REUSED: Green space
Here, locally treated waste water is reused to flush residential toilets and keep green space alive; meanwhile, buildings use 45 per cent to 55 per cent less energy, thanks not only to efficient appliances and insulation but to an on-site wastewood biomass plant that burns clean gas, which is used to heat the local homes.
On top of this, Dockside has a number of green roofs (an initiative the Swedes have been slower at embracing), and is striving to be Greenhouse Gas Positive — that is, producing more energy than it consumes; in fact, it’s already transferring its excess heat to an exchanger in a nearby hotel.
Joe Van Belleghem, the developer behind Dockside, says that although he’s aware of other green housing projects in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, trying to look abroad for inspiration has its limits — Sweden, for instance, may have a similar climate as well as similar infrastructure, but it also charges higher taxes and gives far more control to municipal governments when it comes to policy changes.
“In any case, we only had 40 days to assemble our proposal, so doing that kind of research wouldn’t have been possible,” he says. “But I believed that if we designed Dockside Green from a triple bottom-line approach, focusing on both social and economic principles, we could do something unique.”
Meanwhile, in Toronto, the developers behind the West Don Lands project are aware of the Hammarby Sjostad model and are happy to draw comparisons.
“We’re similar,” says John Campbell, president of Waterfront Toronto, “in that we’re also taking a holistic approach — we believe in things like canopy tree cover, green roofs, putting transit in first. The problem with new developments is that you often don’t see a high enough population until later, but we’re insisting that transit be in place by the time people move in.”
Asked whether a localized, closed-loop system of resource management is something that could realistically work in a city such as Toronto, Campbell says that it is, and it isn’t.
“It’s difficult to have a contained system in this city,” he says.
“We can use greywater in our project — so, rainwater will be collected and used for irrigation — but because we’re right next to the Ashbridges sewer plant, it doesn’t make sense to create our own sewage plant.
“We’re also not going to install our own transit system or our own water supply system because we have to take advantage of the existing framework.
“That said, our plans do call for district energy to heat all 6,000 units (at West Don Lands),” he adds.
“A temporary plant is already built right in front of the Corus building, so that gives us fuel flexibility and future-proofs the neighbourhood. We’ve actually hired a Swedish consulting firm for that and we’re already putting pipes in the ground.”
Ultimately, then, it seems that no single model of sustainable development can work for every city — even within Canada, a great deal of tweaking and experimentation has to take place.
But what’s important is to keep an open mind and track such developments as Hammarby Sjostad; this way, a simple concept such as using waste for fuel can be adopted, modified and perhaps even improved upon.
“In business, the assumption has always been that being good to the environment is the cost of doing business,” says Van Belleghem.
“But that’s just not true. A lot of it has to do with our mindset and our beliefs. Unfortunately, our current government policies don’t really provoke much innovation.”
Solar panels predominate in this building, which is part of the Hammarby Sjostad project in Stockholm.