Green Condos: Revisiting M5V


When I first looked at Toronto condo M5V and its website, I complained about seeing the words "LEED Certified" on the site and expressed reservations about whether it was all marketing or if it was real. After all, it is very difficult to apply LEED to a multiple unit residential building; the standards were developed for commercial use. I picked up on a few points in the marketing material and wrote a snarky and critical post. I was wrong.

After reading the earlier post, the builder, Mazyar Mortazavi, invited me to the (LEED registered and absolutely stunning) sales office. I came away convinced that this is not just marketing hype but a real attempt to do a sustainable, healthy building in a competitive and price-sensitive market- a real challenge.

First of all, Mazyar warmed my heart by defining sustainability as having four aspects:

-cultural (design a good looking building that fits)
-social (being urban and part of the fabric of the city)
-economic ( viable and manageable in the long term)
-environmental (LEED)

He then got technical. The toughest nut is air quality, since makeup air is required to replace air lost through bathroom and kitchen exhausts. In traditional buildings, this is done by pressurizing the corridors (to keep smells in the apartments and in case of fire, prevent transfer of smoke). The air then enters the apartment, through that gap under the entry door, after picking up every bit of dust in the hall carpet and anything that got out of your neighbours' apartment. Exhaust air goes straight outside, throwing heated air away. it is a wasteful and dirty process.

M5V has a big (and very expensive) heat recovery ventilator in the middle of the building, supplying fresh air by duct to every single unit in the building, with a separate ducting system returning air from the bathrooms through the heat exchanger to preheat the incoming fresh air. This is the kind of feature that purchasers do not understand (90% of visitors to the sales office have never heard of LEED and don't know what an HRV is) and developers don't put money where the purchaser can't see it if they don't have to. It's Rule Number One.

Rule Number two is to never put into upfront capital costs what you can have the purchasers pay for in operating costs. Yet the building has argon filled windows, motion sensors on common area lighting, variable speed fans and individual hydro and water metering.

There are are also features like rainwater collection, low VOC finishes and access to special Autoshare vehicles for the purchasers, dual flush toilets and low-emission floorings, the easy and visible things. In fact, they are also doing the hard things that people don't see or understand, but have to be educated about because they are definitely paying extra for them.

So I owe an apology to Mazyar and to our readers; This is more than marketing, and if I am going to be snarky and critical I should at least check my facts first. ::M5V