Toronto Green Roofs

Green roofs in Toronto, one year later

On January 31st of last year, Toronto ushered in North America's first municipally mandated green roof policy. Proposed as an integral part of the city's Climate Change Action Plan, it requires all new buildings and retrofits to include a green roof. Passed by council with only two votes against (of which Mayor Ford was one), it was welcomed publicly with mixed reviews. Heralded for its contribution to reducing energy consumption and increasing urban biodiversity, the 'nays' worried the added expense of installation and bimonthly maintenance would deter buyers.

As with most green initiatives, the short-term is not where success can be effectively measured, but let's take a look at the new and notable projects this policy fostered in 2010:

The City Hall Podium
Leading by example, Mayor Miller revealed City Hall's expansive courtyard 5 months after the bylaw came into effect. PLANT Architects led the development of Toronto's largest publicly accessible green roof.

Hugh Garner Housing Co-operative
This 181 unit, multi-family building in Cabbagetown is on its way to having the largest residential green roof in Canada. After the initial phase was completed in 2007, the opening of its 8000-square-foot garden was celebrated this past May. A secondary 14,000-square-foot green roof is scheduled for development as part of the final phase.

After 40 years in business, Gerrit de Boer (the Guy With The Beard) closed-up shop in 2010. Moving on from selling teak furniture (and making charming commercials), he has settled on property development as his retirement 'hobby'. With a $2.5-million do-over, the Idomo building at Sheppard and Allen will become a commercial office space - complete with green walls, a green roof, and a vision to become the greenest office in the GTA.

Technically a 2009 build, the Metro-Central YMCA won in the Green Roof category at the 2010 Green Toronto Awards. Built with recycled materials, and featuring outdoor meditation space, a running track, and water fountains, this YMCA is almost spa-like.

Evergreen Brickworks
Short-listed by National Geographic in its Geotourism Challenge, this LEED Platinum project is the crown jewel in Toronto's eco-achievements to date. Not enough can be said about this cultural and environmental oasis buried in the valley that separates our city's East and West ends. A requisite visit for any resident!

While these initiatives have garnered praise across Canada and internationally, two future projects are also generating buzz:

A dramatic overhaul of St Lawrence Market could make us seriously jealous of Jarvis St residents.

The Ontario Provincial Government took over the old Sears Canada HQ (also on Jarvis), and is turning the monstrous upside-down pyramid into a green beauty.

While I'm lucky enough to work in a building with a green roof (and a Dark Horse - just to rub it in), it seems inevitable that the positive examples set by these early adopters - and the financial incentives provided - will allow many Torontonians to benefit from the daily delights of life in a living building.

Writing by Laurence MacSween. Photo by StudioGabe in the blogTO Flickr pool.

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