Take a look around and you'll see more ecologically inspired schools, condos -- hell, even public housing developments -- sprouting up around Toronto. They're growing green roofs and they're looking to the sun and the earth for power. And best of all, they're proving that environmentally sustainable places to live, work and learn aren't a distant dream.
1. Radiance @ Minto Gardens (Yonge and Sheppard)
Much as we vilify the unfettered condofication of Toronto, we love seeing a big developer go green. Minto is one of them. Its new Radiance @ Minto Gardens residence is undoubtedly swank, but it is the first condo with LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The building is 33 per cent more energy-efficient than code, delivering $200,000 a year in energy savings. As well, units use at least 50 per cent less water than your typical condo. On top of ultra-low-emission paints and sealants, and water- and light-saving apartments, there's a green-bin chute, and more than 40 per cent of materials used in construction were made locally. Plus, the building is a member of Autoshare, with onsite Prius rentals.
2. Live Lightly Developments (743 Queen East)
This four-unit renovation of a 19th-century building proves that building green doesn't have to mean starting from scratch. The mini-condo complex offers bamboo flooring, strawboard cabinetry, EnergyStar everything and low-VOC (volatile organic compound) finishes. It has also sunk five wells for geothermal heating, and a drain heat-recovery system keeps residents from flushing warm water down the tubes. If only all old Toronto apartments were so green.
3. SAS Canada (280 King East)
This software company's new Canuck headquarters is the first commercial office building in T.O. to go for LEED certification. The eight-storey glass box is largely made from post-consumer or post-industrial recycled material. Rainwater is treated and reused in appliances and flushing toilets. It's one of the few Toronto buildings with energy-saving underfloor air distribution, releasing warmed and cooled air through the floor. And it's not only landscaped with native plants - SAS is also spending $45,000 to revive two nearby parks.
4. Pond Road Student Residence, York University (92 Pond Rd)
Talk about a college radical. Not only does this high-tech dorm have a "high-efficiency curtain wall system" with heat-mirror windows and solar fins mounted outside to minimize summer's heat, but it also has a 10,000-square-foot green roof, solar panels, energy-efficient lighting with motion sensors and eco-friendly carpeting, paints and finishes. It even has heat recovery devices in the showers so heat from warm water going down the drain is transferred to incoming water. (No, they're not co-ed.) Either way, the rez uses 68 per cent less energy to heat, cool and light than other buildings.
5. Regent Park Redevelopment (Parliament to River, Gerrard to Shuter)
It's a Cinderella story. When this leaky, creaky public housing development's transformation is complete, there won't just be pretty green roofs and a 6-acre park; there'll be geothermal piping, solar panels and a co-generation turbine, too. All that, along with energy-efficient appliances and windows, will cut energy needs by an inspiring 75 per cent. Low-flow appliances and taps will suck back 30 per cent less water. And when it's all done, 80 per cent of building rubble will have been salvaged and recycled for reuse.
6. Thomas L. Wells Public School (69 Nightstar)
A gold star goes to the first green school in the Toronto Distract School Board. Classrooms are laid out so young minds bask in natural light, but heat is kept out in the summer and energy-efficient radiant floor heating warms up little tootsies in the winter. Plus, in-room sensors turn off unneeded lights, and rainwater is collected for landscaping.
7. George and Kathy Dembrowski Centre for Horticulture, Toronto Botanical Garden (777 Lawrence East)
Come for the lovely greenery, stay for the eco-architecture. The sleek double-glazed glass pavilion with a sloping green roof and rainwater collection system (used for landscaping) reduces stormwater discharges by 37 per cent. Waterless urinals and low-flow washrooms cut water use by 21 per cent, or 57,000 litres - above code. Daylight sensors and extra insulation cut energy needs by a third. Local, recycled and ozone-depleting-VOC-free contents were prioritized. The Green Housekeeping Program keeps cleaning chems out.
8. Beaches Solar Laundromat (2240 Queen East)
When this east-end laundromat went solar, the whole city got goosebumps. Thanks to eight rooftop solar thermal panels that heat water for the washing machines, the second-floor apartment above and the rads, the building's natural gas consumption has been chopped by a third and the joint has truly cleaned up - revenues jumped 160 per cent! Now the people behind it, Mondial Energy, are painting the town our favourite shade by funding a stack of green energy projects around T.O. (including seniors' residences and long-term care facilities).