Saturday, September 23, 2006

Green Roof - Phase 1 Completion Ceremony
September 21, 2006

The first phase of the world's largest residential green roof was unveiled in Toronto at the Hugh Garner Housing Co-Operative, as part of the Donor Recognition & Phase 1 Completion celebration. The second phase of the green roof, which spans a total of 22,000 square-feet, is scheduled for completion in late 2007. The total cost is expected at around $1 million.

More info:
The Moment - article
Hugh Garner Housing Co-op Green Roof - website

People enjoy the view and sunset before the press-conference. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, speaks with (clockwise) Bethane Currie, landscape designer from Gardens in the Sky, Beata Domanska, President, Board of Directors Hugh Garner Co-op, Terry McGlade, landscape designer from Gardens in the Sky, Monica Kuhn, architect devolping the project, Jonathan Cheszes from Villagetechnologies and Carolyn Moss, project manager .

Toronto skyline - view from roof top


Anonymous said...

Hugh Garner is so wonderfully progressive with this "green roof".

Too bad the whole place is invested with bedbugs!! People are getting bitten so bad some have puffed up all over and find it too painful to get into the shower, and have had to destroy all their possessions.

But everyday residents at this co-op had no idea there were spreading infestations of bedbugs. All the public news was just about the wonderful green roof, not about the terrible circumstances people were enduring, and which now other people are probably going to have to endure as the original infestations have spread widely without being treated. Only the infested units were treated, not any adjacent units. No adjacent units were informed, general meetings were held with no mention of any bedbug problem (although their was constant discussion of the green roof).

Anonymous said...

You're not kidding! There was one really bad infestation way back in something like February. They treated only this one unit. Then when the bedbugs spread to the next unit, they treated only that unit. Adjacent units were not even informed, let alone treated. Now, months later, the bedbugs have spread even further along that floor, and to the floor below as well.

So finally they lightly sprayed all the infected floors (but not the floors above or below). Then they got a dog that still detected lots of what they call "bedbug activity" and they are finally going to do a heavier spraying of those units and adjacent units (but still apparently not units above or below).

In their memo they say "because bedbugs travel", they have to spray adjacent units even where there is no detected "bedbug activity". But gee, if they had followed this strategy in the beginning, there wouldn't be such a huge problem now. Did bedbugs only learn to "travel" recently??

It seems that the elite of the building is so concerned about their holy politically correct green roof that they aren't paying adequate basic attention to things that really matter for the everyday people just trying to live peacefully in the building.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lovely photos Mike. The sunset and skyline pictures show off the roofdeck to great effect. As mentioned in previous comments, we, likely many other co-ops, high rises and hotels in the city are experiencing a very difficult infestation of bedbugs. This is a new experience for us at Hugh Garner and we have all learned a lot about the nature of the problem and remedies in the last while. Hopefully it will be gotten under control soon.

The unfortunate thing is that it has taken time and energy away from being able to fully focus on the next phase of the Green Roof project. This project, by the way, was unanimously endorsed by a quorum of members of the co-op at not one but two general members' meetings. There is no doubt that the project will have direct benefits for all co-op members and it will also have benefits for our neighbors and the environment in general. Thanks very much for being present at the September 21st celebration of the completion of the first phase of the project. Thanks for taking pictures of the event and posting them on your blog. Your efforts will hopefully reach folks who recognize the importance of the Green Roof project and who will give some thought to supporting it.

Gail Gonda
Hugh Garner Co-op member and member of the Green Committee

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Pochwat:

Many thanks for your blog and internet publicity on this project. I really appreciate the "candid" comments you posted as well as the comments in support of the project.

I am a former member of the Hugh Garner Cooperative and lived there when the Green Roof was conceived. At first I was very supportive. Based on initial information (such as that a green roof was supposed to cost only "twice as much" as a conventional roof replacement, and all the touted environmental benefits, plus, it is not insignificant, a very promotional slide show presented by an influential member of the cooperative, it was hard not to be supportive of a project like this. However, as time went on we learned that the estimated cost of this initiative would be almost one million dollars (not including G. S. T.) almost four times the amount the cooperative had allocated in its reserve fund for the replacement of the roof with the same or similar materials. The allocation in the reserve fund of $269,000.00 was an estimate provided by the professional engineering firm Enerplan who prepared a reserve fund study. Actual "at the end of the day costs" can vary considerably from reserve fund estimates depending on labour market conditions, construction inflation rates, etc.

