Archive for the ‘Architecture and Design’ category

Waterfront Toronto Aims to Build the Greenest Community in North America

December 2nd, 2014
Sherbourne Common Water screens

Sherbourne Common Water Screens (stormwater treatment)

Sherbourne Common at Night 2

Sherbourne Common at Night

Waterfront Toronto was established in 2001 by the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario and the federal government. Its mandate was not just to revitalize the waterfront area, but also to do it using a framework of sustainability. They have developed incorporated into the design such things as making the roadways more pedestrian and bike friendly, creating parks surrounding housing developments, creating mixed-use spaces for businesses, services, education and housing. Low-income housing was also included in the plan. The building code standards are stricter than the city’s and are continually improving. Finally, riverfront and lakefront rehabilitation was one of the primary mandates. If you haven’t been down to see the wave decks yet, they are unique, award winning structures that have provided connections and continuations of pathways, but have also assisted in revitalizing the lake beneath it. Toronto Conservation Authority counted an increase in fish species below the decks from six to 27 at last count. » Read more: Waterfront Toronto Aims to Build the Greenest Community in North America

Norpolhaus – A Polish Prefab Passive House Builder

November 10th, 2014
Eskew House, Norway

Trysil, Norway

When I was in Poland in October I met with several different companies about their businesses and technologies. One of the companies was Norpolhaus, a joint Norwegian-Polish venture. Andrezej Król, is the president of the company and spoke to me about their activities.

» Read more: Norpolhaus – A Polish Prefab Passive House Builder

A Visit to Poland for Poleko 2014, Environmental Protection trade fair

October 28th, 2014
Royal Palace

An exact replica of the original palace (leveled during the Warsaw Uprising), The Royal Palace was rebuilt between 1971-1984.

In mid-October I was invited along with other Canadian entrepreneurs and journalists to Warsaw and Poznan, Poland. The trip was sponsored by the Polish government and we were treated to sightseeing and a museum tour (Warsaw Uprising Museum) of Warsaw as well as seeing some of the work that’s being done in Poland in the area of environmental protection.

The trip was planned around Poleko, Poland’s largest environmental fair, now in its 26th year. We landed in Warsaw, where we spent two days before heading to Poznan, 350 km northwest of Warsaw. It’s an interesting country with a long and rich history. For instance, I didn’t know that Poland was the second country in the world to develop a constitution (1791), creating the first constitutional monarchy; also important is that its King was elected. I also didn’t know that it has a highly educated population, and I was told that 70% of the population has a Master’s degree (I haven’t been able to confirm this information however). However, the OECD better living index indicates that 89% of the population has a high school diploma or equivalent, which is second highest in the OECD.

» Read more: A Visit to Poland for Poleko 2014, Environmental Protection trade fair

Green Building Illustrated: Book Review

September 24th, 2014
Green Building Illustrated

Green Building Illustrated

Francis Ching is a well-known author and illustrator of books on design and construction, perhaps within the building sector his most well-known book is Building Construction Illustrated. Collaborating with Ian Shapiro on this latest book, the pair have developed a good introduction to green building for those just becoming familiar with the field, but it also serves as a good reference guide to green building for those of us with more experience.

“What is green building?”

The point of the question is to highlight the reality that it is really an evolving definition. Some buildings built to a high standard, have, upon evaluation, turned out to be less green than their standard counterparts because they use more energy than the comparative standard, whereas some net-zero or close to net zero buildings aren’t classified as green because the owner has decided not to go through the hoops necessary to become classified.

Further,  the authors address why building greener buildings is important, referring to climate change effects as well as resource depletion. They also delve into the different green classification systems that are available.What I like about this book is that after reading it you gain a basic understanding of all the elements involved in building a better, more resilient, lower impact building.

