MISSISSAUGA, ON--(Marketwired - November 02, 2016) - With rising energy costs continuing to stretch Ontario's budget, clear savings can be found by rethinking the way we build cities -- and by taking a closer look at the disadvantages of building glass-wrapped high-rise buildings.
Many new high-rises in the Greater Toronto Area are clad with glass. But a recent study found that energy savings of 15 per cent can be achieved in residential high-rises by instead changing the window-to-wall configuration to include a combination of masonry and glass. For office towers, savings of 10 per cent can be achieved.
For a 13-storey, 182,000-square-foot building, this adds up to energy savings of approximately $36,000 per year, according to the study by M&R Engineering. With Statistics Canada showing an energy price index increase of 15.7% over the past year, this means the cost for building owners, managers and condo owners is becoming more and more expensive -- meaning that those energy savings matter.
Not only are hydro rates skyrocketing, Canada must also begin to consider how the country can play its part in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, namely holding the average global temperature increase below two per cent. This means finding efficiencies and energy savings in the buildings we live, work and play in.
Building smarter cities in terms of sustainability and resiliency, particularly as it pertains to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is of vital importance. This means the way in which buildings are constructed must be considered should Ontario hope to create more sustainable cities less dependent on energy, and in turn make meaningful contributions to targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
If the government is serious about addressing high electricity rates in a way which is consistent with the goals of building more sustainable cities, the way buildings are designed must be changed. This means building with more sustainable materials, such as masonry, and reducing the prevalence of predominantly glass buildings.
While glass is a quick and inexpensive building material, it is associated with problems. Beyond safety concerns associated with falling glass, multi-unit residential buildings with high thermal transmittance envelopes, such as glass, require HVAC systems with up to 50% more capacity.
Masonry materials boast excellent thermal mass properties, helping to regulate temperatures in summer and winter. Brick, block and stone are low-maintenance materials and ideal for resilience against extreme weather events. Many of Ontario's surviving heritage buildings are masonry buildings, and masonry materials are favoured by many Ontario municipalities in their Urban Design Guidelines.
Policy creators at all levels of government can help play a role in ensuring what is built today makes good sense for the sustainability targets of tomorrow.
Policymakers must place emphasis on evidence-based policy leading to good building design. Building science currently portrays most building materials in a favourable manner. A common framework for policy tools, such as life cycle assessments, is required.
City planners must also work to limit the use of unsustainable materials. This can be achieved through strong community and urban design standards. The provincial government can help by expanding policies in the Planning Act which afford municipalities more power over design standards in their community.
Finally, more must be done to promote the viability of sustainable buildings in the context of carbon pricing. There must be an effort to educate building designers, owners and managers of the savings possible through cap and trade and other carbon pricing schedules should the building be more sustainable.
All Canadians, including planners and policymakers, have a role to play in reducing GHGs. This makes it imperative to rethink the way we build our cities to embrace an approach that is sustainable over time.
MasonryWorx is an association representing industry professionals across Ontario out of its Mississauga, ON headquarters. Its members include product manufacturers, suppliers and skilled professionals committed to providing homebuyers, homeowners, architects, engineers, builders and government leaders with current information about the use and benefits of brick, block and stone masonry products.