How green are Leaside’s new towers on Eglinton?

Proposal for 815-845 Eglinton E.
Proposal for 815-845 Eglinton E.

In 2019, in response to rising global temperatures due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, the City of Toronto declared a climate change emergency. Toronto set its new greenhouse gas emission target to restrict global average temperature change to 1.5 °C, in accordance with the 2015 Paris agreement, which means achieving net zero carbon emissions before 2050, and by some calculations, as early as 2040.

Buildings account for 52% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Toronto. Toronto must start building net zero carbon emission buildings now! The Toronto Green Standards (TGS) set out that all new construction buildings be near zero by 2030. And it stands to reason that it is much more cost-effective to implement net-zero design at the beginning of a project, rather than retrofit it later. 

So, while this is an issue for all types of buildings, Leaside is about to see major new building construction – 13 towers (12 over 10 storeys) on three sites at 660, 815-845 and 939 Eglinton Ave. East. That would suggest the potential for a lot of emissions over several decades.

My idea behind this month’s column (in line with April’s green theme) was to see how we are doing with net zero construction in Leaside’s new tall towers.

I have to say, it quickly gets technical – and very complex to calculate GHG emissions. In reality we are still talking about such things as heat pumps and electrification, along with lots of abbreviations for technical terms.

A bit of (technical) background about the Toronto Green Standards. TGS is a set of environmental performance measures implemented through development approvals before the City grants a building permit. It’s a two-tier system – Tier 1 is a mandatory requirement through the Site Plan Application (SPA), and Tier 2 is voluntary with a partial refund of development charges. TGS has been in effect since 2010, with revisions in 2014 (V2) and 2018 (V3). Site plan applications received before May 2018 were assessed under TGS V2, and those received on or after May 2018 are assessed under TGS V3.

Tier 2 targets are generally more onerous than Tier 1 targets. TGS V3 Tier 1 and 2 targets are also more demanding than the corresponding targets under TGS V1 and 2.

The Leaside projects are either currently completing planning approvals (660 and 815-845) or in building permit stage (939). So, these issues are top of mind for the three developments right now.   

While there are five categories of environmental improvement – air quality; energy, GHG and resilience; water quality, quantity and efficiency; ecology, and solid waste, we only looked at greenhouse gas emissions and green roofs sections of their TGS submissions.

Here’s the situation for greenhouse gas emissions:

• 660 Eglinton East (Concert Properties and RioCan) satisfies TGS V3 Tier 1 but is targeting TGS V3 Tier 2

• 815-845 (RioCan) is aiming for TGS V3 Tier 2

• 939 (Camrost Felcorp) satisfies TGS V2 Tier 1

And all three exceed the green roof requirements. 

For a chart summarizing these details see the chart: here.

Should we demand greener, healthier communities? Absolutely. Are our new developments at the green cutting edge, or are they climate laggards? Are we carbon net zero or positive?

At the end of the day, I am not sure. To really answer this question would require a few more columns and I would lose most of you. (I may already have done so). However, there are lots of good intentions out there.

Many thanks to Kuda Saburi (Concert Properties), Daniel Fama (RioCan) and Joseph Feldman (Camrost Felcorp) for their assistance with this piece.

About Geoff Kettel 127 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), and Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.