Tag Archives: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
Christopher Hume – Toronto Star
When a city has to decide what it wants — past or future — the answer is obvious: both.
For decades, it has been simpler just to tear down anything that stood in the way. Starting in the 1950s, modernism’s glory years, we demolished our history with gleeful abandon. Architectural heritage, no matter how significant, paled in comparison to the brilliance that lay ahead.
Things didn’t turn out quite as expected, and while the rush to the future slows, the value of the past becomes ever harder to ignore. And we’re not just talking about aesthetics, though God knows, the 19th century was eons ahead of the 21st in its understanding of urban architecture. It turns out that even the lowliest industrial structures — warehouses, factories, bakeries — are paragons of flexibility. Used and reused, they have enabled the revitalization of much of downtown Toronto, especially the Entertainment District.
Think of the area along Peter St. between Queen and Richmond Sts. Like much of the city’s lower west end, this is a neighbourhood that once was grimy and industrial. Nowadays, it is anything but; many of those magnificent brick buildings where workers once toiled are now remade as offices, lofts, shops, restaurants and bars — but much remains to be done to realize their full potential.
“These old structures are excellent,” says Toronto architect Dermot Sweeny, “but all the other systems are junk.” That includes air-conditioning, heating, wiring, the sort of internal infrastructure we generally take for granted. At the same time, the quality of 19th- and early 20th-century architecture and construction are superior in every other way to contemporary stuff.
Although there’s endless demand for corporate office space in the core, many businesses want something other than standard-issue highrise quarters. After all, not every outfit is a bank, a financial institution or an insurance company. Other more “creative” companies actually prefer the character of older spaces with their masonry walls, wooden beams, high ceilings and wide plank floors. These structures have the handmade look of an earlier era, something that stands in stark contrast to the out-of-the-catalogue design of more recently constructed buildings.
“The demand for this sort of office space is unlimited,” insists Michael Emory, president and CEO of Allied Properties, a Toronto-based real-estate firm that renovates and rents former industrial structures. “These old buildings present an extraordinarily compelling case for our clients.”
Emory’s current focus is a trio of early 20th-century heaps on the northwest corner of Richmond and Peter, one of which once served as a Weston bakery. Though the three buildings sit beside each another, there’s plenty of space around them, space that could be reorganized to add density to the area.
“Everything between the buildings sits empty,” says Sweeney, whose firm, Sweeny Sterling Finlayson & Co., includes Allied as a client. “The old factory district does not have the density to sustain a good mix of uses.”
His answer is to fill in these in-between spaces and put an addition on top of the largest of the structures — the bakery — thus preserving the original buildings intact and helping to create the kind of critical mass of jobs and people needed to keep the city healthy. Sweeny envisions an 11-storey vertical glass extension perched above the red-brick box at 134 Peter St. The addition reaches west of its host building to become the top of an atrium carved out of what’s now empty space.
“The new building starts 75 feet up in the air,” Sweeny explains, “well above the two existing buildings below. We’ve discovered that one of the issues is the need to make better use of these great old buildings and the land around them. In this project, there’s about half an acre of empty land currently used for parking. The question for us is how to charge residual space with new life. The void between buildings is often as important as buildings themselves.”
Sweeny refers to the “Two Kings,” an innovative program initiated by the old City of Toronto that eliminated traditional land-use rules at King and Parliament and King and Bathurst. Both locations experienced a boom that led to the renovation of up to four million square feet of old industrial space.
“The net result,” says Sweeny, “was affordable and interesting space for companies looking for an alternative to the standard office building — and at a reasonable cost. The strategy worked well; the buildings are full.”
He also points out that these interventions can be designed to maximize the green potential of the complex-to-be. That will mean energy reductions of 50 to 60%.
And as Emory notes, “I don’t think you can build new office space today without LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. You’d be a fool to try. It’s a new best practice you can’t ignore.”
Of course, this project will win points simply by incorporating existing structures; the energy embedded in these old buildings and others is enough to propel Toronto well into the future — and keep the city connected to its past. That’s the civic version of having your cake and eating it, too.
Ryan Starr – Toronto Star
Standing in the courtyard of MintoMidtown, Andrew Pride beams with delight as he lists off the property’s various green design elements.
The vice-president of Minto’s “green team” notes the LED exterior lighting, which provides ample illumination but uses minimal energy.
He directs his visitor’s attention to chairs made from recycled steel, and to a rainwater-fed fountain with wind sensors that ensure the water doesn’t blow all over passersby in the event of a sudden gust.
Pride points out that the limestone used throughout the courtyard is locally sourced, which cut down on transportation-related emissions.
“The courtyard is a great gathering place,” he says of the two-tower highrise condo on Yonge St. just south of Eglinton Ave. “It’s the heart of this sustainable community.”
The green courtyard helped Midtown in June become the largest condo in North America to be certified LEED Gold.
Midtown’s 891 units boast the latest in energy efficiency, including compact fluorescent lighting, Energy Star appliances and low-emission paints and carpeting.
Each condo is also equipped with heat recovery ventilators, which pipe in fresh outside air, remove stale air and save energy.
