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Can Vancouver learn lessons from this developer/development?  Vancouver is hoping to bill itself as the world's green capital, and it may just be time to do something drastic. Your thoughts?


California developer introduces 'One Planet' ethic to this coast

 "True sustainability' is the goal of 1,700-residence initiative north of San Francisco, not 'just a reduction in emissions'
If any organization has a truly global vision of sustainability, it's Bioregional.

The United Kingdom-based company has created an initiative called One Planet Communities. Those communities, now in place in several countries, are committed to reducing the ecological footprint of their residents to a truly sustainable level by 2020.

"The point of the One Planet program is to try to achieve true sustainability instead of just a reduction in emissions relative to something abstract like building codes or 1990 levels," says Greg Searle, executive director of BioRegional's North America office.

"The only real absolute that we know is that we have one planet and that there are nearly seven billion of us on a limited amount of bio-productive land. It's a kind of global speed limit that we're exceeding unsafely."

The One Planet initiative was inspired by BedZED, an urban eco-village Bioregional helped create in 2002 in the U.K. BedZED ended up being a living laboratory for ecological living, inspiring a new generation of design and public policy, Searle says.

"The One Planet program grew out of the observation that if we could create that much change in one country, just by building a small demonstration project, that we ought to challenge conventional ideas about sustainability with larger, more ambitious demonstration projects around the world."

Searle, a Canadian and an Ottawa resident, is One Planet's North American manager and a member of the organization's international steering committee.

There are now One Planet communities in Portugal, China, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and most recently in the U.S.: the Sonoma Mountain Village, or SOMO, in Rohnert Park, Calif., just north of San Francisco.

The SOMO project has all-encompassing sustainability as its goal. Sonoma Mountain Village is a 200-acre, mixed-use, solar-powered zero-waste community, of almost 1,700 homes that aims to have every resident no more than a five-minute walk to groceries, restaurants, day-care and other amenities offering local and sustainable products and services.

Good intentions

When asked how the initiative differs from green-building programs such as LEED, and in particular LEED for Neighbourhood Development, Searle says One Planet is goal-driven rather than point-driven, but also works to inject sustainability into every aspect of the project. For example, one development in the U.K. not only ran a sustainable canteen for construction workers, it also encouraged them to bike to work.

"Just going to the highest level of a green-building rating system like LEED doesn't get you out of trouble [with carbon emissions] in the building category, and does very little to help the waste and transportation contributions that are often very significant," he says. At last year's Living Futures Conference, Bioregional and SOMO developer Codding Enterprises presented a study on the total carbon footprint of households in various green-building scenarios.

To live truly sustainably, the report said, U.S. households would have to achieve a 75-percent reduction in their total carbon footprint.

The study found that even households in an LEED for Neighbourhood Development platinum project -- the highest ranking possible -- achieved only an 18-per-cent reduction. Green buildings and smart-growth planning are important steps, says Searle, noting that while LEED works nicely with the One Planet program, green buildings alone are not nearly enough.

Rising to the challenge

Already frustrated by the process and results he was seeing in his own LEED projects, Geof Syphers of Codding Enterprises welcomed the challenge One Planet Communities offered when developing the Sonoma Mountain Village.

"Even in the very best-case scenario, under an LEED Platinum project, we were only reducing CO2 emissions by 15 to 20 per cent relative to the status quo," says Syphers. "Even if we were beating stringent codes by 40 per cent, and we're supplying half of the power with renewable energy, we're still providing the other half with fossil fuels and causing a net detriment to the planet."

Syphers says the One Planet framework was attractive, in part, because it lays out exactly what is needed to achieve sustainability. "It makes no claim that you'll succeed," he says, "but if you fall short, you'll know exactly what the gap is and why, and then they publish that widely.

"Instead of patting ourselves on the back for reducing waste by 89 per cent, we say we made good progress, but still have a long way to go, and if you can help us, that would be great. It allows real science to happen."

