Design, Green Building, Water Management

Innovative Water Strategies Part 4 – The North Vancouver MEC Building

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water” – Benjamin Franklin

I love MEC. If you’re not Canadian you might not have heard of it, but it’s our version of REI in the United States. It’s an outdoor sporting goods company with stores all over Canada, and it started right here in Vancouver, BC in someone’s basement (or so the story goes). Today there are two glorious locations in our city.

The company is well known for its support of fair manufacturing practices and environmental conservation, and they practice what they preach at all of their stores with energy and water-wise practices and efficient building designs. But the cream of the energy and water-saving crop has to be the North Vancouver MEC store, situated at the base of outdoor activity paradise on the North Shore mountains.


They’ve packed several awesomely innovative water management strategies into this building. In fact, it provides a real-world example of almost all the concepts I’ve written about in my Innovative Water Series Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

1. Parking Lot Bioswales and Permeable Pavement

Water that falls on the parking lot runs off through gaps in the curbs to bioswales surrounding the lot (shown on the right), or through the permeable pavers in some locations and back into the ground (shown on the left). This significantly reduces run-off rates and lowers the amount of toxins flowing straight into sewer systems as with traditional parking lot designs.



2. Roof Rain Catchment to Bioswales

From the MEC website: “Storm water is retained and infiltrated on site, then returned to the water table through bioswales, rain gardens and permeable pavers. There is no connection to the municipal storm sewer.”

Rain water is also partially stored and used for non-potable water in the building. Not only is this setup extremely effective, it’s looks damn good:


3. Exterior Green Wall

This green wall reduces heating demand by using evaporative cooling (plant leaves transpire water similar to when you sweat, cooling the building), and is irrigated using storm water from the roof.


These innovations have helped the store reach a LEED Gold standard in sustainable building design. You can also read about their energy saving designs on their site here. They even claim to have put the parking lot behind the building to make parking more difficult and biking and walking to the store easier! Geniuses

No wonder they’ve taken so much of my money.

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