3 Big Wins for Sustainability at Element

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By now, you are probably not surprised to hear that environmental sustainability is important to us. With Element Urban Village, our focus is on encouraging sustainable lifestyles, through energy conservation and efficiency, walkability, and an experiment with solar-powered electric car share.

Moving around and living are the two most energy-intensive activities the average Canadian does on a daily basis. That is, driving our cars and heating our homes account for 50 percent and 33 percent of the average Canadian household's carbon footprint, respectively. (Electricity is a distant third at 13 percent.) Any significant effort to address household sustainability cannot ignore the impact that location plays in forcing automobile dependence. When you can choose to make a greater number of your trips in a more environmentally-friendly manner, you're making a huge dent in your carbon footprint.

Enter Element Urban Village. Here are the 3 big things we're doing with our latest project to foster and encourage sustainability both inside the home and beyond the property line.

1. Energy-efficient construction

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Phase I, consisting of six river-view townhouse units completed in 2016, has achieved an EnerGuide energy efficiency rating of 28 percent less than typical construction. The 11 units of Phase II are intended to meet or exceed this efficiency rating, while offering a more affordable option to those who seek the urban village lifestyle at a more attainable price point.

The EnerGuide rating of Phase I was estimated at 78 gigajoules per year, compared to the average new home at 108 gigajoules per year. Phase II units will be constructed of the same or similar materials and represent a smaller overall footprint, meaning a reduction of 28 percent or more from typical construction will be easily realized. The majority of energy usage in most homes, including those at Element, comes from space heating. The smaller massing of Phase II units—while maintaining useable, functional living space—will result in a substantial gain in energy efficiency.

In another move to reduce energy use at Phase II, we've decided to make air-conditioning an optional upgrade to buyers, since our energy model for Phase II showed the units won't overheat in the summer enough to need it anyway. (The cooling load at Phase II is under the threshold for Passivhaus certification. Cool, right?)

2. Walkable and transit-oriented

As the timeless adage goes, location, location, location.

It's been studied over and over again: Walkable and transit-oriented neighbourhoods make for great lifestyles. We know it, you know it. And WalkScore knows it—they've put this reality into practice, allowing anyone to determine the walkability of a neighbourhood or property with the click of a button.

At Shift, we build exclusively in walkable neighbourhoods with exceptional amenities nearby, both because it's where we want to be, and where our customers want to be. Our average WalkScore to date on all of our development projects is 89.4. We believe it's a safe bet to claim the highest average WalkScore, by far, of any property developer in Saskatchewan. (Admittedly, we haven't crunched the numbers on that one, so consider this an open invitation for comparison. But we're confident in our walkability.)

Surprise surprise, Element Urban Village is very walkable, with a WalkScore of 80.


Another important factor in sustainable urban living is transit access. A commonly accepted walking distance to a transit stop in order to be considered "transit-oriented development" is a quarter-mile (400 metres), or about a five- to seven-minute walk. Element is within this walking distance from two existing transit stops.

What's more, the future of transit access at Element is only going to improve. The City of Saskatoon has flagged both Avenue H and 19th Street (as well as 20th Street) as having a medium priority for Bus Rapid Transit and corridor growth planning. In the long term, Element will be strategically located within a short walk of two (or three) rapid transit lines.

3. Solar-powered electric car share


Are those the cleanest, greenest five words you've ever read, or what? It's no joke—with the completion of Phase II and the establishment of the condo board, we are going to include an all-electric BMW i3 to be shared among all Element Urban Villagers. And it's going to be charged by the sun, courtesy of Roots Rock Solar.

Let's make a checklist of sustainability initiatives built into this single endeavour. Car share? Check. Electric car? Check. Solar power? Check.

The only way this could be more green is if the car also somehow produced fresh, organic kale.

The goal for the Element electric car share program is to enable owners—in conjunction with their new walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented lifestyles—to ditch their second or even primary vehicle, substituting the occasional car trip with the "Element Electric" instead.

Ideally, we'll be taking up to 17 cars off of Saskatoon's streets. And the single car we're replacing them with is completely emissions-free from source to tailpipe. How do you like them apples? (We like 'em green.)

We're going to dish all of the details on the "Element Electric" in an upcoming blog post. And it won't be based on best guesses and spec sheets, either: Shift Development is going to replace our current company car (a Fiat 500c) with an electric BMW i3 and put it through its paces. Stay tuned for the full review.

The Shift BMW i3. Coming soon.

The Shift BMW i3. Coming soon.


If you've read this far, you are clearly someone who cares about sustainability as much we do. We're happy to have you on the team. Keep in touch with Shift updates by signing up to our company newsletter here. Do you or does someone you know want to be part of the solution at Element Phase II? Sign up to be the first to hear about availability and everything else Element right here.