At the same time the Green Roof Committee engaged a consulting engineer Keen Engineering to take a comprehensive look at all energy-saving (and GHG (that's greenhouse gases) displacement) initiatives that the cooperative could undertake.

When engineers undertake such a study, they make a list of recommendations followed by what is called a "payback period." For a retrofit initiative to be financially viable, the payback period should be as short as possible. The "payback period" is the amount of time from the completion of the retrofit project to the time that the energy/water savings accrued from the project equal the amount of money spent "up front" on the project. A "payback period" of five years or less is excellent--the project should definitely be undertaken from a finanacial perspective. A payback period of five to ten years is not bad--it may be worth undertaking if the replacment components are of a durable nature. A payback period of more than ten years does not represent a good financial investment, but may accrue other non-financial benefits such as environmental benefits.

In the case of the engineering consult with Keen Engineering, the number one recommendation was the replacement of the underground garage lighting system that is on twenty-four hours a day. Keen Engineering informed the Green Committee that lighting technology had advanced considerably since the construction of the cooperative and the installation of the underground original lighting system. Keen Engineering recommended replacement of the originally installed lamps with new lamps that would provide better illumination while using much less electrical energy. The "payback period" for lamp replacment would be about five years, and the Engineering firm provided the calculations to prove this. Not only would the cooperative save on reduced electricity costs to illuninate the underground garage, but there's a good possibility that some GHG emission could be displaced by such a retrofit. The Engineering firm made some other recommendation such as replacing the toilets with newer techology toilets that use less water per flush, remediations of the building's make-up air HVAC system, and sealing the stairwell doors with weatherstripping to mitigate heat loss through these areas.

When it came to the "Green Roof" project, Keen Engineering had to walk a tightrope. Its representative Mr. Sinclair did not want to alienate his client, but he clearly could not endorse a project that had no calculable financial benefits, so he left the "payback period" for this project blank. He diplomatically tip-toed around this.

Green Roofs in Canada are a relatively new phenomenon. There are benefits in theory, but from my experience in Engineering at University, the real world is much more complicated. Much more study of constructed Green roofs and how they behave over time needs to be conducted to quantify the costs and real benefits. Insufficient research has been done in Canada to comprehensively recommend this as a true "Green" building technology for new construction where the the structure is designed to bear the larger gravitational loads on the roof deck, let alone retrofit projects.

Even the original structural analysis conducted by KH Davis Structural Engineers was not unequivocal in its opinion of whether or not the Hugh Garner "as built" roof could bear these additional loads. The report stated that additional core samples and other destructive testing would need to be done to determine the strength of the roof slab as determined by the concrete slab thickness, and spacing and quantity of reinforcement steel, for example. KH Davis based its opinion on a limited set of orignal drawings. I don't even think that there were the "as built" drawings, as the Cooperative was over twenty years old at that point and documents become difficult to locate at that point.

My bottom line in all of this discourse is that politics played a huge role in all of this, not rational planning. The proponents of the Green roof are for the most part enthusiatic gardeners, so it didn't matter what objective evidence-based arguments were presented--they were determined to see this project implemented and to crush by social pressure (which can be significant in a cooperative housing community) any opposition. That's why I'm writing this anonymously and didn't vocally express opposition, although I provided plenty of arguments to opponents who could publicly speak better than I could to such a complicated issue.

My arguments against this are simple--the cost is too great for a community of modest means for the most part (many of the members receive income-testing housing charge assistance--which attests to the fact that they are people with modest incomes). Going to the larger public to solicit funds for something that amounts to a fancy amenity for a relatively small community (181 households) and which holds few if any quantifiable benefits to the larger donating public in my mind in unconscionable when there is a dire need for more affordable housing. The visible homeless population of the City of Toronto is only the tip on an iceberg that includes a far greater number of inadequately housed people. I just did not feel right appealing to philanthropic organization and government agencies for an amenity for a community that is already richly bleesed with decent, affordable housing.

