The city of Toronto has passed the most comprehensive regulations on green roofs of any city in North America. The bylaw puts Toronto at the top of the heap in terms of legislation, though the advocacy group Green Roofs for Healthy Cities points out that Toronto doesn’t make the top ten in terms of the number of green roofs installed in 2008. That distinction goes to the city of Chicago.
“We would have liked it [the Toronto bylaw] to be more aggressive,” said Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, though he praised council for “exercising leadership” on a tool to fight climate change. s
Of course to some extent that is being picky just for the sake of being picky. Toronto may not be in the top ten of cities previous to the law going into effect, but chances are that will change under the new regulations. Toronto City Council voted 36-2 in favor of the regulations with only councillors Rob Ford and Doug Holyday voting against. (Boo Rob and Doug!)
The regulations will require green roofs on new residential buildings in the city starting January 31st 2010 that are more then 2,000 square meters and 20 meters or higher. Industrial construction will have an extra 12 months to prepare for the requirements. For industrial buildings they will have to reserve either 10% of the roof area or 2,000 square meters, and have the option to choose the lesser amount for sod and other greenery.
The Building Industry and Land Development Association stated that the biggest concern is how to adjust to the new requirements during a downturn. “Cost is an issue,” he said. “The market is so price-sensitive now.” While I can appreciate that the cost of a green roof is something that developers are going to have to get used too but chances are when it comes time to sell the new units the tune will switch from being about the cost to the forward thinking and innovation that comes with your purchase of a Building Corp (TM) Condo. Heck if developers are smart about it, they will just start selling penthouses with lawns, green roof requirement check, a penthouse that comes with a yard equals a big fat check with extra zeros for its purchase.
The campaign to institute the regulations was lead by Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who called the new green roof regulations “an opportunity rather than a handicap.” Joe noted that 21% of the surface area of the city is in its roofs. Roofs that are little better then bare pavement and as such raise the temperature of the urban environment and increase electrical demand in the summer, whereas garden roofs, help conserve rainfall, reduce energy demand and add to the beauty of the city. After the vote Joe stated, “You will see other municipalities now looking to Toronto and emulating us for the greater good of humanity.”
Here is a little math Mr Holyday, more green roofs equals less money spent on electricity, that means more disposable income for fancy penthouse apartments that have lawns, fancy penthouse apartments with lawns mean higher taxes, higher taxes mean more money for the city. I mean sure the math is loose but the principal holds.
Thankfully the other 36 councillors get this math and Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) praised the decision as “a pretty darn good starting point…I would rather be first than last,” and I would tend to agree.