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Green Condo Checklist

(Prepared for IIDEX2009 by the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Green Building Council)

What to look for when buying a New Condo
• Look for recognized green building standards like LEED® or BOMA BESt® to ensure your condo building is built
according to verifiable sustainability standards.
• Are water, electric and gas use individually metered? This results in dramatically increased self-imposed
conservation in condo units when compared to common shared heating, electric and gas. Insist on a programmable
thermostat and turn it down in the winter and up in the summer.
• Is the condo located near your place of work? Can you walk to work? Is it near public transit? In the neighborhood
cyclist and pedestrian friendly?
• Does the property include a variety of permeable surface areas like gardens, lawns and water features?
• Does the building include a green roof?
Water and Energy
• Are the plumbing fixtures water efficient?
• Does the condo support the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal?
• Are lighting fixtures energy efficient? Do they use CFL (compact fluorescent) and LED bulbs?
• Is waste water or run-off water harvested and reused for non-potable uses? Is the outdoor environment landscaped to
efficiently minimize irrigation water?
• Are the included standard fixtures Energy Star® compliant? Are there incentives offered by the condo to purchase
high-efficiency appliances?
• Does the condo incorporate high efficiency windows and doors. Are effective blinds pre installed? Are they properly
placed in the design of the condo unit?
• What is the ratio of the outside walls to windows? In most buildings 40% window to 60% wall provides the best balance of
insulation and daylight and views.
Sustainable Materials
• Are the materials used in construction or finishing of the condo such as cabinets, floors and furniture made from
renewable resources? Do they have high recycled content? Have products been sources locally?
Indoor Environmental Quality
• Are the flooring, paint and other finishes non-toxic with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?
• How is the fresh air delivered to the suites? Is it delivered from the corridor under the doors of the suite or is
it ducted separately to each suite to minimize risk of odor transfer?
• Is energy recovered from the air exhausted from the suites before being released outdoors? This is typically done
in a dedicated heat recovery ventilator (HRV), or a ventral energy recovery ventilator (ERV).

How to Green your Existing Condo
• Where possible replace existing light fixtures and bulbs with modern fixtures and energy efficient compact fluorescent and
LED bulbs to reap significant energy savings.
• Install Energy Star® light fixtures and appliances where possible.
• Turn down your hot water heater to a reasonable temperature.
• Install ceiling fans to circulate cool or warm air throughout your condo space. This can be particularly effective
with new loft style condos with high ceilings.
• Use high efficiency LED lighting during the holidays and turn them off when you’re not enjoying them.
• Use a programmable thermostat to reduce energy costs at night or when you are away.
• Repair plumbing leaks and conserve water by selecting water-efficient plumbing products like faucets, shower heads
and toilets. Use less water when possible.
• Choose natural or sustainable flooring products and non-off gassing carpeting made from sustainable materials.
• Institute waste reduction and recycling programs to help reduce overall waste to landfill and reduce the costs associated with waste disposal.

Get involved with your condo board

• Start a “Green Best Practices Committee” to help your condo corporation and board focus on the greening of the
common areas of your condo.
• Ensure that an up to date energy audit has been conducted and that cost-effective energy conservation measures are
being implemented.
• Implement green cleaning, outdoor maintenance, waste and pest management strategies.
• Develop policies for future renovations to ensure that the work minimizes impacts on the waster stream, indoor air
quality, and energy consumption.

What is Ecology?

Merriam-Webster describes ecology as ” 1) a branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments; and 2) the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment.”

Interrelationship is the key word: Interrelationship between us, our natural environment and our built environment – the whole with all its parts. Changing any one part will cause changes somewhere else. The changes will be more than just the ripple of a stone on the surface of a pond. The changes will alter the complex pattern of their interrelationships.

Ecological Design, therefore considers all the interrelationships between systems in the design process from conception through use to post-occupancy. The result of ecological design an only be holistic and truly sustainable. Our goal is make any changes positive for us and for the natural world which we inhabit.

Used Office Furniture

I just visited an old friend who is a dealer in used office furniture and it reinforced the waste management practices to Reduce Reuse and Recycle.
These three words aren’t presented in random order. They represent a hierarchy.
1. Reduce what you consume, what you waste.
2. Reuse whatever you can. Repurpose something if you can. This is where the used furniture comes in.
3. Recycle depends on how you acquired something in the first place. In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough and Braugart stress that whenever something comes to the end of its useful lifecycle it should return to the earth as a natural nutrient or a return to the manufacturing cycle as a technical nutrient. Before you buy, consider what will happen to your purchase once you’re done with it.

Used office furniture is one of the best bargains for a business and for the earth.
There is a large network of used furniture brokers and dealers in North America that help find new homes for furniture that no longer suits a company as it grows, merges or fails.
Check out this informative document prepared by Envirotech.

Beyond LEED®

Even though LEED® remains incomplete there are already new developments on the horizon. In the November 2007 issue of dwell magazine, sustainability icon Sim van der Ryn told Jennifer Roberts that it is time to look beyond LEED. Is it?

The forward-looking people at the Cascadia Region Green Building Council have recently developed a wonderful new challenge that goes beyond LEED. The CascadiaGBC is a bi-national chapter of the Green Building Council that encompasses Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. They are promoting The Living Building Challenge: In Pursuit of True Sustainability in the Built Environment.

The Living Building Challenge goes beyond the points system that is the foundation of LEED, and that has served us well on our journey to sustainable building. The categories in this new document have prerequisites only. The Living Building Challenge prerequisites are truly inspirational.

I suggest that you begin by reading the Executive Summary at the front, and the Background History and Summary of Prerequisites at the end of the document. Then enjoy the truly inspirational reading in between. I encourage you to check it out.

Want to get LEED® certification retroactively?

It happened to me again. I met an architect who had designed and built a great Green building. It was so green in fact, that she was sure it would meet LEED® certification standards.

Congratulations as going green – but caution in trying to certify your project.
Registering and Certifying a project near or after completion is a very difficult challange: the LEED process is proof and document based.
I refer you to my previous article on why LEED projects go awry. Even with an advanced Integrated Design Process, it is difficult to get all the documentation required after the fact.

Here are just two examples of how a project may fail to meet LEED certification standards retroactively:
1 .It is necessary to not only separate all waste but also to document that the separated materials were appropriately disopsed of. Receipts indicating weights of disposal must be kept. Unless the disposal company is aware that they are working on a LEED project, maintains the integrity of bin contents and requests detailed documentation from the landfill or recycling center, credits are left on the table.
2. Commissioning is required throughout the construction process, not only at completion. These critical credits may go unfulfilled because these in-progress calculations are not made or are not properly documented.

The best way to build a LEED project is to engage the client at the outset, form your integrated team, designate or hire a LEED coordinator and Register your project before you finish designing it.

For full LEED information visit