Tag Archives: conservation
High-rise projects sandwiched between downtown and the suburbs have to offer more to compete effectively
By Derek Raymaker – The Globe and Mail
The vast choice in new high-rise condominium suites in central Toronto has wedged prices and demand in a nice equilibrium, if temporarily.
At an average price of $331 a square foot across Greater Toronto, condominium prices are not spiralling out of control in the same way as new detached homes, even though four high-profile super-luxury projects, including one under the Ritz-Carlton banner, have been launched, driving up the average price.
And Torontonians should be surprised and satisfied to know that condo prices here are in line with most other Canadian cities, and actually a bargain compared with Victoria, Vancouver and Calgary.
When you pull yourself away from the economic analysis (which shouldn’t be too hard) and visit the sales centres of new downtown projects, you’ll find finely tuned marketing machines aiming directly at the lifestyle-oriented instincts of buyers looking for convenience and trendy design.
But it’s location that will always trump these other factors, and a hot corner can be worth all the granite countertops in the world. There are over two dozen condo sales centres currently open in central Toronto, and there would seem to be something for everyone .
In Etobicoke, the western lakeshore straddling the mouth of the Humber River continues to hit the right notes with buyers. The subway — and subway extensions — have guided North York’s high-rise development. And the Scarborough Town Centre transit and highway corridor is the site of pretty much all of the high-rise projects in that former borough. Of course, these all come with the discount you’d expect for being out of the trendy loop that exists south of Eglinton Avenue.
None of this is rocket science to any savvy marketing team. But there is one key advantage these traditional low-rise neighbourhoods have over the trendy downtown projects that bodes well for future high-rise development. That is the prevalence of tens of thousands of older couples who want to sell their large maintenance-intensive houses, but not leave their neighbourhoods.
There’s also the added bonus that many of these older buyers are able to buy a high-end two-bedroom suite priced at $500,000 or so with no mortgage after they sell their family house for $750,000 in pockets like Lawrence Park or The Kingsway.
Bayview Avenue has been a particularly popular spot for new empty-nester buyers looking for a well-appointed suite with larger square footages than you’d find in downtown Toronto‘s shoeboxes in the sky to handle all the family heirlooms.
Daniels Corporation’s Kilgour Estates, just south of Lawrence Avenue, has been a huge hit with homeowners from the immediate area, with prices starting at $474,000 and going up to $1,586,000 for between 1,072 and 2,293 square feet.
Further north on Sheppard Avenue is Shane Baghai’s St. Gabriel Village, on a site to be shared with a church and to feature an emphasis on energy conservation. It has been on the market for a year with prices at $479 a square foot.
The overall price picture outside of downtown features many projects with fairly expensive suites like those mentioned above, and loads of traditional high-rise condos catering to the first-time buyer on a budget, but not much in between.
The early data for 2006 indicates it’s been a soft market overall in these areas, with a lot of building going on but not much buying.
In west North York, the average high-rise suite price reported for February was $269 a square foot, up a modest 3.8% from February, 2005, according to data compiled by RealNet Canada. The North Yonge Street corridor reports a price of $316 a square foot, up 1.6% from February, 2005, while Scarborough was at $276 a square foot, up 6.1% from February, 2005.
Etobicoke average suite prices are actually above the Greater Toronto average at $359 a square foot in February, up 3.1% from $348 in February, 2005.
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Condominium building benefits from eco power
By Sherry Noik-Bent, National Post
Located at Front Street and Blue Jays Way, Element was the first residential project to sign on to Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system (DLWC).
It’s the same system that’s already being used to cool concertgoers at the Air Canada Centre, workers at the TD Centre and shoppers at The Bay store on Queen Street, three of the dozen buildings currently hooked up. Another 28 buildings — Queen’s Park among them — are slated to connect by year’s end, and ano-ther four by 2008.
“I don’t know if it’s environmental consciousness or people are afraid that electricity prices are going to go up,” says Enwave president and CEO Dennis Fotinos, “but there’s this huge bandwagon effect.”
DLWC is the largest system of its kind in the world, capable of servicing a large swath of downtown Toronto. Three massive pipes extend 83 metres below the surface of Lake Ontario and extract water from its frigid depths, where the temperature is a consistent 4 C. By way of an energy-transfer station, cold-air energy is extracted and distributed to Enwave’s customers for air conditioning, while the clean, drinkable water continues on its way into the municipal supply.
It’s an exceptionally clean, green solution for an urban jungle like Toronto, where most citizens feel the lake is only good for boating, fireworks-watching and, if you’re brave, swimming.
The DLWC makes use of a renewable resource, is CFC-free, and requires 90% less electricity to operate than conventional condo cooling equipment, resulting in significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you’re talking about living green, you have to talk about it in the macro perspective,” says Tridel’s environmental consultant, Jamie James. “If we can create more energy-efficient homes, we can reduce urban air pollution and we can improve the province’s ability to deliver stable electricity.”
Indeed, this method of cooling alone cuts Element’s energy consumption by about half a million kilowatt-hours per year. Aside from the obvious cost savings, the bonus for residents is that their heating and cooling will not be seasonal, as in typical condos, but rather available all year round. And, certainly, no one’s going to miss the extra noise, pollution and humidity a giant chiller would generate at the juncture of Toronto’s busy sports and entertainment districts.
“We’re now in an age where we have to look at building performance,” Mr. James adds, “because that also impacts quality of life in the city,”
To that end, in-suite energy-saving features, such as Energy Star appliances, further reduce consumption by 300,000 to 400,000 kilowatt-hours. Motion-triggered lighting in the underground garage will reap additional savings. The 354 units also have low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets, which are expected to cut water use by at least one quarter.
Overall, the building will outperform national energy standards by about 25%, which qualifies Tridel for a $60,000 grant from Natural Resources Canada, under its Commercial Building Incentive Program (far less than the estimated half-million-dollar premium it cost to construct Element — a cost the company absorbed when the City turned down its request to build a few storeys higher than the planned 24). Of course, they could have just raised the prices of the suites, but Mr. James says it was important to the developer to keep them at market prices.
For its efforts, Element won the 2006 Green Toronto Award for energy conservation and was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet program this past spring.
Now, a second condo has just announced it will tap in to DLWC. When the 70-storey Trump International Hotel and Towers is completed at Bay and Adelaide, this symbol of luxury and excess will actually be helping reduce harmful emissions by 3,224 tonnes per year and reduce energy consumption by close to three-million kilowatt-hours — an amount comparable to the electricity used by nearly 300 homes — by cooling its residences, hotel rooms, spa, business centre and restaurants with DLWC.
Mr. Fotinos, who recently returned from an industry conference in Nashville, says Toronto is seen as “a real leader” in forward thinking and environmentally friendly energy solutions. At the same time, though he lauds his clients’ efforts at being green, he isn’t sure that’s their only — or even their most important — motivation for using DLWC. “At the end of the day,” he says, “the reason they do it is because it makes economic sense.”
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