Tag Archives: environmentally friendly building
Whether it’s a condo in Toronto, a suburban house or a country property, the environment is increasingly top-of-mind with homebuyers and builders
By Sherry Noik-Bent – National Post
It is often said that we haven’t inherited the Earth from our fathers, we’re borrowing it from our children. Today, with a heightened awareness of environmental concerns, homebuilders are making a commitment to create cleaner, more energy-efficient homes.
The movement toward environmentally friendly building is swiftly gaining ground in this country and it is homebuyers who may come out the biggest winners.
Sustainable housing is booming, with options like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, energy-efficient light bulbs and even windmills coming in to widespread use in new homes.
“‘Green buildings’ is really just a word for high-performance buildings,” says Thomas Mueller, president of the Canada Green Building Council.
“You get a better building in terms of performance, durability, health, energy, water and so… a better building that provides a better value for the customer.”
The council is a non-profit coalition of building professionals that kick-started this green revolution. Since its inception in December, 2002, the organization has rapidly signed on 1,100 member firms and organizations including architects and engineers, contractors, builders and even municipalities (the City of Vancouver was first; the City of Toronto came later).
The council’s board of directors is made up of private and public-sector building representatives. And its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program has quickly become the gold — and silver and platinum — standard for green building.
LEED is the latest buzzword in building. And with a growing number of projects seeking certification — 278 registered in Canada, 16 of them condo and/or loft projects in the GTA — it’s something Canadian homebuyers are going to hear more and more about.
Modified from the original U.S. version for our climates, LEED Canada is a system of rating buildings for their environmental impact and performance using a points system. The points result in ratings from “certified” to “silver” to “gold” to “platinum.” The 72 techno-speak criteria on the Project Checklist — things like “erosion and sedimentation control” and “ozone protection” — will likely be of little interest to consumers. But the end result is a definitive green-print for developers to follow and a mark homebuyers can count on.
“Green buildings were around before, but the LEED rating system really presents a common framework and a common language so we can say what a green building really is,” elaborates Mr. Mueller.
With LEED, builders must meet certain prerequisites, then accumulate credits in six categories: sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and design process. Any combination of points between 26 and 32 results in a “certified” assignation. Between 33 and 38 nets “silver”; 39-51 receives “gold”; and 52-70 scores “platinum.”
Though inspection and certification happen post-construction, buyers can be assured a building will meet at least the minimum LEED standard if it has registered, because registration denotes a commitment.
What builders — and homebuyers — are realizing is that an environmentally friendly building doesn’t have to look like an eccentric space-age edifice or a primitive tree house.
Take the Radiance at Minto Gardens, a 33-storey condo in North York. Last month, it became the first residential high-rise to be LEED Canada certified, garnering a silver rating.
“The biggest ‘green’ feature of this building is that it looks like any other building,” says Andrew Pride, Minto’s vice-president of energy management.
Furthermore, while residents go about their normal lives, Minto’s innovations bring them significant savings and — here’s the best part — doesn’t require any extra effort on their part. Quite the opposite, in fact.
By using energy-efficient hallway lighting and installing motion sensors in the stairwells — triggered, like a refrigerator bulb, the instant the door is opened — the building’s common-area energy consumption in its first year of occupancy was 33% lower than in a non-green building, saving an estimated $200,000 on maintenance fees.
Inside the 377 condos, Minto has introduced energy-efficient thermostats, specially designed HRV (heat recovery ventilator) fan coils, and the very popular “all off” switch by the entrance that kills all the lights and exhaust fans at once.
But where the residents are most empowered is in the individual metering of hydro and hot and cold water. “This allows you to control your own cost,” says Mr. Pride. In “a typical condo, water is included in the condo fees, so your neighbour’s water use is your cost.” When consumers are able to see a breakdown of their consumption, they are more inclined to take simple measures, such as not running the tap when they brush their teeth and not running the dishwasher with just a few plates. The result has been a 55% reduction in water use — the equivalent of a one-litre bottle every second — compared with a similar-sized condo, and a savings of approximately $55,000 a year.
No detail has been overlooked in constructing a more efficient, healthy building that will appeal to homeowners and also provide city-wide environmental benefits like reduced emissions, waste and rainwater runoff.
But with higher building costs, what’s the incentive for developers?
“This building’s [cost is] somewhere around 3% to 4% higher than an equivalent condo in Toronto,” says Mr. Pride. “We absorbed it. It was part of what we wanted to build and what we wanted to demonstrate.”
Still, that’s not a viable long-term business plan for Minto. So until costs come down on going green, the company is exploring new ways to make up the difference, such as a “green loan” — a loan by Minto to the condo corporation that is paid back over time by a portion of the residents’ maintenance fees.
“There is a difference,” says Mr. Pride, “and there is a choice.”
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