Canadian architects and cities have been working to overcome recent criticism for their modern architectural efforts. With architecture in many major cities amounting to scads of glass-clad skyscrapers, architects have looked for alternatives to such buildings, which have been labeled as ‘style over substance’ for offering a stylized metropolitan look and not much more.
Many critics of Canadian architecture, however, forget the green building sector and the unique and innovative ways in which green buildings deviate from the conventional modern look and function.
Toronto’s highly-acclaimed YWCA Elm Centre has proven to be just such a building. The centre offers 150 beds to women and children working to overcome social factors such as having a low income while being socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.
Described as a place where women can not just live, but actually thrive, the centre includes community spaces and residential units with one to three bedrooms ranging in cost from $979 to $1,387 per month, with community living at the heart of the green development.
The YWCA Elm Centre boasts green features including geothermal radiant heating and cooling systems, three green roofs and two rooftop gardens.
These LEED-worthy elements also dramatically influence the building’s aesthetic.
The development’s designers, led by architect Paul Kulig, drastically reduced the building’s overall heat gain by limiting the number of windows in the building envelope by 40 per cent.
Taking a reliance further off on-grid heating and cooling, the structure has radiant heating and cooling tubes. These connect to a heat exchange system, which allows natural temperature changes to be used to aid in other avenues. For instance, excess interior heat can be channeled to heat hot water tanks.
Not only do the building’s form and features aid in reducing the energy consumption – and its associated costs – for residents, they also offered the architects an opportunity to be innovative when it came to the building’s overall look.
“It shows we can and we should build differently in Toronto,” says Kulig.
While glass towers may be prevalent across Canada – and indeed around the world – there is also preponderance of cleverly designed green buildings.
As seen in the example set at the YWCA Elm Centre, the innovation that green building necessitates provides architects with opportunities to break negative design stereotypes.