2011 Greenbuild Conference - Toronto

Our very own Austin Bailey (AIA, LEED AP) is at the 2011 International Greenbuild Conference held in Toronto, Canada. Daily posts to come; read his initial post is below:

The 2011 International Conference and Expo is being in held outside of the US for the first time this year in Toronto, Ontario. I was fortunate enough to get to Toronto early enough to see some of the city and touch base with some locals before the conference started. Here's a glimpse of what I have found.

Toronto is currently in the midst of a rather impressive construction boom. It's hard to believe coming from our side of the border that development might be thriving elsewhere but in fact towers are rising at an incredible rate all across Toronto's downtown. Something like 135 new towers were under construction this last year. The buzz is that they still don't see a ceiling to the market demand yet. So, for the time being new projects will keep rising out of the ground.

After all these years Toronto-Dominion Centre by Mies van der Rohe still stands out among the sea of existing and new office towers in the financial district. The open base of the towers create an impressive entry condition and a seamless connection to nearby open space. The center has actually been struggling to compete with newer and greener projects. However, recently the center has embarked on an extensive renovation project to upgrade systems and envelope. Although its hard to compete with the simplicity and elegance of the TD Centre, contemporary tower design is coming into its own as well. The Telus Tower (25 York) and the partially occupied, but yet to be completed, 18 York are setting a high bar for new development in the area.

A handful of prominent contemporary public/institutional projects are hard to miss around town. The OCAD University Building hovers like a cloud on it's multicolor stilts right next door to Frank Gehry's renovated Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The AGO's curving glass facade is braced by a heavy timber frame and defines the entire length of a city block. Libeskind got into the action as well with his renovation of the royal Ontario museum. In classic fashion his angled forms slam into the existing building context seemingly without remorse. The composition, however, makes for a pretty engaging envinronment. One that actually works well for it's context and program.

OCAD University

OCAD University

Art Gallery of Ontario

Art Gallery of Ontario

For enthusiasts of less angular modern architecture the small but recently expanded Gardiner Museum exists right around the corner. Local KPMB architects produced this and it has to be one of my favorite projects here. The project utilizes a fine-grain pre-cast concrete panel rainscreen to achieve a concrete look but with contemporary performance attributes. KPMB's whole portfolio is actually worth a look if you haven't heard much of them.

Gardiner Museum

Gardiner Museum

Green roofs are thriving in Toronto. In fact the city has implemented a green roof bylaw for certain projects and an incentive program for others. The technology has been long supported here in the urban context and there are some premier examples of it's success around town. A couple of these that are publicly accessible are the Center for Social Innovation and the 401 Richmond project.

The Center for Social Innovation is a social entrepreneurship incubator. It houses a community of more than 300 organizations that share office and meeting spaces. The 6 story warehouse renovation boasts an incredibly lush green roof as well as a 250 square foot bio-wall in the ground floor lobby.

401 Richmond - Cultivated rooftop garden

401 Richmond - Cultivated rooftop garden

401 Richmond - Green Roof

401 Richmond - Green Roof

401 Richmond - Circulation Bridge

401 Richmond - Circulation Bridge

401 Richmond is an impressive collection of art studios and small businesses. Another warehouse renovation, this one is really quirky and fun. Every tenants's door is unique. The sound of children echoes up from the internal courtyard. There's a early childhood center that occupies that space. I stumbled upon a makeshift aviary located in an alcove off the corridor. But it all has a really modern vibe. The rooftop is host to a fully cultivated garden alongside another expanse of lush green roof. Paired with a meandering patio the combination makes for a highly utilized outdoor space.

The conference kicks into gear tomorrow.

More to come on the blog as the week unfolds...