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Toronto’s Green Standard: How Toronto planning rules help keep Toronto environmentally-friendly

Toronto’s Green Standard (TGS) are a set of guidelines for projects and buildings in Toronto — and is one of the reasons Toronto continues to lead in “green living” as an urban centre. Above and beyond this standard, are condo developers who embrace green standards, and LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Tridel is the best known of these, with their “Built Green” promise.

The Toronto Green Standard has been in effect since 2014, although rules and standards changed as of 2017. The guidelines are presented as Tier 1, the mandatory planning elements, and Tier 2, which is voluntary and supported with some incentives. The standard also varies by building type, with Low-Rise Residential —townhouses and buildings up to four stories — and mid to high-rise residential. The guidelines cover everything from green standards and renewable energy, to  urban forest, to “bird collision deterrence” and even the often overlooked “light pollution.”


Tridel is a leading developer in “Green” condos.


If you are building your own home, chances are you’ll never run across these guidelines, but it’s good to understand the checklists that developers must adhere to.

Look for LEED or green standard

One way to make sure your condo community is “built green” is to look for developers who work within LEED guidelines. There are rules that guide all developers, particularly the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) — but there are also developers who go beyond what is simply required. For example, Tridel with their “Built Green” program>>

Jim Ritchie, Senior Vice-President, Tridel, in speaking about their high-profile “Next Living EcoSuite” demonstration at Reve, explains:

“At Tridel, we hope to really create awareness. And awareness helps us, obviously, as a condominium home builder, and it helps our industry. And it helps green awareness.”

Tridel explains on their “Built Green” webpage: “A typical Tridel building consumes 33% less electricity, 59% less natural gas and 40% less potable water than a Model Reference Building.”


2017 Low-Rise Residential

The Low-Rise Residential standard applies to any development of row, townhouses or low-rise up to four stories with a minimum of 5 units. Developers must go through an expensive planning process, and provide the TGS checklist, statistics template, energy report, fees and supporting documentation.

The guidelines are very comprehensive and include even things such as “pedestrial infrastructure which must encourage walking as a clean air alternative for all ages and abilities. The key features are:

  1. Air Quality guidelines: pedestrian infrastructure and urban heat reduction
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency
  3. Water quality, quantity and efficiency
  4. Ecology
  5. Solid waste


Green areas, pedestrian walkways and urban forest area all important areas of TGS. Pictured: Islington Terrace, Tridel.


Toronto’s guidelines are pro-active — and show a strong Green Planning standard. The city makes positive strategic recommendations, and doesn’t just “laying down the rules.” These recommendations, that go “beyond the rules” require an enlightened developer, who focuses on “Green” building. Tridel, for example, with their Built Green program. In the case of the low-rise recommendations from the city, these “above and beyond” strategies includes, for example:

  • Pedestrian infrastructure: including things such as: pedestrian oriented landscaping, lighting and signage; building setbacks to accommodate sidewalk space and trees; building orientation to facilitate transit access
  • Urban heat island reduction at grade: designed to reduce ambient temperatures and provide shade for human health and comfort. Recommendations include: grey or white concrete, light coloured asphalt, selected interlocking concrete pavers and other light coloured pavers; soft landscaping; high-branching deciduous shade trees; design site to reduce the size of hardscaped area (i.e. smaller parking lots, shorter driveways and below grade parking); position photovoltaic cells to shade the hardscape
  • Minimum energy performance standards: with positive tips such as: lower window to wall ratios; drain water heat recovery; improved quality of frames and glazing Low-flow hot water fixtures and appliances; Heat Recovery Ventilation; reduce vaulted to flat roof ratio Improve foundation insulation Use exterior insulated sheathing; increase R-value of wall and ceiling assemblies; ENERGY STAR HVAC and appliances; improved building envelope performance (air tightness); deciduous shade trees for summer cooling, and allowing solar heating in the winter
  • Renewable energy: suggestions include: Solar Photovoltaic; Solar thermal water and space heating; Solar air collection system for ventilation; ENERGY STAR qualified Geothermal heat pump


Green roof heat island mitigation reduces greenhouse gas emissions.


