Mondo Condo

Green residential developments are on the rise

It's one thing to bring green into your home, but what happens when you want your actual home to be environmentally friendly? It can be difficult to find an urban green home. Fortunately, there’s an ever-growing roster of local green condo developers to choose from, including TAS DesignBuild, Tridel, Minto and the Windmill Development Group.

New industry

According to the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), green construction in Canada is growing. In the month of June, Canada saw the 100th building and the first two homes became LEED Canada certified, the rating system used to create enviro-friendly buildings.

In an industry still learning about sustainability, Toronto’s TAS DesignBuild stands out as a pioneer. In 2005, the company made a deep commitment to green, incorporating its vision of sustainability across three business units: design, construction and development.

"As a builder, you have to live it, you have to breath it and you have to walk the talk," says Mazyar Mortazavi, principal of TAS DesignBuild. "Consumer demand is forcing the housing market to change. Traditionally, developers have not been innovators in the housing market. Now, for the first time, there is this shift where they are trying to understand what is going on and introduce change before the consumer asks for it."

Setting the standard

Having already made a mark with its Dia Condos in North York and ZED Condos in the downtown core, TAS is going for LEED certification with its M5V Life condominium project, affectionately named for the postal code where it resides. What’s more, the company has planned an even newer sustainable development for the city’s west end: a 29-story green condo called Giraffe.

Designing a healthy building in a competitive and price-sensitive market can be a daunting challenge. LEED certification requires more effort in planning and design stages, often costing more to build. Despite the obvious paybacks, many companies still shy away from green. But with tougher energy standards being folded into new provincial building codes, many believe LEED certification will soon be the norm and not the exception.

High design meets functional design

When the M5V project launched, it had the first ever Silver LEED-certified sales pavilion where the public could experience the perks of sustainability. Most visitors were surprised to learn that 86 percent of the pavilion was created with existing structures and building materials already on site. Industry has taken note of TAS’s efforts as well: The company was recently named Green Home Builder of the Year at the 29th Home Builder Awards.

Green initiatives

M5V is designed to be energy efficient and healthy. Condos are equipped with low-flush toilets, low-flow fixtures, automated lighting and programmable thermostats, and individual metering of water and hydro. Units will also be equipped with EnerGuide appliances and low-emission floorings. Public spaces will have motion detection lights to further reduce energy consumption.

Giraffe promises the same features as M5V and more, including an 8,000 square foot roof garden for residents. There’s also a partnership with Waterkeepers Canada, which will receive a portion of sale proceeds from every Giraffe condominium.

Creating community

TAS has an alliance with Bullfrog Power,  which means its building will be 100 percent green power; another alliance with car-sharing organization Autoshare will see a plug-in hybrid Prius at the M5V Condos and Autoshare membership automatically given to residents.

But, these are the easy sells since they are clearly visible.

Not just for show

It's at the unseen core where the deep green condo transformation happens. Since air quality is always a problem in most high-rise buildings, conventional buildings handle air loss by pressuring the corridors. This means air coming into individual units is often stale with odours and dust. M5V has a Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system at its centre supplying fresh air to every unit via ducts. An Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) system further conserves even more energy lowering consumption. It's not something the average home owner thinks about, which is why TAS also sees consumer awareness and education as an integral part of building green.

This is an updated version of an article was first published in the Fall 2007 issue of Green Living magazine.