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Sustainability of Condo Living

diminutive

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the five apartments with basement accommodate how many people, like 10 max? I don't know how you can compare with the density highrises provides.
Density isn't the sole predictor of environmental footprint. Pretty few of us would argue that an exurban McMansion is more sustainable than a condo, but once you move away from the extreme ends of the spectrum it does become more ambiguous. For instance, from what I've seen, NYC's per capita carbon emissions are actually pretty comparable to Toronto's despite being about 2x as dense.

Even within NYC, you don't actually see huge swings for household footprints, even if you compared the Upper West Side (which i *think* is the densest residential zip code in the US) and Yonkers or Flushing. On a per capita basis, that gap would be even smaller I imagine.
 

ksun

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Density isn't the sole predictor of environmental footprint. Pretty few of us would argue that an exurban McMansion is more sustainable than a condo, but once you move away from the extreme ends of the spectrum it does become more ambiguous. For instance, from what I've seen, NYC's per capita carbon emissions are actually pretty comparable to Toronto's despite being about 2x as dense.

Even within NYC, you don't actually see huge swings for household footprints, even if you compared the Upper West Side (which i *think* is the densest residential zip code in the US) and Yonkers or Flushing. On a per capita basis, that gap would be even smaller I imagine.
I have a lot of doubts about these emission calculations. How can we actually calculate emission of a neighbourhood (eg: Upper West side)? I wouldn't put so much trust in those stats.
In an urban setting, maybe it is possible to calculate the approximate energy consumption on a per capita basis based on fuel demand from heating and commuting? I would have trouble believing those who live in houses actually consume less heating fuel and drive less on average.
 

diminutive

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I have a lot of doubts about these emission calculations. How can we actually calculate emission of a neighbourhood (eg: Upper West side)? I wouldn't put so much trust in those stats.
In an urban setting, maybe it is possible to calculate the approximate energy consumption on a per capita basis based on fuel demand from heating and commuting? I would have trouble believing those who live in houses actually consume less heating fuel and drive less on average.
I was quoting data from UC Berkley's Carbon Footprint map. I'm sure, like any project, it's got methodological limitations and weaknesses, but I don't see why it would systematically underestimate suburban footprints and overestimate urban ones.

I think the project as a whole shows some of the ambiguities of the density-footprint relationship. Increased density has different impacts in urban cores vs. suburban areas, and can have different effects at different levels. In urban centers density probably reduces household footprints, but only weekly: a 10x increase in density was found to only produce a 25% reduction in household footprints.
 
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ksun

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I was quoting data from UC Berkley's Carbon Footprint map. I'm sure, like any project, it's got methodological limitations and weaknesses, but I don't see why it would systematically underestimate suburban footprints and overestimate urban ones.

I think the project as a whole shows some of the ambiguities of the density-footprint relationship. Increased density has different impacts in urban cores vs. suburban areas, and can have different effects at different levels. In urban centers density probably reduces household footprints, but only weekly: a 10x increase in density was found to only produce a 25% reduction in household footprints.
Thanks for providing the source.
After thinking about the issue, I came to realise that we can't come to conclusion regarding the correlation simply based statistical results. In many cases, the HCF difference is not a result of urban/suburban or density difference. For example, people in Boston or New York would definitely need more heating fuel than someone from suburban los Angeles, not because the way they live requires more energy, but because of where they live. So in the housing category, it will be more meaning to compare places with different density in the same climate zone.
Transportation seems a lot less biased, because it is a direct result of lifestyle, it seems to account for 30% or more.
I don't know how food, goods and services are measured. I think food should be excluded because certain areas simply don't grow certain food, and the energy used to transport it is not a result of density at all.
I would also think goods and services should be cheaper to provide in denser areas, mostly due to transportation needs.

Anyhow, we should be careful about conclusion based on pure statistical data. A lot of factors need to be considered.
 

TrickyRicky

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I think you guys are expanding the scope of the argument too far. Condo developments can be high-rise or low-rise. High-rise building have existed for maybe 100 years but the more important question here is how old are the oldest condos?
 

urbandreamer

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If SFH development returned to practises of a century ago--ie where the top soil wasn't "raped" from the earth--SFH would be absolutely more sustainable than high rise condo development. Look at all the pollution, fossil fuels etc burned just to excavate a site! Then all the materials being shipped from China--glazing, appliances--etc.

Condo development is sustainable only to those in the industry--developers, architects, construction workers, realtors, consultants, supply chain industries, investors.
 

ksun

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If SFH development returned to practises of a century ago--ie where the top soil wasn't "raped" from the earth--SFH would be absolutely more sustainable than high rise condo development. Look at all the pollution, fossil fuels etc burned just to excavate a site! Then all the materials being shipped from China--glazing, appliances--etc.

Condo development is sustainable only to those in the industry--developers, architects, construction workers, realtors, consultants, supply chain industries, investors.
you are well-known for hating highrise condos, so your opinion on this isn't surprising.
 

urbandreamer

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Ha where did that come from? I like all kinds of buildings and architecture, so long as they are the very best of their genre. But claiming one form of housing is more sustainable than another is hogwash.

eg: The prairie soddy was a very sustainable form of housing--cheap, energy efficient, easily replaced/updated; yet, ultimately it wasn't sustainable because humans love to consume stuff, show off and evolve with the times.

