A turning point in condo development?
Hempcrete. Milk paint. Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs). These sustainable products may soon be as commonplace at home as your TV, refrigerator, and sofa are today. On March 11, 2010, the newly redesigned "Healthy Home" model, Sustainable CondoTM, was revealed to the public in northern Toronto's Downsview Park. Sponsored by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Parc Downsview Park Inc. (PDP), the EcoSmart Foundation, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Sears Canada, the Sustainable CondoTM serves as a model for how eco-friendly building materials can be integrated into condominium design.
The federal government established PDP as a crown corporation to administer Downsview Park after it was decomissioned as a military base in 1995. Heralded as Canada's largest urban park, Downsview Park will be redeveloped into a sustainable community with condomium buildings, recreational spaces as well as GO and TTC stations. Despite the event's focus on the model condo, details were lacking on when the future redevelopment of Downsview Park would be completed.
After opening remarks by its sponsors, the public was given a tour of the model condo by its interior decorator and green building consultant, Nikka Design's Barbara Nyke and Greening Homes' Christopher Phillips, respectively. The materials used in the condo's construction ranged from the conventionally eco-friendly to the cutting-edge green. A focus was placed on sourcing materials locally and, when this was not possible, to get the finishing work done locally.
Eco-friendly products are used throughout the condo showing how significant gains in residential energy efficiency could be achieved. The home's drain water heat recovery system decreases water heating costs by 40 per cent and reduces a family's greenhouse gas emissions by 1 tonne per year. The condo also has a heat recovery ventilator (HRV), a device that improves indoor air quality by taking in stale air and converting it to fresh air. Homes are becoming increasingly sealed up, which can lead to reduced indoor air quality and respiratory tract infections, so an HRV can improve the health of a home’s occupants. Several "Healthy Home" furniture pieces and appliances were supplied by Sears Canada.
The natural building materials applied throughout the condo helped it to achieve real reductions in its ecological footprint. Two affordable and healthy insulation concepts were on display: hempcrete and denim jeans. The former is composed of chopped hemp fibre, gypsum and lime, which can be completely composted after use. The latter is made of post-consumer denim jeans that are recycled into use as insulation. Milk paint was used as a glaze for floorboards throughout the condo, a novel solution that in some cases holds longer than conventional paints. This milk paint was manufactured at Bathurst St. and King St. in Toronto; however, it can also be a make-it-yourself product.
There is little doubt that Downsview Park's designers and corporate sponsors are keen to apply eco-friendly principles. The use of eco-friendly materials and appliances in the Sustainable CondoTM was bold and commendable; however, this is still a model home. It remains to be seen whether these green concepts will be integrated into all condos in Downsview Park once development is completed. In order for residential eco-friendly applications to be institutionalized, it is not only vital to get builders' buy-in, but for consumers to continue demanding greener materials and appliances in their homes. The hope is that this model condo will plant a seed in the public's mind so that hempcrete, milk paint and HRVs will not be limited to Downsview Park's condos, but come standard in all future real estate developments.
"A Healthy Home" will be open to the public for viewing in The Hangar at Downsview Park Sports Centre until December 31, 2010. Call 416.952.2222 or e-mail info (at) downsviewpark.ca for more information.