John Bentley Mays asks: Will Green Design Save Us?


The Toronto architectural critic wonders, " It's great, this good ecological consciousness that's all the rage, but, in the final analysis, do so-called green technologies actually work? Is it possible that human beings and the things we do are just naturally too dirty and expensive, and that all the green inventions in the world can't get rid of our big, ugly carbon footprints?"

He asks this while damning a Stanford Downey project with faint praise- "If it's aesthetically a cut above most social housing in Toronto, the staid design of the 11-storey tower is still not the kind of exceptional architecture we should expect in our inner city. The last thing we need there is another residential project that looks like a motel at an expressway interchange."

But he is really there to review the technologies that make a green building.


John Bentley Mays describes the systems:

"The Toronto Community Housing Corp (TCHC) will have a building heated and cooled, in part, by a ground-source heat pump. This new technology, which capitalizes on the unchanging temperature of the earth just below the surface, is believed to lessen a building's dependence on energy produced by conventional power stations.

Among other energy-saving features of the building will be roof-mounted solar panels designed to preheat hot water, and a system intended to redistribute heated and cooled air within the structure, as differences are created by (for example) long hours of sunshine striking one surface of the fabric.

And the windows of suites will incorporate an ingenious new glazing system that distributes sunlight inside the apartment, and prevents glare, more effectively than the floor-to-ceiling glass panels customary in high-rises. Further control of light and heat coming from the sun into the suites will be provided by exterior solar shades on the south and east facades."

He then proceeds to run off the rails and mix cost cost-effectiveness with saving the world in this non-sequitor:

"Surely no green system, however attractive otherwise, will make its way into the general housing marketplace unless it proves to be cost-effective. And therein lies my trouble with geothermal heating and cooling technologies, and other devices that have been developed to counter North American society's enormous and increasing hunger for energy: I have not been convinced that they are viable solutions to the grave problem. There may be no solution. We may simply be too far along the road of high-energy living to turn back, at least until the planet itself puts a stop to our greedy consumption."

However confusing that is, at least one of our architectural critics is acknowledging that we have a serious problem and that buildings are an important part of it. ::Globe and Mail

From Stan Downey Architect:

· This project will use a ground source heat pump for heating and cooling. Very few projects in urban settings have utilized this technology in North America and it is a first for Toronto Community Housing.

· 88-90 Carlton will incorporate a solar thermal domestic hot water pre-heat system. This is intended to have a 3-5 year payback for TCHC. The system works all year round to preheat domestic hot water using solar panels installed on the roof of the building. This is free and clean energy.

· The building has a green roof to help reduce rainwater runoff as well as reduce the heat island effect in the urban core.

· The design incorporates the existing brick facades along Carlton Street in order to preserve the urban fabric of the city.

· The design of the units attempts to provide open concept spaces with natural light, various public and private terraces, some multilevel & family units, below grade parking, accessible units, and recycling facilities.

· There are plans for a parent supervised children’s room adjacent to the laundry facilities.

· The project will incorporate an enthalpy recovery wheel that recycles hot & cold air as well as humidity.

· The use of exterior solar shades are being considered for the south and east façade. Exterior shading is the most effective and form of cooling a building and contributes to the architectural design.

· Green Space will be provided on Carlton at grade.

· Light studies showed that the narrow mid-rise allows for sitelines for the residents on the east and west sides of the building. It also respects the neighbours on all sides of the building.

· Building provides large bicycle storage for residents and visitors.