For Pride and his team, Midtown’s LEED Gold certification represents the culmination of a forward-thinking strategy that has put the company in the vanguard of Toronto’s green building industry
Minto currently has three LEED-certified highrises in Toronto, comprising more than 1,400 units; three more are slated to open in 2010.
“Building a code home today is building obsolescence into a home,” says Pride, who also sits on the executive committee of the Canada Green Building Council. “We have to be ready for the future.”
Leaders in eco thinking
Pride, who worked for years as an energy services consultant, joined Minto in 1999 with a mandate to drive the company’s green agenda.
“They were doing environmentally friendly things already,” he explains, “but they wanted me to put a team together and really attack our buildings.”
This was years before the green building revolution, and Pride was impressed by Minto’s progressive approach.
“I had been trying to sell (green building) for over a decade, trying to get existing buildings focused on it,” he says.
Pride went on to launch Minto’s Green Team, a dedicated division tasked with crafting the company’s sustainable building strategy.
To sell buyers on the idea of green building, Minto’s initial strategy put a stronger emphasis on the health benefits of the condos over energy savings.
“Today energy savings tend to be a bit more relevant,” Pride says. “People still want those health benefits, but it’s very much about value now.”
In 2004, following the advent of the LEED certification system for highrises, Minto committed to making all of its buildings meet that standard of sustainability.
Radiance@Minto Gardens, a 34-storey tower at Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave., was the first LEED-certified condo in Canada.
Completed in 2006, the 378-unit building became the testing grounds for an innovative technology now found in all Minto construction: heat recovery ventilators that bring filtered fresh air into the suites (versus the usual stale corridor air).
“Air quality is really poor in highrise buildings,” Pride says. “We wanted to create a healthier living environment.”
The condo also became the first in Minto’s portfolio to have water sub-meters in each unit.
“We put the cost of water into the hands of those who use it,” says Pride, noting this led to a 55 per cent reduction in overall water consumption.
The company’s next development, MintoRoehampton, a rental building at Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave., was the first multi-family building in Canada to achieve LEED Gold.
Roehampton, finished in 2007, was the company’s guinea pig for the harvesting of rainwater for use in landscaping and public toilets.
Rainwater harvesting, once illegal, is now included in the Toronto Green Standard, and Pride says Roehampton helped make the case for it. Roehampton also has a triple waste-stream system, which filters garbage, recycling and organics separately.
“Eventually the city is going to charge for garbage, and it’s a huge building,” Pride says. “So why wouldn’t we make recycling easy for people?”
Minto’s next condo project, Midtown, incorporated all of its predecessors’ innovations and added some new ones.
The building has motion-sensor stairwell lighting that can reduce consumption to less than 200 hours a year.
Each suite comes with “all-off” controls that allow all fixed lighting to be turned off with the flick of a switch and turn down the thermostat to an energy-savings setting.
Dual flush toilets are standard at MintoMidtown, helping reduce water consumption by 32 per cent.
What’s more, 50 per cent of the materials used in the condo’s construction were extracted and produced locally, Pride says.
This plethora of green features earned MintoMidtown the LEED Gold certification earlier this year.
“We are delighted to see multiple-unit residential buildings achieving this landmark,” says Mark Hutchinson, director of green building for the Canada Green Building Council.
“Hundreds of people will enjoy a healthier environment in their homes as a result, and the environment will benefit from the building’s reduced footprint.
“Midtown is a great example of what can be achieved.”
Pride adds Minto offers a bike-share program at Midtown, providing free bicycles for its residents.
Minto has several more buildings lined up for LEED certification in 2010: mintoSkyy, at Broadview Ave. and Pottery Rd.; Spring, the sister building to Radiance@Minto Gardens; and Richgrove Village, a four-storey project in Etobicoke.
The company is greening single-family homes, as well.
In Ottawa, Minto has built a net-zero “eco-home,” which runs on solar power and produces as much energy as it consumes.
The demonstration home, named “Inspiration — the Minto ecohome,” is part of the EQulibrium housing initiative, a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. pilot project that will guide the creation of a development of net-zero homes.
Inspiration – which Minto calls “Canada’s greenest home” – has achieved LEED for Homes Platinum, the highest level of certification possible.
Built from mainly recycled and renewable materials, the eco-home uses rainwater harvesting, has double insulated walls, triple pane windows and a natural ventilation system that eliminates the need for air conditioning.
Anticipating the market
As the green revolution sweeps the home-building industry, Minto’s forward-thinking approach has put the company in a strong leadership position.
“Successful businesses anticipate where the market’s going to be,” says Peter Love, president of Love Energy Consultants and Ontario’s first chief energy conservation officer.
“Minto has concluded that people are interested in a more energy-efficient home and that the demand is growing, that it’s going to be major.”
Pride’s not bashful when it comes to taking credit for helping push the local industry to be greener.
“We knew green was coming,” he says. “By doing all the homework we’ve done over the last 10 years, we’ve been able to deliver a product that’s right on mark with what our customers want.
“For us, green is prosperous.”
LEEDing the way
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a third-party certification program for green buildings.
LEED ratings focus on a building’s performance in five areas: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality
Certification is based on the total point score achieved, following an independent review and an audit of selected credits. There are four possible levels of certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum.
For more information: www.cagbc.org/leed/what/index.php
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