WHERE: 810 Humboldt St. Victoria, B.C.
WHO: The Hulbert Group

You might think Canada’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum resort would be perched on the Rockies or nestled in a Gulf Island cove. But you can find our country’s greenest hotel a few blocks from Victoria’s legislature.

The design of the Parkside Victoria Resort and Spa by The Hulbert Group, a Vancouver-based architecture firm, fits a modern building into a historic neighbourhood while balancing luxury with sustainability. The two eight-storey brick towers connect the resort via a three-storey glass atrium. Timeshare owners, resort guests and local visitors can enjoy a coffee in the lobby and use the free wifi to catch up on work. Or they can book a walking tour to learn more about Parkside’s sustainable features.

Plants rescued from Victoria’s Crystal Garden infuse the atrium with exotic scents as a stream trickles under a grey limestone walkway. The stream and connected ponds form part of the building’s heat exchange system, in which the atrium acts as a vacuum that draws air through the hotel. Sections of the glass walls open to aid airflow, while a “living roof” modulates temperatures in winter and summer.

Temperature control is important, as the Resort doesn’t have air conditioning. U.V.-tinted glass plates, or louvres, suspended on the sides of the building shield rooms from direct sunlight. In the winter, a natural-gas-powered hot-water heating system warms the resort.

“It’s a conscious way of operating,” says Daniel Melnyk, Parkside’s director of sales. “We keep our guests informed because it’s a bit different than what they might be used to in a traditional hotel environment.”

Shiny rain rocks on the roof and balconies drain into a 259,000-litre tank. This storm-water collection system provides non-potable water for the rooftop gardens and ground-level plants—mostly native and drought-tolerant. Foraging among Parkside’s outdoor gardens, guests can harvest strawberries blueberries, apples, and herbs.

Parkside also saves water with low-use plumbing fixtures, and keeps the hot tub and 25-metre pool water sanitary through ozonation, reducing chlorine use by 90 per cent. The buildings avoid ozone-depleting HCFC (chlorofluorocarbon) chemicals in the cooling and refrigeration systems. During construction, developers diverted waste materials from landfills at a rate of 92.3 per cent, well above the LEED platinum requirement of 75 per cent.

Like all the resort’s materials, the maple-wood laminate flooring in the guest rooms was sustainably sourced, while the bedroom carpets come from recycled pop bottles. Fireplaces provide heat or ambiance, and the appliances all carry Energy Star ratings.

“I like to call it ‘conscious luxury’,” says Melnyk. “You’re not suffering to be sustainable, you’re not suffering to be green, and you reduce the carbon debt.”

The underground parking attracts less heat and saves ground-level space for people and plants. Parkside was one of the first hotels in Victoria to install plug-in stations, eight in total, for electric vehicles and is upgrading to the industry-standardized Combined Charging System.

Since opening in 2009, Parkside earned plenty of accolades for its sustainable design, including a perfect five in the Green Key Global Eco-Rating Program; a 2010 Energy and Environment Award from the Hotel Association of Canada; and the Award for Outdoor Environmental Achievement from the Canadian Home Builders Association.

Green design and gold plaques, however, didn’t translate into growing profits. Cost overruns on Parkside, plus American tourists scared away by a global financial meltdown and a strong Canadian dollar, all drove Aviawest Resorts Ltd. into receivership in the fall of 2011.

Last January, the LRG Group, a consortium of Victoria business people, purchased Parkside for $23 million. Melnyk says the sale frees the hotel to go ahead with major improvements, like a farm-to-table restaurant, that will connect Canada’s greenest resort with the surrounding city.

“In our opinion,” says Melnyk, “a big part of sustainability is commitment to the community and the local economy.”

— Quinn MacDonald