over 12 phases in addition to a variety of retail and commercial spaces mixed in (Benfield, 2011).


The essential task of the designers (PWL Partnership as lead landscape architects) was to find an appealing way to make invisible systems visible in a way that questions current approaches to water management and community development through adaptive reuse (North, 2013). They were asked to celebrate natural systems to protect them (and water resources) for future generations and to encourage resource conservation by providing the infrastructure and design elements that foster an appreciation for sustainable actions (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan, 2010). Perkins + Will did the master planning of the site, and the engineering and LEED consulting by Stantec and additionally required the work of many other consultants due to the complex nature of the project (North, 2013 & Benfield, 2011).


This project is commonly referred to as "Canada's premier environmentally responsible community" (North, 2013). It acts as a precedent for large scale waterfront developments on industrial landscapes in a Canadian context, with a multitude of lessons to inspire future proactive development projects. "Dockside Green functions as a total environmental system in which form, structure, materials, mechanical and electrical systems interrelate and are interdependent" (Benfield, 2011).

Dockside Green provides an example of how emission reduction targets for climate change might be monitored and addressed at a community level. The design encourages behaviour changes, asking people to live lighter and be stewards, and it addresses NIMBYism (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan, 2010, p. 62) by making such features front and centre to the project. A constructed wetland and water features run through the centre of the site, providing wildlife habitat, educational opportunities, creating common ground between public and private, and a natural play space for the community (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan). Building such features adjacent to popular year-round public spaces and retail stores is a great way to extend the reach and drive home the message, getting people to pay attention (Lucey, Barraclough & Buchanan).

This example provides evidence that collaboration and shared vision are critical to the success of such an extensive and complex project. This project speaks to the importance of questioning the norm in the management and design of water and wastewater systems, and testing new alternatives for sustainable community design, thinking beyond the individual and breaking down the city-wide scale into smaller 'self-sufficient' systems.

Because financial challenges created a long lull in the progress of the project, critics have questioned just how green the project is. "Although a biomass plant was built for the project, the buildings currently use district natural gas," requiring that the project be built out to at least 80% occupancy before it can be deemed as efficient as it was intended to be (CBC News, 2017).

Regardless, this type of development acts as a potential solution to experiment with elsewhere in addressing climate change. Building sustainable communities, while only part of the solution can have a significant impact on building local economies and decreasing resource use in the long run (Mamo + Fosket, 2010, p. 16-4)


The project was made possible through a partnership between Vancity, a west coast financial institution, and Windmill Developments, a sustainability-minded firm with a bold vision (Benfield, 2011). Such an extensive and proactive project required collaboration between a variety of stakeholders. Community consultation played an essential role in building support for the project as well as making it come to fruition. A long list of community stakeholders were involved throughout the project, alongside planners and designers, and local/regional land ownership trustees (North, 2013, p. 170).


Some of the programmed elements are:

-Affordable housing units that make up around 10% of the total development (approximately 75 housing units). (Webb, 2009)

-Devices that encourage individuals to understand, monitor, and make changes to decrease their environmental footprint: usage and emissions meters as well as informational plaques in public spaces aid in conserving energy (Mamo + Fosket, 2010)

-Walking and cycling trails within and to the rest of the city (connected active transportation network with future car-share and transit services) that make active transit more appealing than driving (North, 2013, pp.171)

-Visible and centralized onsite wastewater treatment and reuse systems, [and] a biomass plant and central heating system” (North, 2013, pp.170) that uses local wood waste to power homes (Mamo + Fosket, 2010, pp.16-4)

-Central demonstration “wetlands and waterways that function to filter greywater,” with exterior areas as shared interactive elements for public and private use (North, 2013, pp.170)

-Green roofs that double as wildlife habitat and rainwater collection/recycling (North, 2010)


As the project is only partially complete, the area around the first few phases remain under ongoing redevelopment. Bosa Developments out of Vancouver recently bought the entire development; however, previously, the development was managed under "Dockside Green Ltd., a subsidiary of Vancity" (Descoteao, 2017).


Benfield, K., 2011. Is this the world’s greenest neighbourhood? The Atlantic. Available at:> [Accessed 3 March 2019].

Benyus, J. M., 2002. Biomimicry : Innovation inspired by nature. 1st Perennial pbk. ed. New York: Perennial.

CBC News, 2017. Developer hopes new plan gives Victoria's stalled Dockside Green project a second life. Available at: [Accessed 6 March 2019].

Descoteau, D., 2017. Victoria's Dockside Green development changes hands. Victoria News. Available at: [Accessed 8 March 2019].

Dockside Green, 2008. Annual Sustainability Report. Available at: [Accessed 10 March 2019].

Dockside Green. 2019. About Dockside Green. Available at: [Accessed 1 March 2019].

Geography Open Textbook., n.d. Case Study 2: Dockside Green, Victoria. Available at: [Accessed 4 March 2019].

Lucey, W. P., Barraclough, C. L., & Buchanan, S. E., 2010. Closed-Loop Water and Energy Systems: Implementing Nature’s Design in Cities of the Future. London: IWA.

Mamo & Fosket, 2010. Influencing the Mainstream: How Green Plannied Communities Can Shape Social Behaviors and Address Climte Change. Available at:
North, A., 2013. Operative Landscapes: Building Communities Through Public Space. Basel/Berlin/Boston: Birkhäuser. Available at: [Accessed 28 February 2019].

Rottle, N., & Yocom, K., 2010. Ecological Design. London: AVA Publishing Ltd.

Webb, R., 2009. Dockside Green: A Model for creating Affordable Housing & Inclusionary Neighbourhoods. Available at: [Accessed 3 March 2019].




Samantha Miller

Nicole Brekelmans

Zoe Goldman

Desiree Theriault


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Professor Richard Perron