$2.5B Eco District Schedules Groundbreaking
A new eco-district development just outside of Richmond, Virginia, is slated to break ground in early 2023. The $2.5 billion project, dubbed “GreenCity,” is expected to be a next-generation commercial, entertainment and residential community serving Henrico County and the Richmond metro region.
According to the project’s masterplan, GreenCity proposes building within a landscape-centric model which is itself the central theme.
Ideas for the project were first published in 2020; however, it wouldn’t be until October 2021 that the Henrico County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved rezoning a 204-acre former Best Products headquarters campus for the GreenCity project.
Like its namesake, GreenCity is designed and organized to follow sustainable development principles by reducing energy needs and saving resources. The plan for the community has three main objectives:
Planning for the community also focuses on creating a socially and functionally diverse environment within a short, 20-minute walking distance. Within the development, residents will be able to access a variety of office spaces, retail shops, over 2,000 housing units, two hotels and a 17,000-seat arena.
When it comes to building these facilities and residencies, reports indicate that construction crews will utilize heavy timber, cross-laminated timber and solar power to minimize environmental impacts.
As for the energy consumed within the community, GreenCity reports that it will be developed as a predominantly Green Energy District, balancing energy production and use while limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Its planning and design are inspired by Virginia’s goals of 30% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
Regarding water consumption, the community is also aiming to be a Net Zero Water development, balancing water consumption and waste, while minimizing impacts to the natural ecosystem and watershed.
Officials behind the plan hope that GreenCity will become a model for Virginia’s conservation goals and programs. They also hope that the development will be a model for implementing the Commonwealth’s Clean Energy goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through management of on-site carbon production, as well as sequestration.
In connecting with the surrounding nature, at the center of the development, the masterplan reveals a 40-acre, public park system.
In addition, developers have also carved out a 1.5-mile-long “forest walk,” which will form the backbone of the open space plan which borrows from the region’s rural roots and existing forest features. As a result of living in a setting that respects the environment, GreenCity believes that residents will be able to enjoy richer and more diverse lifestyles.
“With the reintegration of nature planned for the heart of the neighborhood, the use of renewable energy, efforts to minimize energy consumption, and their sustainable water and waste management, and welcoming social diversity, GreenCity will create opportunities for new ways of living together that is more respectful of both people and the environment,” reads its website.
“Residents enjoy a higher quality of life, a calmer, healthier environment, better social cohesion, and better connectivity at all levels.”
Green Building Practices in the US
While efforts to shift to green building practices have been ongoing for several years in the United States, several cities and states made headway this year.
In January, President Joe Biden announced that his Administration would be launching a Building Performance Standards Coalition dedicated to delivering cleaner, healthier and more affordable buildings.
The coalition is reportedly a first-of-its-kind partnership between 33 state and local governments, in addition to the states of Colorado and Washington, and builds upon the Department of Energy’s efforts to upgrade one million homes.
The progress made by the coalition will also aid President Biden’s efforts to retrofit four million buildings and two million homes during his first term.
In May, the Washington State Building Code Council approved a new commercial energy code in a vote of 11-3, mandating that newly constructed buildings be outfitted with all-electric space heating and hot water systems.
According to reports, the revised energy code will affect most new commercial buildings and large multifamily buildings. The council is slated to consider a similar proposal for smaller residential buildings later this year.
The following month, officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Biden-Harris Administration announced a national initiative to advance building codes. According to a fact sheet released by the White House on the same day, the new building codes initiative will boost resilience to the impacts of climate change, lower utility bills for homes and businesses, and prioritize underserved communities.
The initiative sets out to help state, local, Tribal and territorial governments adopt the latest, current building codes and standards created to make communities more resilient to hurricanes, flooding, wildfires and other extreme weather events that are intensifying due to climate change.
While the White House reports that nearly two out of every three communities have failed to adopt modern building codes, smart design or updated construction methods, earlier this year President Biden’s National Climate Task Force approved the new National Initiative to Advance Building Codes to accelerate the process.
In July, the Council of the District of Columbia joined several other major cities in the nation through the unanimous passing of two new pieces of legislation requiring that all new buildings and substantial renovations in Washington D.C. be net-zero construction and banning the use of natural gas in most new buildings.
Both bills, which headed to the desk of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, aim to codify the city’s climate goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2045 and net zero emissions by 2050.
And, at the beginning of this month, legislators from both the Massachusetts House and Senate recently passed a compromise bill mandating several green incentives.
Known as the “Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind,” Bill H.4515 sets a target date of 2027 for the state of Massachusetts to have a minimum of 5.6 GW offshore wind development. In addition, the legislation would also offer tax breaks to companies contributing substantially to the “manufacture, fabrication, and assembly” of domestic supply chain components of the offshore wind industry.
The legislation also seeks to reform rate-payer-funded efficiency programs focused on clean energy and low-income households. In that same thread, it would also remove market impediments for medium-sized solar developments and would allow agricultural and horticultural land be used for solar panels, so long as the panels didn’t impede on the continued use of the land.
Not stopping at the adoption of clean energy practices, Bill H.4515 also tackles emissions and electrification in buildings and transportation vessels.