Tag Archives: environmentally friendly
It could be your home’s ultimate ecological statement – a lawn you can park your car on
Deirdre Kelly – Globe and Mail
If Stefan Barth has his way, homeowners will be mowing their driveways this season, in addition to their lawns.
His Ground Solutions company specializes in an interlocking grid system made of partially recycled plastic that allows grass to grow even with vehicles parked over top.
“You can mow it or drive a snowplow over it, no problem,” says Mr. Barth, an Oakville, Ont.-based importer who three years ago secured the exclusive North American rights to the German-made product that has been popular in Europe for the last 30 years.
“The product holds. It’s good for cars and for pickups. It can support 300 to 500 tons per square metre, depending on the thickness. There’s no equipment heavy enough on Earth to destroy the product. It’s really, really strong.”
And also really, really good looking — more attractive than asphalt, anyway.
“It’s green. That’s the colour you see. It’s natural,” Mr. Barth continues. “Looking at it, you don’t see dents or cracks. You see grass.”
After years serving commercial clients like Lester B. Pearson International Airport, where the unique landscaping paving system lines the sides of runways, the residential side of Mr. Barth’s business has recently been building, largely on the basis of the product’s looks. He now has customers across Canada in such urban centres as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
The system sells for between $3.15 and $3.70 a square foot, making it slightly more expensive than concrete and asphalt at the onset but more cost-efficient over the long term.
“Asphalt you have to replace on average every seven to 10 years,” Mr. Barth says. “But this lasts forever.”
Just add seed, fertilizer, water and then mow.
The open grid design also has an environmental edge over concrete. That’s why communications specialist Silke Rudelbach now has 100 square feet of the product installed in front of the garage of her north Toronto home.
“The rainwater sinks right into the ground and doesn’t run into the sewage system. There are no puddles,” she says. “I also love the green, fresh look and how my driveway melts into the garden. Even in the winter, it’s easier to shovel than my old driveway. People often stop to look and tell me: ‘What a great idea.’”
Besides erosion protection, the flexible square-shaped cells shield grass roots from extremes in weather, making the product increasingly popular with cottagers, notes Gordon J. Leece, a landscaper based in Meaford, Ont.
Mr. Leece, a Landscape Ontario member, says gravel or stones can be used instead of grass seed to create a variety of different looks. There’s also a design meant for equestrian use in paddocks and dressage arenas where the plastic paving system prevents gravel from flying underfoot.
“You can cut it to fit around trees, rocks and flower beds and other garden structures,” Mr. Leece says. “It’s definitely a growing landscaping trend.”
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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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Toronto Real Estate Board President’s Column as it appears each Friday in the Toronto Sun’s Resale Homes and Condos section
When it comes to character, you just can’t beat the charm of an older home. Newly constructed homes however, come with their own unique assets, one of the most noteworthy of which is energy efficiency.
From the roof to the foundation, a number of innovative building practices often go into constructing today’s greenest homes.
Roof shingles for example, are now available in recycled materials. Environmentally friendly spray foam insulation, which can help prevent dampness, keep out pollutants and contribute to structural strength, is even partially made with recycled materials.
Roofs, walls and floors can be insulated as well with special structural panels that consist of two layers of board with insulating foam in between them. The forms that are used to mould a home’s poured concrete foundation can now also be found with insulating ability, and barriers that prevent dampness from rising into the foundation can be used at this stage of construction as well. Even exterior cladding is now insulated to offer greater energy efficiency.
If you prefer an older home though, there are many simple ways to make it more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
Start with an Energy Star programmable thermostat that will save on heating and cooling costs when you’re not home. You can take this approach a step further by investing in a new high efficiency furnace or air conditioner. Adding insulation to the attic of your home will offer reduced energy costs for years to come as well.
A tank-less water heater will also save on energy costs by providing only the amount of heated water that you need rather than maintaining it in a cylinder.
Even making minor changes can have an impact, like choosing energy efficient light bulbs – Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are good and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are even better.
If you’re planning to make cosmetic changes to your home you can do your part for the environment by choosing wood flooring, and even carpet, made with recycled content. Look for low VOC paints and stains as well, which reduce the number of unstable, carbon-containing compounds that enter the air and react with other elements.
In the bathroom, you can keep more money in your pocket by installing low-flow faucets, showerheads and toilets.
Replacing old windows with low-E argon-filled units that have the Energy Star symbol can make a dramatic difference to your home’s energy efficiency as well.
Changing your old appliances with new Energy Star machines is also a great way to reduce energy consumption while enhancing the overall appeal of your home.
Beyond enjoying the aesthetics, cost savings and fulfillment associated with helping the environment, you can also consider getting an energy audit to take full advantage of a number of government rebates for energy-saving home improvements. Please visit www.TorontoRealEstateBoard.com to learn more about them.
Regardless of the approach you choose, remember that nothing can substitute for good-old fashioned conservation. Remember that the energy you save today may well be the energy that is needed tomorrow.
Tom Lebour is President of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 28,000 Realtors in the Greater Toronto Area.
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