Today the industry has convinced the masses that a new condo is the ideal sustainable home; tomorrow...?
 

Youranthony1

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guys, you are argue for low rise living all you want. Good luck find any concrete research showing low rise living is more efficient than highrise living. You are just trying to convince yourself your life style is not that detrimental to the environment.
agree completely. Such a bogus argument, funny to read though.

If SFH development returned to practises of a century ago--ie where the top soil wasn't "raped" from the earth--SFH would be absolutely more sustainable than high rise condo development. Look at all the pollution, fossil fuels etc burned just to excavate a site! Then all the materials being shipped from China--glazing, appliances--etc.

Condo development is sustainable only to those in the industry--developers, architects, construction workers, realtors, consultants, supply chain industries, investors.
How does leed certification fit into your argument?
 
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dlam

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Leed cert is a joke. It's like putting MBA next to your name when you're a realtor.

It may have started with great intentions but it's become the JD Power rankings of the architecture industry.
agreed, and I have gotten several building projects LEED certified (Silver and Gold) in past few years

for me, the best available certification is Passive House Standard. no fluff, no point chasing (bike racks getting you a point). final hurdle requires 1-year of utility bills to confirm energy use.
 

DarnDirtyApe

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My office building is certified LEED gold, yet it's still freezing in summer and hot in winter. Solar gain and sunlight from the floor to ceiling windows is so strong that we have to close the blinds, then leave the overhead lighting running 24/7. How's that for efficiency?
 

AKS

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If SFH development returned to practises of a century ago--ie where the top soil wasn't "raped" from the earth--SFH would be absolutely more sustainable than high rise condo development. Look at all the pollution, fossil fuels etc burned just to excavate a site! Then all the materials being shipped from China--glazing, appliances--etc.

Condo development is sustainable only to those in the industry--developers, architects, construction workers, realtors, consultants, supply chain industries, investors.
SFH is not sustainable. As the population keeps growing every year. If everyone wants a SFH, how much land would that eat up? Then there's the transportation. We need to build more roads and up keep them. We need to put in more transit or else everyone would need a car and everyone will have to drive in order to reach their destinations. If instead of stacking up vertically, we stack horizontally, there will be dire consequences. It will take much longer to get to places, cost more to build transit. Heck we might not need so much public transit if everyone is so sprawled because everyone would be driving a car. We'll need more fossil fuel. The prices of oil will sky rocket even more. We will pollute the earth with exhaust fumes. We'll get rid of our forest so we can build more SFH.
 

Ex-Montreal Girl

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SFH is not sustainable. As the population keeps growing every year. If everyone wants a SFH, how much land would that eat up? Then there's the transportation. We need to build more roads and up keep them. We need to put in more transit or else everyone would need a car and everyone will have to drive in order to reach their destinations. If instead of stacking up vertically, we stack horizontally, there will be dire consequences. It will take much longer to get to places, cost more to build transit. Heck we might not need so much public transit if everyone is so sprawled because everyone would be driving a car. We'll need more fossil fuel. The prices of oil will sky rocket even more. We will pollute the earth with exhaust fumes. We'll get rid of our forest so we can build more SFH.
And don't forget the loss of farmland which will mean more fuel to fly or truck in (more roads) food from elsewhere. The driving of kids to school and playdates. The construction of huge and hideous paved-over power centers which discourage walking because of the distances and the certainty that some idiot will run you down.

Garbage trucks don't have to go around to 200 SFHs the way they do for the equivalent number of highrise units. A couple of dumpsters and that's it. That's less idling and fewer expensive short hauls in terms of fuel consumption, i.e. fewer fumes.

More roads require more lighting, i.e. more energy.

More roads require more street cleaning, snow clearing and maintenance, i.e. more energy.

More houses mean more utility poles, fewer trees --and, after last year's ice storm, trees, which are good for the environment, are now seen as the enemy.

The list goes on.

I agree that statistical data are meaningless unless you compare apples to oranges in terms of weather, density, age of housing stock, availability of transit etc.

As some of you know, I am treasurer of our condo building, the one we moved into two years ago after selling our SFH.

Now, I can sit down and work out the precise numbers -- I have one of those worthless MBAs -- but life's too short. Suffice to say that my best estimates show that our hydro/heat/hot water costs as a portion of our monthly fees are lower than what they were in our house, even after I account for the loss of 900 SF of living space in the downsize and the increase in utility rates since 2012. I suppose I could factor in the shared walls which would mean less heat loss but our house was a semi and I am certain our windows were better than the ones here.

Our share of utility costs, for the record, cover our share of the lighting and ventilation of the common areas, the elevator operation, the saunas, the heated indoor pool etc. And this is one of the older condos in town so, as far as insulation goes, she ain't the best. Yes, hydro gives us bulk rates but they are not much better than what the typical SFH owner pays.


There is no way that SFH living is more sustainable unless you're living on a tent off the land, growing your own food and kayaking everywhere.
 
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