There will be hints of inspiration from some of the most predominant, forward thinking leaders in sustainable development as Ottawa-Gatineau’s waterfront is transformed into a world-class eco-community. In the pursuit of implementing leading green building practices into the design of the recently purchased Domtar lands, the Partners at Windmill Development embarked on an adventurous pursuit for innovative ideas from 7 sustainable communities. Between February 9th and 14th they travelled to the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark, on what was dubbed the ”WhirlWindmill” tour; the travel itinerary certainly supports this moniker.
Rich in both innovation and charm, Malmo Sweden seems to have been the highlight of the trip for the majority of Partners. Jeff Westeinde describes this unique city as “exceptional in the intimacy that the public spaces and building scale created”, building confidence that you don’t have to be a medieval village in order to achieve a great sense of space. Alex Spiegel, who hails from our Toronto office, agrees that Malmo is unrivaled from an urban design perspective; however, he also praised all of the cities for their exceptional mix of modern efficiency and environmental sensitivity. Seamless transit systems, substantial investment in bicycle networks and a human scale that made walking a delight were trademarks of efficient, eco-community development.
Consensus was much more difficult to come by when it came to identifying the most impressive green building technique found within these communities. This speaks to the range of diverse practices that our travellers encountered on their journey. From the waste and storm water management systems in Hammarby, to the tour of KLH’s four-storey headquarters in Austria, which is built from cross-laminated timber (CLT), there was an abundance of innovative sustainable design practices to explore. Scott Demark is convinced that CLT is the construction technology of the future, the ideal structural system for Canada, and, a perfect fit for the Domtar site. While Canadian building codes have yet to catch up to those of Europe, Windmill will be on the leading edge of deploying this type of technology throughout the course of this development.
Rodney Wilts, who passes this site on his daily commute from Chelsea, believes that much like some of their European counterparts, Windmill has the unique opportunity to present a blend of old and new by incorporating existing heritage buildings with contemporary and innovative architecture. The proximity to downtown Gatineau and Ottawa also allows for a vibrant retail scene within the development. On the Domtar Lands, Windmill will strive for a carbon-netural existence by providing renewable energy to meet all of the requirements for the businesses and residents within the development.
Perhaps outweighing all of the aforementionned virtues that make this land special, is the simple aesthetic beauty of this pearl on the Ottawa River, and the picturesque landscape surrounding one of the regions most magnificent settings. Managing Partner Jonathan Westeinde added that after touring some of the worlds’ leading mixed-use sustainable communities, Windmill is equipped with even more confidence in designing and developing a community that will rival the leaders in global sustainable development. The unique blend of the areas physical setting, green energy opportunities and the relentless pursuit of innovative practices, will provide Windmill with a foundation upon which to create a leader in eco-community building.
Innovation is necessarily challenging, and Windmill is excited to meet the challenges associated with untapping the enormous potential of the Domtar Lands. As the first world-class community to be developed by a private sector developer, Windmill will transform the Ottawa-Gatineau waterfront through innovative and sustainable development, while once again demonstrating that living in harmony with the planet makes economic sense.