Even if I put my conscience in such a matter aside, I would be concerned if the Coopertive embarked on the project with some fundraised moneys, and suddenly there was some contingency (believe me, with my experience as a condominium director where we dealt with necessary repairs and were totally dependent on our reserve funds to fund these repairs, "contingencies" were the norm and final costs often escalated to the point that the initial tendered contract price in a stipulated price CCD2-contract was rendered almost meaningless, I know what I'm talking about), the cooperative could be placed in the difficult situation of having to complete the project with its own reserve funds. This would eventually, sooner or later place upward pressure on housing charges. That's all fine and well in an affluent condominium community where constituents have financial resources besides the equity in their homes, but what about a community whose mandate is to provide decent, affordable housing? To me that question trumped every other question. It is the Cooperative's obligation to provide affordable housing. Those who can afford it can purchase luxury housing in Toronto--there's an endless supply of that. The financial viability of the cooperative as an affordable housing community cannot be compromised or threatened in any irresponsible way.

The Cooperative was constructed in 1982, and the initial mortgage with the Cooperative Trust Company bore a rate of interest of 15.75 per cent. Without the assistance of literally millions of dollars of assistance from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, according to the provisions the Section 56 (of the National Housing Act--sometimes referred to "pre-determined assistance", Hugh Garner Cooperative would not have been viable. That housing including its physical structure and components, properly belongs to the community at large as a community asset, and in my mind needs to be preserved for people in need in a city in which market housing is out of reach of many modest income citizens.

Anonymous said...

I would like to append to my preceding submission, a few thoughts.

Not to be seen as a negative nay-sayer, I admire many of the objectives of the Green Roof initiative at Hugh Garner Cooperative.

Here's what I would have recommended as a member had there not been the "political" and community pressure. I would have announced a change of plans. I would have recommended a scaled-down plan that would better fit the resources readily available to the Hugh Garner Community. I would have recommended a conventional roof replacment, with a few modest enhancements to make it more inviting. The additional costs for these enhancements could be raised using some of the mechanisms the cooperative Green Roof Committee undertook, such as bake sales, silent auctions, fifty-fifty draws, etc. Some members with the financial resources could be encouraged to donate a bench, for example, "in loving memory" of a deceased loved one.

In the next twenty years or so, before the next scheduled roof replacment, the Green Committee and interested members could continue to monitor the progress of Green Roof building techology. No doubt there will be initiatives and studies in this area, and a knowledge base of "best practices" based on trial and error will be accumulated by those with deeper pockets, that the Cooperative could no doubt draw on when the decision to replace the roof in the next twenty to twenty-five years needs to be made.

Such a course would "free up" the finite volunteer resources needed to deal with the "day-to-day" bread and butter issues germaine to running a cooperative community and would not concentrate these on a single flagship project of questionable value (at this point) to the detriment of the community as a whole (Please review the preceding comments about the bedbug infestation).

At the end, since I was moving out anyway, I felt that it was best for the cooperative itself, using its democratic process, to decide on this, and not to insert my arguments as previously expressed.

In closing I will leave you with a URL to an historical newsclip that I think parallels this issue with many similar considerations. I make no judgment whatsoever in what the cooperative, in its democratic process has decided to undertake.

Anonymous said...

I find it shocking that a Hugh Garner member has said "The unfortunate thing [about the bed bug infestation] is that it has taken time and energy away from being able to fully focus on the next phase of the Green Roof project."

What? That is "the" unfortunate thing? I would think that the more unfortunate things are things like the pain, discomfort, cost, inconvenience, lack of sleep and anxiety caused by attempting to deal with the presence in the building of many little animals that suck peoples' blood at night while they are sleeping!!

The member goes on to say that "This project, by the way, was unanimously endorsed by a quorum of members of the co-op at not one but two general members' meetings."

This is not as significant as it sounds. Many members are quite apathetic about meetings, which have trouble getting quorum and sometimes even have to be postponed because of this. Members that did attend were not given full information by the environmentalist activists, and of course it is very intimidating to speak up and express doubts in the presence of such righteous individuals, many of whom are highly skilled in public speaking, rhetoric, and the putting down of opponents.

Had there been a secret vote there would not have been a "unanimous endorsement".