Stephen Teeple Shows That Social Housing Can Be Green and Gorgeous


All images credit Shai Gil

These days, people don't build a lot of social housing, and when they do it is usually, as architectural critic John Bentley Mays noted, "architecturally dull and oppressive places, like jails, meant to encourage tenants to move on as quickly as possible". Three years ago TreeHugger covered the design of Stephen Teeple's 60 Richmond Street Coop in Toronto and thought it was different; Mark Guslits, then head of the Toronto Community Housing Corp, said "We happen to have people here at the corporation who really, really like good architecture, so we just decided we would push architectural excellence." Now it is done, and it looks like Mark got what he wanted. It was also going to be very green, and we got that too.

The building's green tech was fairly simple: passive ventilation, green roofs and rooftop gardens, evaporative cooling from a green wall and stormwater retention. It is also energy efficient because unlike every condo in Toronto, it is not floor to ceiling glass.

I have not had a chance to tour the building yet, but Alex Bozikovic of No Mean City did, and had some nice things to say:

Yes, it looks sexy and impractical: a cascading Jenga stack of glass, cement board and steel, punctured by bright shots of colour, hanging gardens and an atrium, heavy blocks of apartments hanging in the air.

But this new co-op residence by Teeple Architects has substance, too. It has the gutsy but practical spirit of Toronto's best architecture: It's green, hardy, and very inexpensive, and provides 85 large and comfortable apartments for Toronto Community Housing tenants.



Within the building, that odd, towering shaft creates surprisingly bright and pleasant spaces: even the hallways have windows and views. "You get natural light and natural ventilation through all corridors," Teeple says, "and it creates a sense of connectivity between neighbours." As the residents look out on the terraces and hang out there - which is happening already - "you get a sense of community that you would never get otherwise, in a slab building," Teeple says.

Stephen Teeple explains that it cost a bit more than it might have to be greener, (but not much, it is still a very cost-effective building)

"TCHC has a strong interest in getting good design, and the other focus they have is sustainability," Teeple says. "Some private developers have an interest in [sustainability], but they can't afford to really pursue it." TCHC, because they're a property owner, they directly benefit from energy savings." In other words, they've stretched their budget to account for long-term operating costs and the savings that come with greener building.

More at No Mean City and Teeple Architects
More on Stephen Teeple:
Co-op Housing in Toronto Goes Green
Teeple Architects' Langara College has Confusing Ventilation System

Tags: Architects | Green Building | Toronto