Minimizing TBG’s environmental footprint

By | Green Initiatives | Tags: | November 29, 2011 | No comments

Buildings represent a significant portion of the landscape in an urban environment. As such, their impact must be minimized to ensure a healthy and vibrant natural ecosystem.

A number of issues regarding the building site were taken into consideration in the design and construction of this building. By constructing the building on a previously developed site, the project contained and minimized its environmental footprint. The existing site is not part of a forest reserve, ecologically sensitive area, a wetland or land that provides habitat for rare or endangered species. Soil erosion through wind and water is a concern for any construction project.

Erosion can cause air pollution and the degradation of local bodies of water. Measures such as a silt fence, stabilized construction entrance and covered stockpiled soil intended to reduce erosion were initiated prior to construction and were maintained throughout the duration of the project.

Where most new construction projects result in an increase in the amount of stormwater sent to municipal sewers, this building actually affords a 37 per cent decrease in stormwater discharge. This savings is a direct result of the project’s storm water management system which incorporates a green roof (covering 53 per cent of the roof area) and a roof drainage system that flows to a rainwater storage cistern linked to the site irrigation system.

The building is located near three bus lines, providing employees and visitors an alternative means of transportation. Effective use of mass transportation reduces fuel consumption and air pollution typically resulting from conventional automobile transportation. Similarly, employees are encouraged to pursue alternate means of commuting to work. The site has been equipped with bicycle racks and changing/showering facilities to promote human-powered transportation to and from the Toronto Botanical Garden. This reduces the overall dependence on fossil fuels for transportation, cuts emissions, and promotes occupant health and well-being through exercise.

Recycling our building materials
A major concern among Toronto politicians and citizens is the seemingly ceaseless amount of waste generated in the city and sent to our landfills. Though strategies, such as the blue box program and 3-R policies help, they may not be readily accepted or implemented by the average citizen. During the construction of this building, a waste diversion program focusing on recycling and salvage was put in place to help manage construction waste generated on-site.

Food and beverage containers were also recycled through a blue box program. These combined programs successfully diverted over 91 per cent of the construction waste from the landfill. Materials with high recycled content were installed in the building to complement the recycling efforts initiated with the waste management program. Using recycled materials generates demand in the marketplace for such products, helping to encourage industry growth and investment. In particular, this facility installed materials with over 7.5 per cent recycled content by cost, most notably through structural steel, insulation, ceiling tiles and drywall. To minimize the amount of energy expended in transporting materials to the site, materials that could be sourced locally were given preference and represent over 20 per cent, by cost. Local materials include concrete, landscaping, roof insulation and asphalt paving, to name a few.

Here’s how some of the materials were reused:
•    Steel: recycled into rebar, structural steel or other products
•    Wood: chipped and used in landscaping, or salvaged for reuse
•    Plastic: recycled and used in composite products
•    Gypsum: recycled and used to manufacture new drywall
•    Cardboard: re-used or recycled and used in packaging

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Aldona Satterthwaite about the author: Aldona Satterthwaite

Aldona Satterthwaite started gardening as a child and has never stopped. Until recently, she was the executive director of Toronto Botanical Garden. Previously, Aldona was editor-in-chief of Canadian Gardening magazine, which during her eight-year tenure was twice named Magazine of the Year (large circulation category) by the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors. In 2007, she was co-named Editor of the Year. Aldona, who’s a Master Gardener, completed her journalism studies at the Regent Street Polytechnic (now Westminster University) in London, England and studied landscape architecture at Ryerson University. She’s enjoyed a varied and successful writing and editing career that has spanned magazines, advertising and the museum world, and has included stints as Director of Writing Services at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and as manager of creative services at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

TORONTO BOTANICAL GARDEN, 777 Lawrence Avenue East, Toronto, ON CANADA | 416-397-1341 | info@torontobotanicalgarden.ca