Hosting a Design Charette

Shapiro and Ching emphasize that with the development, design and construction of any building, there are thousands of decisions that are made. One decision affects another, so it means that there are trade-offs for every decision. Getting the design done right at the beginning can save time and money down the road and one of the best ways to do that is to have a design charette. A charette is like a round table discussion where every involved party can have a say in how the design will affect their portion of the building from plumbing, electrical, HVAC concerns, material selection, and occupant use post construction. Ideally charettes include the architect, general contractor, sub-trades, building owner and manager, in other words, all stakeholders.

The book is clearly illustrated and dedicates a good section to design and design issues. Getting the design right is one of the best ways to have the most significant impact on constructing a lower impact building. Again the book is thought-provoking: the authors ask “green buildings are lower impact than what?” In fact Shapiro gently takes LEED to task because the system fails to give points for designing a building that has a smaller surface area (therefore less exposure to the elements), than its standard counterpart. In other words, no points are given for designing a more efficiently shaped building than might otherwise be built. The authors explain the differences between the different green building rating systems out there, including LEED, Passivhaus, Living Building Challenge, and Green Globes.

Another perspective of the book is that it teaches readers to design buildings from the outside in, in layers. So, it looks at landscaping, site and orientation and how those factors affect the design of the building. Further, Shapiro and Ching highlight with detailed drawings, the importance of surface area on the energy efficiency of a building. In general terms, the smaller the surface area, the greater the energy efficiency of the building.

It takes only one brief glance at the chapter on windows to confirm that all those glass condos going up all over Toronto and Montreal are  an energy efficiency nightmare. Windows, in addition to having terrible insulation values, also pose potential leak problems between their frames and the building. If not sealed properly there is an extra source of potential drafts and water infiltration.

The chapter on building materials emphasizes the need to consider local, recycled and other materials with a low embodied energy. There is a handy table that shows the different embodied energy of different types of wall constructions.

One of the best features of this book is that it is an all in one reference guide for looking at how to build better buildings from design through to commissioning (evaluating a building’s systems to make sure they are all functioning properly). Once read cover to cover, it can be used as a reference guide to greener building and the different factors that need to be taken into account. While the book does not delve deep into any one area, it does provide a readable and approachable overview that’s easily understood by laypersons as well as professionals familiarizing themselves with green building practices. If I have one complaint, it is that for old people like myself, the spidery, handwritten style font is difficult to read.

Green Building Illustrated is available through John Wiley and Sons, or Amazon.

Kitchen Cabinets from Reclaimed Wood By Inde-Art Design House

July 15th, 2014
Kitchen cabinets from reclaimed fishing boat wood

Kitchen cabinets from reclaimed fishing boat wood

Inde-Art Design House is a cabinet and furniture company located in Leslieville in Toronto. Their kitchen cabinets are beautiful in a rustic, artistic way. Sorab from Inde-Art told me that they use wood from decommissioned fishing boats  and torn down houses from India to make the cabinets. The wood is mostly teak, and, after seeing the pictures, is quite stunning.

Upper Cabinet close-up

Upper Cabinet close-up

Cabinets are either custom-built  or you can buy them directly from their showroom if you don’t need specific measurements for the space (free-standing kitchens are becoming more fashionable these days).

Cabinets can be either stained or painted depending on the look you’re after. As seen in some of the photos, they also do a distressed look, however, a natural stain will bring out the grain in the wood.

Kitchen close-up

Kitchen close-up

 

reclaimed carved cabinet doors

reclaimed carved cabinet doors, distressed upper cabinets

Cost: Is medium-end, however, it is dependent on the style, type of cabinet you choose (in-stock, premade or custom). Inde-Art can offer two different qualities of cabinet box and hardware depending on your budget.

reclaimed and distressed wood kitchen cabinets

reclaimed and distressed wood kitchen cabinets

 Time: Again, it is difficult to predict how long a custom cabinet will take to make. Some of them are made in India, some are made in their warehouse in Toronto, depending on the wood and design style you choose. If the cabinet is not in-stock it could take up to three months to make. The company has recently started importing drawer and cupboard doors from India and making the boxes in-house in Toronto.

For more information about the cabinets, please contact Inde-Art or visit their website.

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