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Sustainability of Condo Living

NBGtect

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I really don't see the appeal of Graham Hill let alone have a collection of units marketed with his name. Has anyone seen him speak? He just seems so sad and miserable and not the slightest bit convincing or inspiring. There are far better and inspiring visionaries who live in humble dwellings and who practice frugality in their daily lives. All Graham needs to do is smile when he speaks and lighten up!

We do live in tough times and a lot of what we do is unsustainable. But this isn't new by any means. People have been living with little for a long time.

Read the old book,"Your Money or Your Life" for actual inspiration with people who practiced living in small spaces with financial independence as their primary goal. I just feel that Graham used his design competition and little apt makeover mostly as a massive marketing tool to promote his own projects (which he has many) rather than actually be happy about his life. But it seems to have caught on since Urban Capital can also profit and market tiny spaces as something desirable for the planet (rather than merely to line their own pockets).

If people are really interested in sustainability, there are many well-respected authors, speakers, and those who live this way that will inspire you. This, unfortunately, is merely a marketing ploy to profit others. The two best things that you can do to save money is 1.) Stop trying to impress others; 2.) Rent or invest in a freehold but don't waste money on a condo!
 
^The most sustainable people are those that live nomadic rural lives ... or the Amish. A condo isn't sustainable--check out those giant gravel pits raping the countryside in Caledon, north Milton and and the Hockley Valley area.

Now River City is still an interesting development--ie cool French Canadian design--but sustainable?
 
I don't live in a condo yet I live way more sustainably than anyone I've met that does live in a condo. Since I save 75% of my income and don't buy the bling to show off to ... street people?! ... I find it ironic when the sustainable crowd preaches their script. Eg: That Florida character really is a joke.

Anyhow getting OT here.
 
I really don't see the appeal of Graham Hill let alone have a collection of units marketed with his name. Has anyone seen him speak? He just seems so sad and miserable and not the slightest bit convincing or inspiring. There are far better and inspiring visionaries who live in humble dwellings and who practice frugality in their daily lives. All Graham needs to do is smile when he speaks and lighten up!

We do live in tough times and a lot of what we do is unsustainable. But this isn't new by any means. People have been living with little for a long time.

Read the old book,"Your Money or Your Life" for actual inspiration with people who practiced living in small spaces with financial independence as their primary goal. I just feel that Graham used his design competition and little apt makeover mostly as a massive marketing tool to promote his own projects (which he has many) rather than actually be happy about his life. But it seems to have caught on since Urban Capital can also profit and market tiny spaces as something desirable for the planet (rather than merely to line their own pockets).

If people are really interested in sustainability, there are many well-respected authors, speakers, and those who live this way that will inspire you. This, unfortunately, is merely a marketing ploy to profit others. The two best things that you can do to save money is 1.) Stop trying to impress others; 2.) Rent or invest in a freehold but don't waste money on a condo!

You're conflating investment profit with increased sustainability. How are freehold homes more sustainable than multi-unit residential? All evidence is to the contrary. Can you cite a few speakers who support your position?

^The most sustainable people are those that live nomadic rural lives ... or the Amish. A condo isn't sustainable--check out those giant gravel pits raping the countryside in Caledon, north Milton and and the Hockley Valley area.

Now River City is still an interesting development--ie cool French Canadian design--but sustainable?

We've been over this. Yes, 'nomadic' or Anabaptist people may live the most sustainably but how are you going to convince a majority of people to live this way? Again, contrary to what you've stated, mulit-unit living in cities is the most sustainable way people can live on a large scale.

Agreed. Plus, any building with massive walls of glazing isn't sustainable. Often to get their LEED Gold designation, developers are merely donating money to some worthy cause in some developing country as a way to off-set the waste and inefficient use of energy at their projects at home. I don't buy into it.

At one time it was voluntary to lead a sustainable life and live with less rather than living large. It's not voluntary anymore! People are having a very difficult time paying bills for food, housing, utilities, services; i.e. basic necessities.

I find it offensive that developer's are only promoting sustainably as a marketing tool rather than actually being honest about their goals. Go see where they live and see what cars they drive. They don't live the life at all. It's only a marketing tool to get you into living small and being so happy with it while they still live large and profit from you.

That's not the way LEED works (not that I'm a giant fan of the system myself). The issues with LEED stem from it being based more around product-speccing than behavioral change and it's the latter that's far more important.

That's great to hear!

This discussion isn't off-topic in the slightest since the front page story mentions the Graham Hill Collection as part of the project. Sure it's cool to have custom designed furniture and stackable chairs, etc. My argument is that the developer could care less about sustainability. Their monetary donations to developing countries come from the purchasers who buy here not from their own pockets.

I just find it offensive that's it's 100% a marketing ploy to prey on people's conscience and make people feel good about themselves, but it's actually nothing to do with sustainability. So why not be honest and just come out and say that they are selling a cool-looking building that really isn't sustainable but we are pretending that it is?

