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Old August 20th, 2005, 08:51 PM   #1
partybits
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Energy efficient condos

There have been quite a few new projects in Toronto promoting energy efficiency. The most prominent is Tridel's Element & Verve, and Shane Baghai's One Avondale & St. Gabriel.
This can include energy efficient appliances, green roofs, use of solar/wind power, individual metered units, recycling chutes, & hook up to Enbridge Dee Water Cooling.

Is this merely a fad that some developers will exploit or is this the beginning of a a long term trend in urban areas?

Here's an article in today's Star that inspired this thread:

http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Con...acodalogin=yes

Energy efficiency the next big trend: Baghai
Gilding gives way to green roof for custom builder Baghai Unlikely champion says he has seen the light, by Tony Wong




TONY WONG
BUSINESS REPORTER

Shane Baghai is known for the celebration of more, not less.

His homes are a triumph of scale, gilt-edged palaces that bring the concept of Versailles to the masses — or at least to the masses who live on the Bridle Path.

Long before the term monster-home was a part of the vocabulary, Toronto's most famous custom builder was constructing glamorous mansions on the former horse trail in north Toronto.

Indoor Olympic-sized pools, tennis courts and air-conditioning units big enough to cool a small mall were de rigueur on some of the larger homes.

But that was then.

Today, Baghai, perhaps Canada's most unlikely champion of sustainability, says he has seen the light.

Like some fervent born-again missionary, the monster-home builder is on a quest to save Canadians from the culture of excess.

"We have taken things for granted too long. We must encourage builders to talk about energy efficiency," says Baghai in an interview over lunch at a Japanese restaurant in a north Toronto hotel.

"And homeowners must also be aware that, if they're going to spend half an hour in the shower instead of taking a five-minute shower, then they are going to pay for it."

A five-minute shower?

You might be forgiven at this point for thinking that Baghai has been kidnapped and brainwashed by a SWAT team from Greenpeace.

Many of his clients have their own residential spa complete with whirlpool, sauna and indoor pool, never mind the five-minute shower.

American rock star Prince — not known for living a life of parsimony — lives in a Baghai-built home, as does Canadian icon Gordon Lightfoot.

Still, at least outwardly, Baghai is the same old Baghai, dressed as always in a distinguished custom suit, which he accessorizes with his impeccable old-world courtliness.

And, granted, he has made some moves toward personal sustainability, downscaling from a 36,000-square-foot mansion on the Bridle Path to a mere 15,000 square feet (only as big as, say, seven typical homes) a couple streets away. And he arrives at lunch in a brand new, top-of-the-line, $140,000 Mercedes coupe instead of a Bentley. But does that qualify?

"Is it a crime if a blind person wakes up and sees reality? I simply started to open my eyes and ears," Baghai says passionately when met with some skepticism.

"Who says I know anything about sustainable building? All I know is that you have to embrace change, because change will hit you like a bullet, and you want to be with the bullet, not on the other end."

To that end, Baghai has embarked on his grandest, and perhaps boldest, project yet. Bold, because it will not be quite what the typical Baghai client is used to. But then again, Baghai has always had a knack for timing. He moved from building custom homes to include condominium projects years ago, just in time to catch the upswing in the condo boom. Now, oil prices are front-page news.

Baghai is betting that even the Bridle Path dweller, who must surely own a monster sport-utility vehicle or two, cannot be immune to high energy prices. He is hoping that buying sustainability in a home will be as chic as a Hollywood star primping in a Prius.

So, on a 7.5-acre site near Bayview and Sheppard Aves. in North York, he has developed a unique townhouse and condominium project that will incorporate a basket of futuristic gadgetry designed to save energy.

The St. Gabriel site, when finished, will probably use solar and wind energy, and will be built with vehicles that may be powered by hydrogen or fuel-cell technology. Each home will be individually metered so residents will be responsible for their own use of energy. Even the wealthy, it seems, are concerned about saving a buck or two.

"Something like this has been long overdue. In a way, it is a bit of an experiment, a grand experiment," says Baghai.

The first 102 suites of St. Gabriel Village were launched in May, targeted at downsizers from the immediate area. The project is 80 per cent sold, and Baghai is launching phase two in September.

Prices will range from almost $500,000 for a starter suite to $1.6 million, offering plenty of Baghai's luxury touches, including granite and marble finishes, elevators in townhomes and a complimentary consultation with an interior designer. For the smaller suites, Baghai plans to offer a free year's use of a Toronto Transit Commission Metropass, which residents, if they feel like slumming it, can use on the nearby Sheppard subway line.

But local City Councillor David Shiner says he is not in favour of Baghai's 3-metre wind turbines, calling them an eyesore that won't produce significant energy.

"I think they're symbolic, if anything," says Shiner.

