Big Steps In Building: Make LEED Mandatory for Condos

Peter Gorrie, Enviromental reporter for the Star, writes about what we have been saying for years: 1) purchasers would rather pay for granite counters than energy efficiency, and 2) Developers build as cheaply as possible and don't care about efficiency when it is the purchasers who pay the operating costs. He interviews mechanical contractor Vittorio Zorzit, who installs vertical fan coils that heat and cool apartments.

"There are two versions of the fan. One costs about $100, the other $500. The more expensive consumes only about half as much electricity to do the same job. It has been on the market for 20 years. The developers decide which fan goes in.

The fan coils are a small part of any condo building, but they're a good sign of how the development business has operated, and mainly still does, to the detriment of the environment.

"Nobody was using it because of the cost," Zorzit says. It pays for itself in energy savings within two or three years, but "the developer doesn't care. He's not paying the final (electricity) bill."

The same goes for the large boilers, he says. Most are 70 per cent efficient. Others are better than 80 per cent, but "no one wants to pay the upfront cost," even though, "in a couple of years you save the difference" in reduced natural gas bills." ::The Star

Image: Minto Skyy, one of the 15% of condos that are being built to exceed code standards and go for LEED.
Gorrie also interviews Rick Tripodi, who is building 1200 units that are heated and cooled by a geothermal system. "We're taking the leap. I'm sure you'll see more in the near future"- "The green additions to the Remington project will raise the construction cost by about $9 a square foot, Tripodi says. The company plans to eat the cost to keep its prices competitive.

Tridel [another Toronto builder going for LEED on some of its condos] thinks consumers are ready to pay a little more to be green, says senior vice-president Jim Ritchie. "There is a premium. It's manageable and at such a level it can be accepted in the marketplace. . . . We can demonstrate the costs and benefits to consumers."

Upgrading the building code would create a level playing field, Ritchie says. "We think that will happen over time." ::The Star See also Tridel on Discovery Network's Daily Planet.

Tridel Ecosuite

Jim Ritchie nails it, the playing field should be level. Buildings last a long time and retrofitting them is a lot more costly than building it in upfront. Big Step in building:

-LEED Silver should be a minimum standard for residential highrise construction.
-Building codes and zoning bylaws should be revised to demand this.
-Builders and developers should have to guarantee energy efficiency as part of their warranty.