Port Coquitlam is an ideal destination for outdoor pedestrian-oriented and nature lovers. Here the nature is a part of our lifestyle and we admire it, we explore it and we try to protect it. As humans we are mostly oriented towards consuming and the damage that we already have done to the nature is huge. Fortunately, most of us start to realize and act on that…
When I started my search for the most environmentally friendly building in the area where I live (Port Coquitlam, BC) I was pleasantly surprised that we have quite a few of them and there are more to come… As it appears, Port Coquitlam’s Walmart Supercenter has the largest green roof in the region. Moreover, it is the first example of Port Coquitlam’s 2006 bylaw amendment. Port Coquitlam was the first city in BC to introduce the requirement that all new buildings over 5,000 sq m (53,821 sq ft) in size are required to install green roofs. The whole shopping area is extremely pedestrian friendly; it has linkages between the stores which encourage people to walk once they get to the mall because all of their shopping needs are in one place. Such design will contribute to reduction of automobile traffic and emissions will result. Port Coquitlam is an ideal destination for an outdoor pedestrian-oriented shopping destination because people love to walk here, as evidenced by the Len Traboulay-PoCo trail which is a short distance away. This is the information that I have easily got from Internet… It was so impressive that I have decided to go there and learn more about their green initiative.
So, I went to Walmart to get more information about their green roof and other environmentally friendly tips. The experience that I have gotten there excited all my expectations! But let’s start from the beginning…
It’s 9 am and I am at Walmart, waiting for Suzanne, one of the store managers. She promised me some inside printed information about their roof and other in store recycling projects. Although, she had a better plan for me: I can actually go on top of the roof and also have a tour throughout the entire store and see all “behind the scene” areas of Walmart!!!!
First, I went to meet Phil, the store manager, who gave me some information about the green roof and also talked about their amazing recycling program (almost everything goes into recycling there).
Then, Suzanne and I went for a tour throughout the places that as a regular costumer you would never be allowed to access.
The first destination of the tour and, of course, one of the most interesting ones was the actual green roof, roof which is not designed for public access. We climbed a 30-foot ladder and went directly on top of Walmart. Now, if you would expect a green garden of Eden with flowers and grass, you would be very disappointed. What I found up there were tiny, colorful, drought-tolerant plants that more-rightly belonged in rock crevices or an alpine meadow stretched out as far as the eye could see… In our case they were 220,000 hand-planted sedums and succulents planted on 113,467 sq ft of the Walmart Supercentre’s green roof surface of 151,290 sf. Bigger than two NFL-sized football fields, the roof is one of the largest in the region. Amazing!!! Yes? According to one of the roof builders the plants would not grow bigger than they are how (a few inches), so, there is no need to worry that they would be too heavy for the roof or maintenance will be too complicated.
How does it work?
A green roof is an extension of a building’s roof that allows vegetation to grow. From a design standpoint, a green roof is an aesthetically pleasing architectural element. More importantly, it is also highly functional: it reduces the urban heat island effect of large buildings (the tendency of developed areas to be significantly warmer than their surroundings), boosts energy conservation and controls cooling costs. Such roofs also filter pollution, promote natural storm water management and even create bird habitat.
It was a huge project for the builders and cost them $1 million. As we can see, the investment was significant but will be offset by reduced heating and cooling costs. However, the project went even further …With the main idea to stay green and to reduce the impact on the environment, builders incorporated into the project landscaped bioswale where water from the roof is channeled into a pipe, then drops 35 feet, before bouncing off a couple of boulders to disperse into an attractively-laid out rock and gravel bed below. There, it slowly percolates into the groundwater.
Bioswales are vegetated open channels specifically designed to attenuate and treat storm water runoff for a defined water volume. Like open ditches, they convey larger storm water volumes from a source to a discharge point, but unlike ditches, they intentionally promote slowing, infiltration and cleansing along the way.
The bioswales will naturally filter the storm water. As storm water runoff flows through bioswales, pollutants are removed through filtering by vegetation and soils. Above ground plant parts (stems, leaves, and stolons) retard flow and thereby encourage particulates and their associated pollutants to settle. The pollutants are then incorporated into the soil where they may be immobilized and/or decomposed. In particular, bacteria within healthy soils can help break down carbon-based pollutants like motor oil. The bioswales create less stress on the city’s storm sewer system too. The landscaped bioswales also could be found throughout the parking lot…
Photo: bioswale that will filter water from the green roof
The structure of the roof
Talking to building and parking lot maintenance personal, I found out how the green roof has been structured. It comes in layers and goes as followed:
- inside deck,
- rigid isolation (about 2-4 inches),
- layer of polyamide (that keeps the water out),
- layer of rubber,
- ecological ground,
The roof also has a self regulated irrigation system. That means that the system is sensitive to weather changes and senses when it rains or not and it turns on and off according to this.
Photo: Maintenance guys: Jody (on the left), me (in the center), and Bill (on the right).
The Walmart’s recycling system
I also have learned that all employees at this Walmart are highly engaged in the recycling program. They have a goal to recycle as much as they can and they actually recycle 94% out of their garbage. They recycle cardboard, metal, plastic, paint, aerosols and batteries. The organic waste collected separately. I even had a chance to see how they make recycling “sandwich” packs. Those packs are made from cardboard and plastic, and called like that because these two “ingredients” got put into the press in layers and final “product” comes out as a huge sandwich.
Photo: The sandwich 🙂
Photo: View of the sandwiches from the roof
Photo: The Sandwich maker
Photo: Me on top of the roof
Other environmentally friendly features of the building:
- outdoor LED lighting; downward and photo voltaic lighting to reduce light pollution and energy use
- energy-efficient appliances,
- low-flow fixtures and faucets to conserve water
- programmable, automated thermostats for controlled environments
- control systems that provide real-time information on electricity usage and costs
- photocell controls in parkades, common areas, and the exterior to save energy
- multiple heating and cooling zones for comfort and efficiency
My Sustainability Plan
As environmental sustainability continues to be one of the top issues on the minds of many people, Walmart decided to design a new program, which will empower their associates to engage sustainability in their own lives and on their own terms. The program called My Sustainability Plan (MSP).
“My Sustainability Plan” asks Walmart associates to identify something they are passionate about, develop a plan to make it part of their daily lives, track their progress, and share their story to inspire other associates at the meeting they have every morning. Examples of MSP include carpooling, cleaning up a local park, quitting smoking, recycling, switching to sustainable products and using reusable shopping bags. Overall, that plan encourages people live healthier, greener and better.
Every associate (employee) has access to Walmart information database about MSP that provides suggestions for smart usage of products. There are suggestions regarding food consumption (Green kitchen), water usage, water gardening, chemicals handling, vacation planning, raising environmentally conscious children, lighting choices, saving energy, saving gas.
Walmart’s long-range sustainability goals are to generate zero waste, to be powered 100 % by renewable energy, and to sell products that sustain resources and the environment. MSP is the latest idea of sustainability actions that Walmart made in the last few years to cut off any waste or energy through daily choices.
Special “Thank You” to TIOCOAT International For sponsoring Miss Teen Canada-World 2013 (1st blog challenge)