Progressive Reporting

An important tool in the One Planet program is a publicly available annual audit. Searle

describes this aspect as particularly timely in light of recent negative press over green buildings found to be underperforming. "Monitoring is generally a huge gap and it's rare to find a real estate developer that's willing to take risk over a 10-year period to have their progress reviewed. I think it makes a much better product for the consumer and raises the integrity and credibility of a project enormously."

Searle argues that we need to go into sustainable projects with the spirit that they are pioneering opportunities for us to learn what works, and perhaps more importantly, what doesn't.

Priceless Future

Both Searle and Syphers acknowledge that they cannot control the environmental impact residents have when the developer leaves the SOMO development, but when they consider the BedZED experience and others, they estimate that the design, planning and services of the development with help residents reduce their total direct carbon emissions by 83 per cent.

Perhaps even more impressive than this, or the development's enviable bells and whistles, are the great strides being made in changing policy and bylaw barriers.

"My main motivation is to first legalize this and enable it," says Syphers. From variances needed to narrow streets, to the three bills now pending to expand solar applications, Sonoma Mountain Village's greatest impact, like BedZed's, could well be in forging the way for others.

For more information on the SOMO's impressive attributes, visit,,or

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If there is one regret I have looking back at my years in real estate, it would be not documenting the thanks and testimonials that I received early on from clients and other Realtors.  In fact, it wasn't until quite recently that I have started doing so.
I have always had great feedback from those that I assist in buying and selling their real estate, but to tell you the truth I think I took it for granted a little bit.  Not the appreciation of the client, that I will never, I think I failed to realize that not every Realtor has past clients signing their praises and I have now made a conscience effort to document the feedback I get.
With the internet moving from a place for companies and professionals to have online "brochures" to a two way communication and fact exchange source, I think giving everyone their say is more crucial than it has ever been.
So now, if someone is googling "who is the best realtor in vancouver" or "which realtor has the most satisfied clients" or "is Cory Raven held in high regard by his past clients?" who knows, maybe they'll stumble upon my website and give me a chance to introduce myself.
Here are two recent testimonials
"I love my new home. The more I speak to my homeowner friends about their real estate experience, the more I appreciate all that you did, to make this so easy. Being a first time home buyer comes with an overwhelming amount of information, you simplified it for me and had wonderful input and advice. When it comes time to relocate, I cant imagine doing it without you. Thanks Cory"
"this was our first home and we had a lot of questions. Cory Raven continually took all of our worries seriously (even when they came late at night!). he guided us through each step of this complicated process but always ensured we were making our own decisions. he was there with information, advice, calm reassurance and continual validation that buying a home is a roller coaster. ultimately we appreciated all of these things in working with Cory, but we also had fun in all the time we spent with him. if you can have a bit of fun while learning about the legacy of leaky condos, it's a pretty good sign! we'd happily recommend him to our friends and family.

barb & kate
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The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has released their Sept stats.  Very detailed and very positive!
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The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver just released their stats for July 2009 and it reflects what any Realtor in town will be able to tell you; July was an amazingly busy month

July stats:

Strong spring market carries into summer months

VANCOUVER, B.C. – August 5, 2009 – The Greater Vancouver housing market gained further momentum in July with record sales levels and a continued strengthening of home prices.

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that the number of residential property sales in Greater Vancouver totalled 4,114 in July 2009, becoming the highest volume of sales ever recorded within the REBGV for that month, outpacing the 4,023 sales in July 2003, which is the only other year that July sales exceeded the 4,000 mark.

Since the beginning of the year, the MLSLink® Housing Price Index (HPI) benchmark price for all residential properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 9.2 per cent to $528,821 from $484,211. However, home prices compared to July 2008 levels are down 5 per cent.

“Home sales this summer are seasonally higher than normal, which is due in large part to the price correction that has taken place in the last year and low interest rates,” Scott Russell, REBGV president said. “Although wellpriced listings and lower-to mid-range priced properties remain in the highest demand across Greater Vancouver, recent activity from first-time buyers is beginning to boost demand in the “move-up” segment of the market.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties declined in Greater Vancouver, down 17.4 per cent to 5,041 in July 2009 compared to July 2008, when 6,104 new units were listed. At 12,482, the total number of property listings on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) declined 5.8 per cent compared to last month and 34 per cent compared to July 2008.

