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Archive for November, 2011

Revitalizing Toronto’s Regent Park Neighbourhood

Part 1: Introduction to the Urban Layout

Last weekend I went for a walk east along Dundas, before long I found myself deep in the Regent Park housing development. Although this area is undergoing some major structural improvements, there is still much stigma surrounding Toronto’s oldest and largest community housing project. From what I saw, through innovative design and construction there is a significant effort being put into reversing the degradation and negative atmosphere.

In 2006, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) initiated a $1 billion, 12-year plan to revitalize the 69-acre Regent Park neighbourhood. Originally built in the 1940s, the neighbourhood was planned after the ideals of the British ‘garden city’ urban model. Through which “modern” living conditions were established with low-rise units, meant to reduce the use of vehicular transportation by increasing the population density of a region. In this case, the density was successfully improved but the residents themselves suffered, and Regent Park subsequently became one of Toronto’s most infamous neighbourhoods.

The existing (Left) and proposed (Right) layouts for Regent Park.

Among many factors, the layout and organization of the neighbourhood can be partly to blame for failure of the original urban model. Many residents feel that they are separated from the rest of the city even though in reality they live close to the downtown core. In the adjacent graphic you see how the existing neighbourhood has very few bisecting roads. It is organized into North and South regions, which are only divided by Dundas East, acting as the major artery through the neighbourhood. The proposed plan is to open up the area, by building roads that go through these large North and South “superblocks”. Not only will this allocate more space for community green-space projects, it will also improve the livability of the region by reintegrating it with the surrounding city. Safety, which is currently a problem, will also be improved as the smaller blocks can be easily accessed and monitored from the surrounding streets.

Architectural rendition of the new layout for the Regent Park neighbourhood.

Next week, Part 2…

Discussing the LEED characteristics of the new buildings and systems being introduced to the Regent Park neighbourhood.

Frito-Lay’s going green with its distribution centres

LEED certification extends and applies to construction projects of different industries, one of which we will explore is manufacturing industry’s distribution centres.

On November 22, 2011, Frito-Lay, opened Hawaii’s first industrial “new construction” Gold site. Some notable features include the using of photovoltaics  to generate 10% of the facility’s electricity, using of light colored paved surfaces to reduce the heat island effect, high efficient LED lighting used in the parking lot, and parking on the roof to reduce the area taken by the site. In addition, materials were selected for recycle content, regionally manufactured and low levels of votile organic compounds. Also, low-maintenance native plants were incorporated into the landscaping design to promote sustainable growth of natural plants.

In additional to its Hawaii’s distribution centre, Frito-Lay also has another Gold Certified distribution centre in Rochester, New York, which opened back in 2005, similarly, it has also employed many LEED initiatives: Parking “fields” allow runoff to percolate through the ground as it is funneled into a below-grade storage basin; photovoltaic solar panels were integrated into the building envelope; Low and no off-gassing materials were used throughout the facility; Highly efficient mechanical systems and well insulated building envelope; and more than 50 per cent of the site was restored to green space.

Frito-Lay is no doubt one of the leader in industrial green building, and we hope LEED’s certification system will bring more sustainable industrial buildings to light in the future.

LEED SPOTLIGHT: Vancouver Convention Centre

On the waterfront, in the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia, sits the Vancouver Convention Centre. Among its long, long list of awards and certifications, the centre has earned itself a platinum LEED rating.

In 2009, the Vancouver Convention Centre opened its West Building, which exhibited the finest in sustainable design. The building has the largest non-industrial living roof in North America, making it home to thousands of indigenous coastal plants and a wide-scale rainwater irrigation program. Heating and cooling in the building comes from a seawater treatment system, and along the shore sits an artificial reef providing prime habitats for a large number of underwater species.

As if the centre’s green design wasn’t enough, they make sure their actions are just as environmentally friendly. An average of 180,000 kilograms of waste is recycled annually, while canned goods and disposable dishes are conscientiously avoided. Only locally grown foods are used, and leftovers go straight o nearby charities.

Pushing past the constraints of traditional urban planning to create a sustainable and environmentally proficient space, the government of British Columbia has created the ultimate convention centre. A leader in green design, the Vancouver Convention Centre brings together nature, locality, and architecture in an exemplary way. No wonder it’s the first convention centre in the world to become LEED platinum certified.

For more details: http://www.vancouverconventioncentre.com/

The Empire State Building Goes LEED Platinum

Hello, My name is Edvard Bruun and I’m a new addition to the LeadingLEED blogging team. I’m a 2nd year University of Toronto Civil Engineering student, interested in sustainability and the urban environment.

The Empire State Building earning LEED Platinum certification marks an important landmark in the battle for urban sustainability. Since its completion in 1931, the 102-story tower has dominated the New York skyline, becoming an internationally recognized and admired structure. It seems fitting that a building that is so infused with ingenuity and originality should once again blaze a path for the rest of the world to follow.