That's my point.

Again, cite an example. What's more, give me some credible evidence that 'freehold' living (and all associated transport costs) is somehow more sustainable than multi-unit.
 
i don't know what the word "sustainable" means here, but I know for sure the freehold houses are not sustainable living.
Imagine if every family on earth has a two story single family house in the suburb and drive a car wherever they need to go. The entire world's oil reserve will be exhausted in the next 10 years, or less. And imagine the fuel we will need just to heat/cool our hourse!
The typical American/Canada way of living is extremely unsustainable.

I agree the current condo living is not that sustainable either, primarily due to the increasing "amenities" and associated costs. 24 hour consierge? media rooms? it is just for vanity. What we need is condos with reasonable cost to live in. The 60-80 cents per square foot maintenance fees are really stupid.
 
You're conflating investment profit with increased sustainability. How are freehold homes more sustainable than multi-unit residential? All evidence is to the contrary. Can you cite a few speakers who support your position?

I'm not an expert, but I think the actual evidence is a little bit ambiguous on this point. Certainly, in aggregate, denser cities like Hong Kong or Copenhagen have lower environmental footprints, per capita, than sprawling cities like Houston or Dallas, but that comparison may not be fair.

If you're discussing individual buildings, on a per square foot basis, I'm not sure high-rise buildings really are more sustainable. Concrete and cement production are two of the largest contributors to GHG emissions to climate change. According to this presentation, per square meter of residential space, tall buildings have a higher energy footprint than single family homes. Not only that, but taller highrises even have a higher energy footprint psm than shorter high rises.

Highrises only reduce footprints in so far as residents in highrises, for market reasons, tend to live in far smaller units. A typical suburban house in N.America is easily upwards of 2,500 sf, while highrise apts are usually considerably smaller. The environmental savings are coming from smaller units, not necessarily more eco-friendly units.

Maybe people see the point as a bit pedantic -afterall, isn't the result the same, lower carbon footprints? - but I think it's important. American suburbs tend to have much higher carbon footprints per household because most American suburbanites are richer, live in bigger houses, consume much more 'stuff,' are much more mobile than inner city households from, say, Copenhagen. It's not strictly an efficiency effect so much as the product of lower overall consumption.

The most eco-friendly community may likely be a modestly dense one. Sufficient density to allow basic amenities to be within bicycle or walking distance, but not so dense as to need extensive concrete building. Combined with moves to increase private auto energy efficiency, the overall eco-footprint ought to be quite low. Again, larger issues like the overall share of things like coal generators or natgas in the community's energy production will also have huge impacts.
 
^ what matters is not emission footprint per sqm. What is important is emission per PERSON.
in highrises, you hardly see a family of 4 living in 1500-2000sf space not even including basement (which needs some heating as well).

Additionally, people living in denser areas almost always rely less than personal cars (and it is much easier and cost effective to provide transit for these people), while sparse neighbourhoods mostly replies on cars heavily (imagine living in Bayview/Lawrence without a car?)
 
^ what matters is not emission footprint per sqm. What is important is emission per PERSON.
in highrises, you hardly see a family of 4 living in 1500-2000sf space not even including basement (which needs some heating as well).

Well, yes and no.

Footprint per sm is important. All things being equal, we want people to live in dwellings with lowest impact per square meter, we want households to maximize efficiency.

It's kind of a maxim of mainstream environmentalism that reductions to footprints should come at the lowest possible cost to lifestyle and consumption. If the goal is just to reduce consumption, just raise taxes! It's much easier and would produce fewer distortions than trying to encourage consumers to move into ineffecient units, the benefits of which would be reaped by developers.
 
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Well, yes and no.

Footprint per sm is important. All things being equal, we want people to live in dwellings with lowest impact per square meter, we want households to maximize efficiency.

Impact per sm is not as meaningful as total impact amount, is it?
Suppose A creates 1 unit of GHG per sm, B creates 2 units. However, A lives in a 3000sf house in Vaughan, while B lives in a 550sf condo in downtown. The impact is 3000 vs 1100.
For households to maximize efficiency is not as important as for them to minimize total environmental impact - which is far more direct.

You can have the world's most efficient house (100%), but if you house is gigantic, all the efficiency is more than offset by its sheer size. This is why although Canadian houses are in general more efficient than say China (they have little insulation for example), on a per person basis, a Canadian still leaves a much large emission footprint than a Chinese because the Chinese live in much smaller spaces and their inefficiency is fully offset by that.
 
Impact per sm is not as meaningful as total impact amount, is it?
Suppose A creates 1 unit of GHG per sm, B creates 2 units. However, A lives in a 3000sf house in Vaughan, while B lives in a 550sf condo in downtown. The impact is 3000 vs 1100.
For households to maximize efficiency is not as important as for them to minimize total environmental impact - which is far more direct.

