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City Policy

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Japan’s Solar Shift

One thing that you can say about disasters is that they are rare opportunities to redo everything. A tabula rasa opportunity when it comes to rebuilding affected areas.

Japan is still recovering from the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11th and the nuclear crisis that it triggered.

The AFP is reporting that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to announce Japan’s decision to continue operating nukes in order to meet the countries current power needs, but to also a mandate that would require all new homes and buildings to be outfitted with solar panels as part of the upcoming G8 Summit in France.

Of course a mandate isn’t legislation, but the construction required does present an opportunity for a solar company to step in and take advantage of the increased opportunity for demand if they can offer an efficient solar option.

Green on Top: Toronto Passes Green Roof Legislation


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!)

greenroof1The 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.”

greenroof2Of course one of the dissenters had a complaint; “Why do we have to be first?” Mr. Holyday asked before voting against the measure. “Who are we? We can’t even pay our bills.”

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.

NVS: Cameron Sinclair Votes For Building a Better World

Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stor are the folks behind Architecture for Humanity, a charitable organisation which seeks architecture and design solutions to humanitarian crises and provides design services to communities in need.  They used the 2006 TED Prize to start “Open Architecture Network” the worlds’ first open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design.

The Urban 1%

I had this idea last year after the conservative government decided to drop the GST by an additional 1% in what was the biggest tax cut that no one noticed. Sure when they initially dropped the GST from 7% to 6% it was a big deal and everyone knew about it but when the government decided to improve things for the average Canadian (polish their image) by dropping the GST an additional percentage point to 5%, most people I talked to didn’t even notice. I thought that it was a bit of a shame since it didn’t really help stimulate the economy or do much of anything for those of us not making giant purchases. Even companies don’t really benefit much as they get an input tax credit on GST so they only pay the GST on the goods that they sell but get a credit on the GST they had to spend to buy in initially, only remitting the difference.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying it didn’t help anyone. I mean sure, it helps a bit… but unless you are spending a lot of money it is not going to help that much. I tried to think of other ways that that 1% could have been re-purposed in such a way that would benefit the average citizen and the economy. That’s when the 1% for cities came to me. Instead of another percentage cut that no one would notice, why not direct the 1% to a jurisdiction in the country that needs the money, specifically the cities, towns, and municipalities that generate wealth and desperately need funding to maintain their capacity to drive the economy.

The Urban 1% proposal that I would like to put forward to our political leaders (and if any of them decide to hop on this proposal and make it their own they will have my vote in the bag) would be a direct return to the economic value each municipal area makes. It’s a simple formula really; for every purchase, for every goods and services sale, one percent of that value is returned to the community that generated it. There is no squabbling about how much money each area deserves to get. The area gets whatever it earns. Is it not fair and democratic that those areas whose infrastructure and services are strained by generating wealth maintain their ability to do so and share in the benefits?