The idea for this green retrofit, the largest in the United States to date, was born primarily from economic reasoning. Anthony Malkin, who supervises the Empire State Building Company, stated in an interview:

“Everything that we’re doing at the Empire State Building is about business and, bottom line, that’s the first and most important thing”

Although not inline with an environmentalist’s perspective, his plan still benefits both the economic and natural spheres of society. The energy budget of the building is reduced by $4.4 million annually, carbon emissions are cut by 105,000 tons over a 15-year period, and all this results in a project payback period of less than 3 years.

 

In my opinion, the importance of this news goes beyond the accomplishment of achieving LEED platinum standards. This event also marks a change in corporate sentiment regarding sustainability. Profitability and sustainability have often incorrectly been seen as opposite sides of the economic spectrum, you can have one or the other, but never both. Through Anthony Malkin’s vision, the Empire State Building now stands in defiance of this naivety. As the Empire State Building reaps the benefits from environmental and economic synergy, the rest of the world is poised to follow.

The Guardian website doesn’t allow video embeds, so instead I’ve linked a short video on the changes to the Empire State Building below:

Empire State Building Goes LEED Platinum

The State of Toronto’s Groove

Hi, I am a new poster for Leading LEED, Ankit Bhardwaj. I am a Civil Engineering student at University of Toronto, and I am interested on sustainable urban design. I have lived in the cities of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Tokyo.

Lorinc’s “How Toronto Lost Its Groove” paints a bleak picture of Toronto’s public infrastructure development over the past decades. It has been a story of political attrition: both between ideologies and strata of government and society. He particularly brandishes fiscally conservative – in the case of Mayor Rob Ford, blatantly and ignorantly conservative  - ideologies and their particular strangling effects on public infrastructure. He sees them as short-sighted and dis-analogous to ”forward-looking cities in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, spending on public transit”. The article is a meditation. An engaging and fantastic account on the cornucopia of mistakes,delays and changes Toronto municipality governments, Ontario provincial governments and the Canada federal government have made; hindering Toronto’s infrastructure development. It does brilliantly to elaborate on the bureaucratic and political process, urban planning and civil engineering projects have to go through. Learning about this essential process, I believe, is void in our education which teaches us to optimize solutions only technically.

Toronto Urban DensityToronto Urban density map - Might as well show political leanings.

 The divide between the “905 clique” – see Markham, Ajax- Pickering, Mississauga, Richmond-Hill, Brampton – and the City of Toronto itself  - in municipality governance and lifestyle –  has led to a social divide: the more densely populated, public-transit minded core versus that of the generic, car-dependant “Sprawlville” suburb so analogous to N.American cities. ( I do little to hide by bias). It is fascinatingly interesting, but possibly out of the scope of this blog-post, that city infrastructure might have a direct relationship with the political leanings of its inhabitants. Can infrastructure facilitate  larger – more metaphysical goals – of societal unity and “progress”? The current urban infrastructure buzzword seems to be “livability”. There has been an appropriate effort to mould new city infrastructure for the use of people.

Lorinc has a belief in Toronto to achieve greatness. It rests in “abundance of talent and energy, tremendous wealth, and intimations of a distinctly Canadian cosmopolitanism” which in turn juxtaposes its infrastructure-hindering, political apathy and city council workings. This has been reflected in the private, LEED-achieving works, the city has produced such as the Evergreen Brickworks. Toronto also graciously hosted this year’s Greenbuild conference – surely a sign of the cities infrastructure ethos?

An Urban Oasis: Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto from DiamondSchmittArchitects on Vimeo.

Lorinc remains bleak and somewhat cynical on the city’s renewed efforts to revitalize infrastructure, such as the highly acclaimed gentrification of the dockyards led by Waterfront Toronto. He cites the failed double helix bridge - connecting King West and Fort York over the train yard- as a sign of Toronto’s good will concerning infrastructure projects, but due to political constraints, inability to address them. He is not of minority. Former councilman Kyle Rae reflected on Toronto with “We live in a culture that undervalues the public realm.” There have been past failures, however anything south of Front St. has been seeing an upward trend in development: catalysed by the efforts of Waterfront Toronto. Toronto is consciously redesigning Front St., to increase walk-ability and pedestrian friendliness. Small increments on public transit have also been made by BIXI.

Toronto is ambitious. There are no doubts about that. The recent Walrus Project debates – Be It Resolved That Toronto Will Never Be Beautiful – showed the city’s concern on the topic. For a city to be truly beautiful, it must be liveable. Beauty of a city is multi-dimensional. It is not just about the aesthetics, but of the “feel”: that synergy, that pulsating aura that exudes through everything, Lorinc’s “Groove”. Great cities have it. New York has it. Paris and London have it. By god, Tokyo has it. Urban infrastructure itself is at the forefront of manipulating this. It facilitates trade, economic gain, creativity, interaction and communication. Bridges were built not for us to ogle them – though it is a great side-effect – but to facilitate these essential societal needs. For Toronto to achieve the status of urban greatness, which it has inklings for, it must, along with the provincial and Federal governments, develop its urban infrastructure at a scale worthy of its aspirations.

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