You can have the world's most efficient house (100%), but if you house is gigantic, all the efficiency is more than offset by its sheer size. This is why although Canadian houses are in general more efficient than say China (they have little insulation for example), on a per person basis, a Canadian still leaves a much large emission footprint than a Chinese because the Chinese live in much smaller spaces and their inefficiency is fully offset by that.

No, certainly I would agree that what matters for the environment is overall reduction in footprint.

My point was that you want that reduction to have the fewest possible impacts on quality of life and consumption. Broadly, it would be preferable to have households living in a larger but more efficient home than a smaller but less efficient home (assuming both produced the same absolute environmental impact).

If the 'solution' to environmental damage in this case is just to reduce consumption, through smaller dwellings, there are much simpler tools to accomplish that. We should just raise taxes such that people could no longer afford >3000sf houses with huge lots. Within the new context of everyone having lower household incomes, households would then choose the most efficient dwelling type for their needs. Maybe a 1,200sf house or town-home rather than a 600sf condo. That way, households would be left to pick the economically and environmentally rational option on their own, while the extra taxes could go to public causes rather than larger profits for developers.

P.S. Just to add, the big reductions in environmental impact come from projects like phasing out coal and facilitating EVs/hybrids. In the long run, most households would find it far less intrusive to have to drive an EV or pay a few cents more per kw/h for non-coal power than to be induced into giving up 50%-75% of their living space.
 
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For the true answer to the question of which housing type is most sustainable, simply look to places (or times in history) that were developed prior to the cheap energy era, such as European city centres that predate the automobile. What do you see? Neither single family dwellings nor high-rise condos, but squat mid-rise apartment blocks with low ratios of building envelope size to habitable space, more solid walls than windows, and minimal common areas. These buildings require less energy per square foot to heat or cool thanks to the large number of shared walls, while also avoiding the waste inherent in the high-rise condo design with elevators and hallways taking up a large percentage of floor space. Population density can be high enough to support businesses within walking or streetcar distance, without necessarily requiring expensive point to point transportation such as underground subway.

Obviously many of these are many of stone and other non-renewable resources, but natural stone can basically last forever. We can also build mid-rise apartments using modern wood framing techniques rather than concrete for a lower environmental footprint at time of construction. With bulked up building insulation (such as with spray foam) you could have a very compact, dense, energy efficient and low environmental impact building.

Household size is also a big factor - each household needs a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and so on, whereas each additional person typically only requires a bedroom and perhaps a small increase in living space. Unfortunately most new condos are 1 bedroom only, so relatively inefficient for the number of people living there. Think of two 1 bedroom units with single occupants vs. one 2 bedroom condo with roommates...
 
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Midrises are nice but it has practical problems. Without elevators, it can be very challenging for old people to live in. I do agree with much of what you said.
However, without doubt detached single family houses are lease efficient among all.
 
P.S. Just to add, the big reductions in environmental impact come from projects like phasing out coal and facilitating EVs/hybrids. In the long run, most households would find it far less intrusive to have to drive an EV or pay a few cents more per kw/h for non-coal power than to be induced into giving up 50%-75% of their living space.

sure, but the magnitude of impact is different too.
Giving up 50% living space is a solid 50% reduction on energy consumption. All those projects only provide marginal benefit. For example Ontario only uses something like 4% of electricity from coal, so phrasing them out is not gonna make a huge difference.
I have seen so many environmental conscient people who recyle religiously, only choose eco-friendly materials and pay a lot of attention to insulation. Then they choose to live in giant mansion in car dependent suburbs 20km from work and set temperture at 28C in the winter for 4/5 months and 20C in the summer. In the end, they leave a much large emission footprint than someone who cares nothing about environment but live in a small downtown apartment.
 
You can still put elevators in a mid-rise, the difference is that you need fewer per resident because the distances traveled are shorter, and accordingly they take up less space and use less energy. Also, simple things like putting stairs in prominent places and locating elevators out of the way can do a lot to encourage subtle changes in behaviour. In many buildings, stairs are locked off and hard to access so even people on low floors take the elevator even though it would be faster to take the stairs.

As for energy consumption, I think you will see that electricity, natural gas and gasoline prices will continue to rise, and increasingly affect individual lifestyle choices and behaviour. Just think - 100+ years ago radiator heat was controlled by basic knobs or not at all (open a window if it is too hot inside) then thermostats came out to set heating/cooling at a set temperature, and now we have programmable and learning thermostats that are designed to dial down energy usage when you leave the house. We have the capability to build and operate highly efficient (or totally passive) buildings, it's just not cost effective yet.

One of the big problems with condos is that retrofitting can be incredibly expensive; imagine replacing a glass window wall system on a 50 storey condo with structured insulated panels or something similar!
 

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