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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.

GreenBuild – The Expo Hall

GreenBuild is the largest convention for any person or company even remotely related to the sustainable and ‘green’ building industry.  To put it in perspective for those who could not attend; the book which help the names of all the exhibitors was thicker than many of my textbooks.

Here is a link for you to see for yourself: http://s36.a2zinc.net/clients/usgbc2011/usgbc2011/public/Content.aspx?ID=64&sortMenu=105000

The expo hall housed Green consultants, Developers, Contractors, Engineering Firms, Architecture firms, Third Party Reviewers and was dominated by an enormous assortment of manufacturers and suppliers.

Although I was amazed by some of the technology that the suppliers were showing, I was not interested in purchasing anything in bulk. Thus, in the interest of time, I stuck to gaining knowledge on how different firms and developers had plans to be LEED and improve internal LEED training.

A few exhibitors which really made an impression on me included:

Lend Lease – www.lendlease.com

I conversed with Lend Lease`s Sustainability Manager. We discussed the internal LEED training program they had put in place. Just as major Accounting Firms internally train their employers to become Chartered Accountants, now Building/Design firms can do the same! In the past decade, Lende Lease has completed over 2500 projects, including the:

Academic Joint Use Facility

Ocean Campus, City College of San Francisco, California


I was also pleasantly surprised to see LEEDuser as an exhibitor at the show.

LEEDuser is a great resource for anyone in the LEED industry and has many answers to all LEED credit related questions. www.LEEDuser.com is a partner of www.building-green.com 




The Living Building Challenge: Oregon Sustainability Center

Hello! I’m Amanda, and I’ve recently met Lorne and hopped on board Leading Leed. I’m majoring in Infrastructural Engineering at U of T, which shouldn’t surprise you. Anyway, as Lorne promised, we’re going to talk a bit about some things that came up at the Greenbuild Conference. One of the talks was about the Oregon Sustainability Center in Portland, Oregon, which is designed to become one of the most sustainable buildings ever. I believe they just finished designing it this summer, and construction is scheduled to begin early 2012. So why Portland, Oregon? Well, Oregon’s been known for supporting green energy initiatives, and Portland was the first US city to enact a carbon emissions-reducing strategy. (You can read more on their official website.) So when organizations in the state looked to build an impressive structure that would meet the Living Building Challenge guidelines (as green a standard as you can think of) when it was released back in 2007, and found out that Portland had happened to be looking into constructing a new center for sustainability research, the two got together and created this beauty:

The first ‘Triple Net-Zero’  high-rise: all waste, water and energy is generated, utilized and recycled on site. For example, greywater (from hand-washing, for example) could be reused in toilets and to cool mechanical equipment. Features include solar panels, regenerative turbines, green roofs, and geothermal heat pumps. Read more in the executive summary. I hope I’ll get a chance to see this building some day- it’s definitely setting a new standard for sustainable infrastructure.   Cheers, A



GreenBuild – A Sustainable Conference


Greenbuild is, no doubt, the largest conference/expo dedicated to green and sustainable building practices in the globe. At LeadingLEED, we were fortunate enough to have it hosted in our own backyard in 2011, Toronto. Anyone remotely interested in this industry could not afford to miss such a great opportunity and see so many interesting and diverse products and services being offered in the world. There was no bias of people in the crowd, as all countries involved in green practices were properly represented at the expo.

Greenbuild reached nearly 25000 attendees. Over the next week, LeadingLEED will review our time spent at Greenbuild. From the 700 companies in the expo hall to the key note speakers and Maroon 5.