Baghai, however, says solar panels and the latest-technology wind turbines may be enough to power the lighting in common areas of the building if new-technology LED lighting is used.

"The idea was not to save millions of dollars immediately. It was to use the available technology to start to educate the community about energy conservation," he says.

Bayview Village Association homeowners were so worried about the development they chipped in their own money to fight it. An acrimonious duel at the Ontario Municipal Board ended with Baghai gaining approval.

Shiner, meanwhile, is still not persuaded that Baghai's new-found love of conservation will really yield benefits. It may just be great marketing.

"The site, for one thing, is way too dense."

Shiner says the initial application for the area was for about 200 townhomes, but Baghai later asked for about three times that number of units.

"Now you have a potential thousand cars in the area instead of 200 cars. The exhaust emissions alone will be huge."

One purchaser recently bought three units in phase one and combined them to form 3,800 square feet. The buyer owns three Rolls-Royces, a Bentley and two Mercedes, said Baghai.

"He can only drive one car at a time, and when he is in the country, he may use a limousine service, so the cars are just parked there."

Apart from energy savings, Baghai also plans to use environmentally friendly building techniques, such as green roofing, where vegetation is planted on top of the buildings to reduce carbon dioxide and storm-water runoff while minimizing the city heat-island effect.

He estimates that he has spent an additional million dollars on his development to ensure that it is energy efficient, and is dismayed when told his efforts might be mere window dressing.

"I was a mechanical engineer by training, and I can assure you these are not gimmicks," he says.

"The people who are buying into the project know that their buildings won't have the severe kind of impact that other buildings have on the environment, and they do feel good about it."

The Canadian government has also been trying to get behind the green home-building movement. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. has announced it will offer a 10 per cent refund on a mortgage-loan insurance premium when a borrower buys or builds an energy-efficient home or makes energy-saving renovations to an existing home.

"To see that someone like Shane Baghai, who is known for building luxury homes, is this committed is a really great boost to the whole idea of sustainability in the development industry," said Mark Salerno, Greater Toronto Area district manager for CMHC.

Still, Baghai is certainly not the first developer to market sustainable development.

Other Toronto developers have also tried to incorporate environmentally friendly building techniques into projects, such as using solar or wind power, or deep-water cooling, which uses cold water from Lake Ontario to help cool buildings.

But Baghai is hoping to use a far more comprehensive basket of tricks — or at least those where the technology seems feasible — in his St. Gabriel project. He has already used wind power at One Avondale, a 21-storey condominium he recently developed. But he wants to go further this time.

"We will save a little here, and a little there, and it will all add up," says Baghai.

So will he succeed, or is the king of bling barking up the wrong tree?

"There was a big phase of interest about sustainable development in the '70s and '80s," says Andrew Bigauskas, the architect for St. Gabriel. "Then it sort of went quiet. It didn't amount to much. However, we're certainly getting to the point where technology and the cost of energy are making all of this viable."

Meanwhile, lunch is over, and Baghai has spun a convincing argument. The valet brings Baghai's automobile to the front of the hotel, and he waves goodbye from his elegant and very thirsty Mercedes sports car.

Additional articles by Tony Wong
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Old August 20th, 2005, 11:32 PM   #2
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"Is this merely a fad that some developers will exploit or is this the beginning of a a long term trend in urban areas?"

I'm quite mystified by how long it took for developers to use sex to sell condos
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Old August 22nd, 2005, 11:59 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by valantino
"Is this merely a fad that some developers will exploit or is this the beginning of a a long term trend in urban areas?"

I'm quite mystified by how long it took for developers to use sex to sell condos
LOL...HAHA....Nice one..very nice one






now back to the topic

Partybits...I definitely think it's here to stay simply because Toronto needs to be more energy efficient....there have been many power shortages in some parts of the city this summer....and technologies such as the ones you have mentioned are expected to be implemented...Toronto uses way to much power....we run primarily off of coal and we are on the brink of our capacity
I think it's best to not just implement these things into new buildings...but also I think it's best to implement these things into older buildings...especially this geothermal cooling and heating that I keep hearing about. the A/C is the biggest killer....One thing that Indoor weather companies should do is make central cooling more affordable to people living in a single-family home or other low density environments...we have too many people in the GTA using a bulky air conditioning system.....think about it, on avg, 1000 watts each for each person using A/C....multiply that up with about at least half of the GTA's population...and i think that that would be a lot of power consumed
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Old August 22nd, 2005, 11:59 PM   #4
partybits
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I certainly hopes it picks up. The best thing to ever happen is for this energy efficienccy to pick up in US cities. If it does, companies will clambour to find innovative & cheap ways to produce the energy sources (wind, geo, solar). When Economies of scale kicks in, it may be very affordable both on a one time capital expenditure & on the $/kw hour basis.
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