The past decade has born witness to an increasing awareness in regards to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Whether it be organic food and clothing, alternative transportation methods or green building materials, we are surrounded by products and buildings that purport to benefit our environment and subsequently our personal health. The building industry has been slow to adopt certain environmental reforms, and when it does they tend to be skin (or façade) deep, more marketing ploys than concrete changes to building practices. This generalization cannot, however, be applied to all projects. A rare few go above and beyond the call of the environmental movement, and we're seeing a rise in new projects that promise to deliver sustainable living environments. While it's great to see individual buildings take up the charge, it's even better to see entire districts follow suit, which is just what Dundee Kilmer has proposed to do at the future Pan Am Athletes' Village.

Pan Am Athletes Village in Toronto by Dundee Kilmer and Integrated Design TeamAerial looking east over Pan Am Athletes' Village, image courtesy of Dundee Kilmer Integrated Design Team

Most city dwellers and building enthusiasts are well acquainted with LEED Certification by now. Spearheaded in the late '90s, LEED is a system which awards buildings points if they fulfill requirements across five different categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources and Indoor Environmental Quality. Dundee Kilmer is aiming to achieve 67 points of a possible 100, qualifying for Gold Certification. They're also seeking to impress in the Innovation in Design and Regional Priority categories. Let's take a quick look at some of the practices that are being implemented in the West Don Lands.

The location of the Athletes' Village is ideal for instigating dramatic change in the environment. The formerly industrial site is undergoing intensive remediation, correcting chemical imbalances in the soil and removing impurities. When complete this will ensure that ground water and run-off from the buildings' green roofs will not seep contaminants into the revitalized Don River. Drought-resistance plants will take centre stage in the extensive landscaping so as to reduce irrigation, and the district will offer charging stations for electric cars, as well as extensive bicycle storage.

Pan Am Athletes Village in Toronto by Dundee Kilmer and Integrated Design TeamLooking west from Don River Park, image courtesy of Dundee Kilmer Integrated Design Team

A LEED Project Manager will monitor the site during construction; their job is to inspect all incoming materials to ensure compliance with LEED standards, and maintain cleanliness of air quality systems to negate potential inefficiencies. Dundee's team is also looking to donate reusable materials to not-for-profit organizations and schools.

Most of these design features will have little to no direct impact on how future residents will live their lives. For those residents who want to contribute to the district's green mandate, Dundee will provide a free supply of green cleaning products, as well as educational cleaning programs and tours on-site.

Pan Am Athletes Village in Toronto by Dundee Kilmer and Integrated Design TeamSite plan of the Canary District/Athletes' Village, courtesy of Dundee Kilmer Integrated Design Team

The importance of LEED Certification cannot be undervalued in its ability to enact environmentally conscious building practices, however it's often the basic changes that provide the greatest return to residents. Plenty of park space, natural light, fresh air and a diversity in building uses are invaluable in promoting healthy lifestyles and green neighbourhoods, and should always be considered essential in city planning. We're glad to see Dundee Kilmer take proactive steps in the construction of the Pan Am Athletes' Village, setting an example for future developments in and around the GTA.