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2005 06 22
Environmentally sustainable housing

A sustainable building is not necessarily good architecture, but a building cannot today be called good architecture unless it’s sustainable. Architects, engineers, developers, builders, owners and purchasers of housing in Toronto cannot responsibly avoid the issue of sustainability any longer. In a typical Canadian city, buildings are responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and residential buildings use over 50% of a city’s water. http://www.betterbuildings.ca Measures such as urban intensification and reusing rather than demolishing existing buildings are effective steps in the right direction, but they fall short of creating environmentally sustainable architecture.

Why does all new housing not incorporate solar and wind power? Why are windows in new housing not installed with the highest possible heat loss rating (R-value)? Why does all new housing not have green roofs, which produce oxygen, filter out toxins, provide good insulation, and extend the life of roofing membranes? Why are building materials not being used that require less energy for their manufacture or utilize recycled raw materials e.g. fly ash concrete (fly ash is a by-product of coal-fired electric generating plants)? Why are systems for heat recovery on exhaust air not in place? Where are the groundwater cooling systems in new housing? Why is housing not designed to capitalize on passive solar heating in the wintertime, and minimize on excessive solar heating in the summertime? Why are grey water recycling systems not in place to recycle water used in residential buildings?

The list of measures towards environmental sustainability is a long one, as is the list of excuses as to why so many of them “can’t” be used. We hear, for instance, that developers of condos will balk at the higher capital costs of construction incurred when installing sustainable systems, because they do not enjoy the long-term benefit of lower operating costs inherent in energy saving measures. We hear that condo purchasers are “conservative”, and will not want to buy buildings that use mechanical systems that have not been used a hundred times before. These obstacles should pale in comparison to the implications of doing nothing - accelerated climate change and diminishing quality of life. Torontonians should be world leaders in environmentally sustainable housing, and today we’re not even followers.

Some encouraging steps: the authors of the $1.5 billion Regent Park redevelopment have set a high bar for sustainability in all new housing to be built there, read more at http://www.regentparkplan.ca/projdetails/sustain.htm

Above Image from http://www.breathebyassociation.com - Breathe Architects is a Toronto leader in creating sustainable housing
[email this story] Posted by Lewis Poplak on 06/22 at 04:45 PM

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