  • Stormwater retention, and increasingly important strategy for urban planning: green roofs; rain water harvesting; permeable pavers, permeable asphalt, permeable concrete for hard surfaces; Stormwater Management ponds; Bioswales Downspout disconnection; infiltration trenches; rain gardens/ absorbent landscaping
  • Water efficiency: dual flush toilets; drought tolerant native species; water efficient plants/ landscaping; rain sensors for irrigation systems; rainwater reuse, below ground rainwater collection system.
  • Urban forest and tree protection: construction management plan to avoid site disturbance; relocate trees on-site; establish tree protection zones during construction; tree planting, trees along frontages, rainwater harvesting and irrigation.
  • Bird collision deterrence: visual markers, etched glass, fritted glass; films, decals, mullions, exterior screens, shutters, grilles and louvres to shield glass surfaces; shadows from opaque overhangs, awnings, exterior sunshades.
  • Light pollution: fixtures that effectively project light downwards; occupancy sensors in parking structures; motion sensor lighting; occupancy sensors/ timers for exterior lighting.


Urban forest and green areas in developments are critical. Tridel’s Bianca>>


For High Rises

For larger buildings, the list grows extensively, to include bicycle accommodation, Electric Vehicle charging stations; waste management, recycled content and many other additional items. In particular, the guidelines frequently refer to LEED standards (see below.) Among the most interesting “potential strategies” recommended by the city are: “designated and marked parking spaces for LEV, carpool or car sharing, and charging stations for electric plug-in vehicles.”


Electric vehicle charging station.


Also mentioned are bicycle parking or garages, an area many developers, such as Tridel, have been building in for many years. Some “higher end” recommendations include a “dedicated bicycle elevator” and other strategies to minimize the interaction between cars and bicycles. For a full list of High-rise guidelines see>>

Tridel, nearly two decades ago, had already pioneered the green-friendly bicycle garage concept (from the pre-sale marketing of The Richmond):


Roughly two decades ago, Tridel was already thinking ahead on the Green strategies. The Richmond, downtown, was initially marketed in pre-sale with a bicycle garage.


Why Buy Green?

Although it is intuitively obvious to most people, especially in a growing urban environment, the benefits to an actual resident — as opposed to the great good of the city — include: healthier living, conservation of energy and associated cost savings; and social responsibility, being a good “green citizen.” One of the ways to ensure your new home is built to a green standard is to find a developer who builds to LEED standards. Several big developers build to this standard, most notably Tridel.


All other factors being equal, look for developers who go above and beyond just the green standard of the city. Image courtesy of Via Bloor by Tridel>>



LEED— Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design

Another assurance of “green” development is LEED.

According to the “Built Green” page on the site: LEED ® stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is administered by the Canada Green Building Council. It rates building performance in six categories:

  • Sustainable site development – How well does the development optimize density and transportation and improve land use, storm water management, and the urban heat island effect?
  • Energy use and atmospheric impacts – Does the building reduce energy consumption by at least 25% compared to Code and are there measures in place to ensure the performance of mechanical systems?
  • Water efficiency – Will the building reduce potable water consumption for domestic and irrigation uses?
  • Materials and resource consumption, use and disposal – Does the project avoid sending waste to landfill? Is there a high level of recycled content in the building’s materials?
  • Indoor environmental quality – Does the building have low-emitting materials, interior finishes and safe storage of required maintenance chemicals? How much daylight penetrates the interior and are there effective occupant controls on ventilation, heating and cooling?
  • Design innovation – How many truly innovative features were designed into the building?

Buildings are rated according to a detailed scorecard that is verified and certified after construction. We’ve constructed more LEED Silver and Gold buildings than any other Canadian builder. But our commitment to the environment doesn’t stop there.

Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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