“It is currently taking, on average, 48 days for a home to sell in the region. Today’s market activity differs by area and property type and it’s important to tap into local housing market expertise to understand why some properties are attracting multiple offers, while others are not moving,” Russell said.

July 2009 home sales declined 3.4 per cent compared to June 2009, but are up 89.2 per cent when measured against the 2,174 sales recorded in July 2008.

Sales of detached properties in July increased 95.2 per cent to 1,614 from the 827 detached sales recorded during the same period in 2008. The HPI benchmark price for detached properties declined 5.5 per cent from July 2008 to $711,702. Since the beginning of the year, the benchmark price for detached properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 9.8 per cent.

Sales of apartment properties in July 2009 increased 76.8 per cent to 1,708, compared to 966 sales in July 2008. The benchmark price of an apartment property declined 4.3 per cent from July 2008 to $365,291. Since the beginning of the year, the benchmark price for apartment properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 9.6 per cent.

Attached property sales in July 2009 are up 107.9 per cent to792, compared with the 381 sales in July 2008. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 4.6 per cent between July 2008 and 2009 to $452,085. Since the beginning of the year, the benchmark price for attached properties in Greater Vancouver has increased 6.8 per cent.

Bright spots in Greater Vancouver in July 2009 compared to July 2008:


Burnaby up 121.7 per cent (153 units sold from 69)  

North Vancouver up 53.3 per cent (115 units sold from 75)  

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows up 60 per cent (160 units sold from 100)  

Richmond up 140.2 per cent (221 units sold from 92)  

Vancouver East up 66.4 per cent (208 units sold from 125)  

Port Coquitlam up 236.4 per cent (74 units sold from 22)  

Vancouver West up 104.5 per cent (180 units sold from 88)  

South Delta up 203.1 per cent (97 units sold from 32)  

West Vancouver up 108.1 per cent (77 units sold from 37)  

Sunshine Coast up 60.5 per cent (69 units sold from 43)  


Burnaby up 123.3 per cent (134 units sold from 60)  

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows up 77.7 per cent (64 units sold from 36)  

North Vancouver up 70 per cent (51 units sold from 30)  

Vancouver West up 110 per cent (105 units sold from 50)  

Richmond up 152.1 per cent (179 units sold from 71)  

Vancouver East up 195.8 per cent (71 units sold from 24)  

Port Coquitlam up 117.6 per cent (37 units sold from 17)  

Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows up 77.7 per cent (64 units sold from 36)  

Coquitlam up 88.2 per cent (64 units sold from 34)  


Burnaby up 72.8 per cent (235 units sold from 136)  

North Vancouver up 47.9 per cent (105 units sold from 71)  

Richmond up 85.5 per cent (230 units sold from 124)  

Vancouver East up 64.2 per cent (179 units sold from 109)  

Vancouver West up 94 per cent (584 units sold from 301)  

New Westminster up 70.6 per cent (116 units sold from 68)  

Coquitlam up 62.3 per cent (86 units sold from 53)  

Port Moody/Belcarra up 138.1 per cent (50 units sold from 21)  

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Here is a copy of my July 2009 Informed Home Buyer Newsletter
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Today's Real Deal is a 4 bedroom FREEHOLD townhouse in Champlain Heights.  Rentals not allowed.  This seems like an excellent buy for a family looking to get into the market.
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Please excuse the mess while I upgrade my website.  In the meantime, you may access all my blog posts by clicking here.
Please excuse the mess while I upgrade my website to provide you with even more timely and topical information on our market and the process of buying and selling.  In the meantime, you can access my blog by clicking here
Cory Raven
Cory Raven - Managing Broker
RE/MAX Select Realty
4806 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5V 3R8