Sustainability…what our new houses could be

There is so much we could do IF we had the political will and/or if as individuals we would accept our responsibility to act.  There are solutions “out there.”  What has precipitated this rant on my part?  I took a tour of the Green Home in Richmond Hill (213 Coon’s Road; NW of King Rd & Yonge).

Some of its features:   tankless water heater, solar heat assist to help warm the hot water, insulation far beyond Ontario building code, solar electric energy to feed the grid, energy efficient lighting (motion activated in bathrooms, CFL and LED lighting), grey water system (shower and bath water recycled to toilets), permeable pavements, PET carpets (recycled pop bottles) and more.   You can learn more by visiting Green Home website and you go on Saturdays and Sundays to tour it yourself.

One of the first steps in the ICSP (integrated community sustainability plan) is to paint the picture of what we want King to be in 20-30 years,  to create a vision.  In 20-30 years I want someone to say to me:  “You live in King don’t you?  Isn’t that where there is all that beautiful rolling landscape?  And isn’t that where all the newer sections of the villages feature homes built with the best early 21st century technologies to minimize impact on environment and where the earlier homes are steadily renovating to match these improvements. You must be so proud…and you are so lucky!”

Perhaps even more valuable than the showcasing of some of the current technical solutions, the Green Home is going to be monitored for 3 years and tracked against a same sized house with the basic Energy Star features.  The monitoring project is being done collaboratively with Ryerson.

The selected photo shows the techniques used in the Green Home to enable rain and storm water runoff to reach the water tables.  Specifically it shows the permeable pavements and infiltration galleries.  (The latter is river stone in combination with underlying granular material; there are plans to add drought resistant plantings.)  Also note the continued use of the rain barrel!

Earth Rangers Centre

In a separate post I talked about visiting the Green Home in Richmond Hill.  I was well primed for seeing it –a real actual house in a subdivision with “green” features– as a week earlier I was given a tour of the Earth Rangers Centre on the Kortright Living City Campus.

It is an advanced green building, certified Gold under LEED for new construction; and application has been made for platinum.  It is a showcase of cutting edge building technology such as energy metering, smart automation and controls, innovative water and waste water management, solar generation, green roofs, and geothermal heating and cooling.

A tour of the Earth Rangers Centre makes it clear that the Green Home, although very exciting, is just the beginning of how we can reduce our impact on the environment.

If you are like me and didn’t know about the Earth Rangers Centre do have a look at the website…as a 1st step.

Our Gateways

The landscape is particularly beautiful these days with early summer blooms.  But, I have now been alerted to keep an eye for some man-made constructs which are spread all over:  entrances to subdivisions.   The specifics vary:  bricks or stone, pillars or walls, some include landscaping.  State of repair and maintenance vary.  As a result of some requests for maintenance it has become clear that there is a total lack of policy in place as to ownership and responsibility.

At 6/13 Council Staff presented a report defining the problem and proposing some possible policies.  It was agreed that we need a policy to address gateways yet to be created (i.e. the entrances for the new subdivision) and a policy for dealing with the current.  First step for the latter will be to have a complete inventory including size, specification, ownership, current state.  For the new ones the policy options are numerous.  E.g.  Requirement for a developer to remove once the subdivision is completed. A fee of sorts to cover maintenance.  Restriction on format and size.

It is premature to state my choice.  For sure, I do not want entranceways which are not maintained to standard. It is my hope that there is an cost effective solution which will enable the continuation of the tradition of appropriate gateways to our subdivisions.

GTA West Corridor

Stage 1 of the Environmental Assessment for the GTA West Corridor has been completed; a draft is now circulating for comments up until 6/30/11.  As anticipated (with regret) the recommendation is to build a new east/west highway to facilitate the movement of goods between the urban centres around Hwy 400 and Guelph area; and to improve accessibility to the US/Cdn border points.  I say it was “anticipated” as our culture is so car/truck oriented that the idea of solving the identified problem without a new highway seemed highly unlikely.  To be fair, the recommendation does include a whole set of actions for new/improved non road infrastructure; but the big item is a new 400 series highway.

Two members of Concerned Citizens of King Township have paid close attention to the whole EA process by attending all public meetings over the last 3 years as it was recognized that any drift north of the study area would be very serious for King.  And indeed, very recently there was an idea to assess impact of doing just that.  When one considers the environmental risks and damage of the selected route one can understand why there would be a desire to see if there was another option; but, York Region has decided not to go down that path.   The EA reviews the whole (more…)

Roads: maintaining and improving

As I have indicated in another posting, investments in roads are not high in my value equation.  But once we have them, we do need to maintain them; and for sure, we need to address serious safety issues.   York Region gave Council a report on May 30 reviewing various road projects.

I was very pleased to hear that Environmental Assessments (EA) have been kicked off for two very dangerous intersections on Keele:  17th and 18th Sideroads. 1st public information meetings will be this fall; targeting construction for 2015.

Safety will be improved along the King-Vaughan line.  In 2011 there will be temporary signal lights at Dufferin, Keele and Jane.  More permanent improvements will be made in the out years.   There will be an innovative (for us) solution for the Dufferin intersection-a roundabout.

The new intersection at Keele and 15th Sideroad is targeted for completion September 2011.

Assessment of King Road (Hwy 27 to 400) has started to determine capacity improvements and safety issues.  1st public information meetings will be in October.

I think the oft repeating caution of “be careful what you wish for” is very appropriate when these projects are being considered.   It will be critical that the public attends the public information meetings to understand the identified issue/problem and to provide feedback on the possible solutions.  Notices for these meetings will be in the papers; I will also make you aware.  Please spread the word to your neighbours!

Roads: building new ones

Has a new road ever really solved a traffic congestion problem?  No.  And despite that this is proven over and over we continue to create new rivers of pavement and pour million of dollars into first building new roads and then maintaining them with the goal of enabling more traffic to flow more effectively.

The Province has identified the need to improve the connection between Vaughan City Centre and Guelph.  As I, like many others, have experienced the constant almost uninterrupted flow of trucks moving east/west on the 401 the need “to do something” is accepted. At the outset of this project, the new corridor (called the GTA West Corridor) was described as being either a rail one or a road one; sadly but not unexpectedly a road option has been selected. (more…)