Green design isn't just for the rich. Next month, Green Phoenix, an affordable housing project, will begin construction on the corner of King and Dunn in Parkdale.
The Parkdale United Church, a small chapel on the site whose original building was demolished in 1974, has undertaken this project in partnership with the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation, a local non-profit.
Backers say they still need to raise $800,000 in order to keep rents low and eliminate the need for a mortgage.
But if all goes well, it's hoped the green housing prototype will spur the construction of ecologically conscious affordable housing developments across the city
The 156-unit project will have rents at least $150 below market value and cutting-edge tech that includes solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, rooftop gardens, water- and energy-saving fixtures and appliances, a green wall lined with living plants in the lobby and stormwater recycling for irrigation of the surrounding grounds.
The building will be built with materials and labour that are local in the purest sense of the word: everyone involved in the construction will live in the neighbourhood, and no construction material will come from more than 500 kilometres away.
The word "LEED" (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) has been on the lips of many private developers. To date, over 200 developments across Canada have registered for LEED certification.
However, many of the LEED-certified projects are high-end condominium developments or affluent suburban subdivisions. The Parkdale project will be the first for low-income Torontonians.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's GTA district manager, Mark Salerno, points out that developers are keen about going green. For them it's a niche market as well as an economical way to build.
"Developers benefit from building better," Salerno says. "They are recognizing that consumers and building operators have a growing concern about long-term operating costs. Energy-efficient projects reduce costs and can set a developer apart."
Salerno predicts that green design will become more common in affordable housing as more developers learn to integrate energy technologies into their designs.
Scott MacMillan, treasurer on the Green Phoenix board, sees the plan as a positive change for Parkdale.
"The project reconnects lower-income people with the environment and with the community" and it's a model that other organizations can recreate." Few organizations for the working poor are going green, MacMillan adds. "We're setting a great example of what can be done."