Vancouver's Olympic-Sized Billion Dollar Burden

Olympic VIllage in Vancouver, Canada
Olympic VIllage in Vancouver, Canada

In Vancouver, as in other Pacific Northwest cities like Seattle and Portland, sustainability is an overriding principal for architecture and urban planning. So it was with pride that the city's Olympic organizing officials crafted a public-private partnership in which an inner-city, former industrial zone became not only the site for the Olympic Village -- housing for more than 2,700 Olympic athletes during the during the games in sustainably constructed buildings -- but a laudable mix of market-rate condos and subsidized affordable housing afterward. Given how such recovery of inner city land reduces the need for sprawl at the edges of the Vancouver metro area, the development actually embodies all three components of the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra.

The Olympic Village, once the games are completed, will give way to what's being called the Millennium Water development, featuring about 1,100 units, 250 of which will be set aside available for low-income households, and 120 for rentals. The buildings are targeted to save up to 50 percent on energy (versus code), while up to 70% of electricity needs are provided by an innovative system that recovers heat from sewage.

The waterfront condos are winning high praise from Olympic athletes, who are not used to having such cushy housing; most units have high-end finishes such as marble countertops, as well as expansive views of the downtown skyline and distant snowcapped mountains. "It's blown us away, to be honest," American speedskater Chad Hedrick told Time magazine. "They really went big on this. It's a million-dollar view, for sure."