Canada's Condominium Magazine

Finding the green condo: LEED, location and materials: building it green

Buildings have a significant impact on our environment — more than most people realize. The overall carbon footprint of a residential building goes far beyond building materials and methods — although that’s a good place to start. To really “go green” in your condo you also have to consider location, your condo management and other factors.

 

Even modest greening initiatives at the developer/builder level can have a significant positive impact on CO2 emissions.

 

Here’s why it’s important. Statistics from the U.S. show that:

  • 38% of all CO2 emissions are from buildings
  • 6% of all potable water (15 trillion gallons per year) are consumed by buildings
  • 73% of all U.S. electricity consumption. [1]

 

 

Although some of this is office buildings, increasingly condominiums account for the largest share in both U.S. and Canada. Condominium developers such as Tridel bring substantial “Built Green” design into their projects, many of which are LEED status.

93 % of Canadians believe sustainability should be a priority

In a Hoggan survey [3], 93 percent of Canadians feel sustainability should be a priority. 72 per cent in the survey felt that the impact of climate change will be serious. 62 per cent of Canadians felt that humans are the cause of climate change. And, 75 per cent of respondents felt we are not doing enough.

 

One Old Mill from Tridel achieved LEED Gold.

 

One thing we can do — with a significant impact on CO2 emissions — is to shop the green condo. In a “sustainable” condomium development, not just the building materials or efficiencies of the future community are considered. Every single factor that contributes to our collective carbon footprint is considered.

Internal environment as well as external

LEED certified buildings — or at least buildings that are “greener” — also tend to be healthier. The air is better, “with less harmful products, more natural daylight.” [2]

 

 

Of course, all of us want to do our part for the external environment.  consume natural resources and contribute to climate change.

In Canada alone, buildings account for a third of energy production, half the extracted natural resources, over a third of greenhouse gas emissions, and more.

With these statistics in mind, a growing number of people are searching for more environmentally-friendly condos. This begs the question… how can you be sure to find a green condo? If you are already in a condo, how can you tell if it is eco-friendly? If it is not green, then how do you go about correcting that? All of these questions can be answered by speaking with property owners and verifying specific information as outlined below.

 

 

Green standards

A truly green condo will adhere to green building standards like LEED, which verify that the building is built according to verifiable sustainability standards. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards encourage sustainable practices through specific tools and criteria for performance measurement. Many building types have been addressed, including condos and other private residences. The categories used in the rating system are the following:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality

 

Owner-enhancements are also available to green up an existing home, including apps for your phone that can tie in with smart environmental control systems in a condominium (which can be retrofitted if your condominium does not feature it now.)

 

Asking the right questions

It’s easy to advertise “green.” A savvy home investor will go beyond the hype and investigate the sustainability claims of any developer.

Some of the things you can verify easily are, as suggested on the Tridel website [4] are:

  • Have you (the builder/developer) won awards for green building technology?
  • What technologies is the building using to ensure minimal environmental impact?
  • How do your green technologies affect my costs as compared to a conventional condo building?
  • How does your building differentiate itself from other green buildings?

Tridel also advises prospective home buyers to “look for certification” (LEED).

In Tridel’s “Social Responsibility Report, they reported: “Tridel helped to initiate LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in Canada in the early-2000s and is currently the largest developer of commercial certified LEED® MURB (Multi-use residential buildings), with over 20% of all these type of condos built in Canada.” [5]

Location matters

Location of the building can also determine its effect on the environment. If the building is centrally located amongst local businesses, then residents can walk rather than drive, thereby cutting down on emissions. Furthermore, if it is located in close proximity to your work (and your children’s school if applicable), then it is an excellent choice for you and your family, though other features should certainly be considered before making a final decision. The neighborhood in which the condo is located should be safe for pedestrians and cyclists, with adequate bike lanes and crosswalks, laws in place to protect pedestrians, etc.

Features and amenities

Examine the features offered by the condo itself, as well as the community. Look for gardens, lawns, water features, green roofs, green amenities, and other eco-friendly features. Inquire about the use of renewable energy sources. These can be wind-powered, solar, or geothermal. Ask about lighting options as well. If necessary, replace existing light fixtures and bulbs with modern, energy-efficient CFL and LED bulbs and Energy Star lighting fixtures.

Renewable resources

Green condos typically use renewable resources in the construction of cabinets, floors, walls, furniture, and the building itself. Are products locally sourced? Is there a recycling system in place? In addition to the use of renewable resources, products should also be non-toxic and organic. A green condo will use natural or sustainable products like FSC certified hardwood floors and carpeting made from sustainable materials. Waste reduction and recycling programs will reduce costs associated with waste disposal as well as limit waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

If the condo you are considering is making an effort to be as environmentally friendly as possible but lacks efficiency in certain areas, then residents can work together to improve those and make additional attempts at making the building and community more sustainable. Band together to create a “Green Best Practices Committee,” landscape committee, or other similar group in order to improve your home and community. Assist your condo corporation and board in improvements to both the building and common areas.

 

NOTES

[1] LEED website

[2]  LEED Canada

[3] Shared Values: Canadians and Sustainability http://hoggan.com/shared-values-canadians-sustainability-survey-general-public/

[4] Steps to Selecting a Truly Green Condo

[5] Five Reasons Why Corporate Social Responsibility is Important for the Condominium Industry

 

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