It started badly; I couldn't find a bike rack and Stacy offered me a bottle of Fiji water. (It turns out they had terrific bike storage in a more protected area that I could not see.) I had been invited to tour the "eco-suite" built by Tridel, a large Canadian developer. The eco-suite was started a few years ago before LEED was applicable for apartments in Canada, "to raise awareness about the environment while illustrating the huge range of possibilities in environmentally friendly condo living" and to act as a test bed for the "green" condo buildings they are building now. It was designed by Andrea Kantelberg with sustainability consultant Lauren Gropper, and "produced" by my guide, Stacy Fruitman. There is a lot to like in it, but is it really green?
As a method or raising awareness, the ecosuite is an effective and useful tool;, They came up with a labelling system that is applied throughout, which explains clearly what the benefits of the various choices are. There are some choices that in the light of lessons learned in the last few years, I suspect they might not make again, and others that remain appropriate,
-Lots of LED lighting
-FSC certified wood
-Kultur interlock flooring made from locally sourced veneer on recycled fibre core
-dual flush toilet
-voc free paints
-heat recovery ventilator for fresh air makeup
Perhaps the best thing about the eco-suite compared to, say, the sustainable condo, is that it is approachable and comprehensible as a living space, showing people that one can make better, more sustainable choices without having to give much up.
However that is also perhaps the downside; if one is going to promote green living one might also talk about some lifestyle changes. The monster LCD tv that greets you as you walk in may "use 20% less power than a CRT TV and 30% less than a plasma" but it is still huge. The double door fridge/freezer may be energy star rated but we know small fridges make good cities. The main bath is all Corian, which we do not consider particularly green. And although the gorgeous dining room table is made from our favourite source of wood, Urban Harvest, somehow the fact that the black walnut tree was cut down to make way for another Tridel project compromises it.
However overall, it can do nothing but good for a major developer to expose the condo buying public to such an attractive, well-designed package. Let's hope that these green finishes and materials don't remain options but become standard features. ::Tridel Ecosuite and ::New York Times slideshow