Sales Centre Takes LEED

M5V reveals that green living does not mean you have to compromise on design or a comfortable lifestyle

The first LEED-registered sales office in North America takes energy efficiency and personalization to new levels.

M5V, developed by TAS Design/Build, reveals what potential purchasers can expect from green initiatives in this 30-storey, 224-suite condominium, and shows that green living does not have to mean compromising design or comfort.

Mazyar Mortazavi, a principal at TAS, explains that purchasers can design their own floor plans to fit their space and still benefit from reduced energy costs with a LEED building system.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building rating system, giving builders a standard for sustainable construction. It’s a point-based rating system, covering six areas: site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, material selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.

What makes this standard so valuable is that a third-party independent review must take place before any building can officially be LEED certified.

Stephen Carpenter, president of Enermodal Engineering in Kitchener , which only designs sustainable buildings, says that large buildings more than 300,000 square feet would see a 1 per cent to 2 per cent increase in capital costs building to a LEED standard, while smaller buildings face at least a 10 per cent increase in costs.

The cost for larger projects is less because it is amortized over a larger budget.

Condo residents benefit with a 35 to 40 per cent reduction in energy use over a new building built to code, and 40 per cent less water used.

“When you look at it from a resident’s point of view, it makes a lot of sense,” he says. “This is an opportunity for the average consumer to think globally and act locally.”

At M5V’s sales centre, at King St. W. and Peter Sts., green features include energy efficient and water-conserving appliances, roof water collection for irrigation of the green landscaping at the sales centre, a permeable paving system, which absorbs rain water instead of letting it flow to storm sewers, and an efficient heat-recovery ventilation system.

“People don’t realize that half your heating load is ventilation, so the sales centre and the condo will be using exhaust air for pre-heating,” Carpenter explains.

What also makes this sales centre unusual is that it can be taken down and re-used. Traditionally, sales centres are destroyed once construction of the condominium begins, which add loads of debris to landfill sites. In M5V’s case, the flooring is all dry-laid so that it can be re-used, the mechanical equipment on the roof can be taken down, and the wall panels are re-mountable.

Although M5V has broken new ground with the first LEED-registered sales office, it will be one of many condos in Toronto that have been voluntarily built to a green standard. In Canada 325 projects are registered to become LEED certified, and 53 are certified. B.C. leads the way with 22 per cent of all LEED certifications, followed by Ontario with 14 per cent.

“The first LEED condo was done by Minto,” says Jeahny Shim, president and editor of Urbanation. “Tridel has also built LEED-certified condos and other developers are voluntarily starting to incorporate green features. This is consumer-driven as consumers are more aware of energy costs and 40 per cent of maintenance fees are for utilities.”

The M5V condo project is in the final stages of planning approval,says Mortazavi.

Peter Love, the chief energy conservation officer with the Conservation Bureau, a division of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), says he is encouraging builders to build to a LEED standard now because they will have more stringent requirements in the future.

“A report released last week included building code changes,” he says. “In five years’ time, efficiency will have to be 25 per cent better than allowed in the current code.”

Richard Morris, a consultant with the OPA, writes in an email that “codes and standards while important, establish the `low-water mark’ in most cases. It is important for leading developers to continue to exceed the minimum standards, as mature and proven technological advancements are usually commercially available ahead of amendments to the Ontario Building Code.”

Building green is voluntary, costs more than traditional construction (up to $100,000 extra for a condominium to be LEED-certified) and takes longer for approvals, which is why the City of Toronto is working to bring another Toronto-specific rating standard to the market along with incentives for developers to build green. The idea is to set the bar high and make it easier to reach. This way, consumers, who have everything to gain from green building, will have more developments like M5V to choose from, and green features will be the norm, not the exception.

Joe D’Abramo, manager, Policy and Research City Planning Division, is leading the team of planners and developers who have created the Toronto Green Development Standard. He explains that other rating systems, including LEED, do not address our unique climate, construction methods and regulations.

“Other ratings improve buildings from the owners’ point of view, which is energy efficiency,” D’Abramo says. “Our perspective is that we need to think about what’s good for the environment. We wanted to establish a standard that addressed our environmental pressures like air quality, water quality, energy efficiency and the urban forest.”

The high cost of building green is a major reason more developers don’t choose this route. D’Abramo explains that Toronto is probably behind other cities in the U.S. and Europe when it comes to green building. He says that Toronto is looking at effective incentives for green development used in other cities like Chicago , Vancouver and New York City . These include fast-tracking approvals for green builds, which saves thousands in carrying costs, better financing rates from banks, and public leadership.

“Many developers are fearful of green technology,” he says. “They would prefer it if the public were involved and if city staff were trained to handle green development systems.”

In the end, the rating system is just part of the solution. D’Abramo, Carpenter, Love and Morris are all working toward the same goal — incorporating high levels of energy efficiency in all future condominium developments. The key component will be the consumer’s reaction and demand for better energy standards. D’Abramo says there is never likely to be a mandatory standard equal to LEED or the Toronto Green Development Standard, which puts the onus on developers to continue to adhere to standards on a voluntary basis.

About Shelly Sanders

Shelly (represented by Amy Tipton, Signature Literary Agency) is the author of THE RACHEL TRILOGY--Rachel's Secret, Rachel's Promise & Rachel's Hope (Second Story Press).Rachel's Secret received a Starred Review in Booklist and was named a Notable Read from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Rachel's Hope was shortlisted for the Vine Awards for Canadian Literature in 2016. Before turning to fiction, Shelly was a freelance journalist for the Toronto Star, National Post, Maclean's, and Canadian Living.
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