Tag Archives: Stantec

THE ENGINEERING INTERN: Five reasons to cheer highrise development

Five reasons to cheer highrise development — when it’s done right

Latest News


Five reasons to cheer highrise development — when it’s done right

Reduced traffic, better commutes, improved streetscapes and more positive impacts that might turn a NIMBY into a YIMBY.

I recently attended my first community information meeting about planning for future development in the downtown core of London, Ont. The meeting helped me understand the negative stigma that residents in lowrise communities often have against highrise development close to their homes.

At this meeting, many attendees spoke out against the concept of highrise development. This inspired me to discuss the topic with other Stantec team members, including one of our planners, Stephanie Bergman. She explained that, unfortunately, this is the reality at these sorts of public meetings. The “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) voices nearly always overpower the “yes in my backyard” (YIMBY) voices. The result is less highrise development.

If highrise developers match the façade of existing buildings in the area, and couple that with new and improved landscaping, it can really improve the streetscape.
If highrise developers match the façade of existing buildings in the area, and couple that with new and improved landscaping, it can really improve the streetscape.

So, what’s the solution? According to Bergman, we need more YIMBYs taking part in the processes that will shape communities and help promote some of the positive impacts of highrise development. If highrise development is done right, there can be many positive effects. Here are five benefits that just might shift you from NIMBY to YIMBY.

Highrise development gives young professionals the opportunity to live downtown: The housing market in London has boomed over the past few years, which makes it difficult for freshly graduated young professionals to find affordable living. I fall into this category. If I want to live close to work — something I value greatly — my only option is to rent. Single-family homes in this location are too expensive. For this reason, highrise condos have become the only available means for a single person to own property downtown and, in general, close to where they work.

More people walking to work means less commuter traffic: I’ve spent my life driving everywhere I need to go in a car. Since I began renting an apartment close to work, I find myself walking rather than driving, not only to the office, but to most of the places I frequently visit. In the community information meeting, one issue that came up was increased traffic due to higher densities of people in a small area. While this makes sense in theory, the reality is if someone is looking for a place downtown, it most often means they work downtown as well. It also means that the downtown resident will likely prefer to avoid driving to work — taking transit, a bike, or walking instead — which would lower overall commuter traffic.

Many new highrise buildings utilize the ground level for commercial, retail, or some other active use.
Many new highrise buildings utilize the ground level for commercial, retail, or some other active use.

The creation of active ground floor uses: Most of the new highrise buildings I have seen developed over recent years utilize the ground level fronting city streets for commercial, retail, or some other active use. This opens new possibilities for retail shops and restaurants to open, where previously there was only a parking lot or old building that had been underutilized. This gives new life to areas that were once bare. If a new café wants to open along my walk to work, count me in!

Improved and updated streetscape: Another hot topic at the information meeting was the look of highrises near residential communities. In my experience, developers want their buildings to stand out in a good way. A lot of effort goes into the look of the building, particularly the first few floors, as these are the only floors people see when walking by. Matching the facade of existing buildings in the area, coupled with new and improved landscaping, makes areas that were once asphalt pads look renewed and become something enjoyable to see on your morning run.

More eyes on the street: Increasing the density of people in an area means more eyes on that area. This creates an artificial “neighbourhood watch,” where more people constantly interact and truly see one another. More people on the street creates an atmosphere of safety and provides informal surveillance of the urban environment. Bergman mentioned this point to me, and I find it very interesting, as it doesn’t seem like something people would think about when looking at a highrise development proposed in their area.

I’m hoping that readers can see what a highrise development done right can do for a community. There’s a value that comes with it. I’ve always seen development as progress, and progress for your city is a good thing. Let’s get more people saying YIMBY instead of NIMBY.

Derrick Rice is an engineering intern at Stantec‘s London, Ont. office.

SHARE  

Featured Products


Azzouz_Nov_BB_fi

7 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

Latest News


7 Steps Toward Energy Efficiency

Can the way we design or retrofit our buildings help the climate crisis? This is a question that lingers in my mind daily. Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and trying to reverse climate change has never been more important. Investing in our buildings, new or old, can make a difference. Old buildings in particular present a great opportunity to make improvements.

It has always been a challenge to get people to invest in new sustainable buildings, largely because of the idea of higher upfront costs. Thankfully, because of successful projects like evolv1 in Waterloo — a net-positive, multi-tenant building that recently won the first-ever Zero Carbon award from the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) — more people understand that there’s a great business case for green buildings. Not just for the environment but for the bottom line.

While our understanding about the value of green design in our new buildings is taking hold, people are still overlooking all the old building stock out there. For every innovative evolv1 project in development, there are dozens of inefficient existing buildings around us. Most of these old buildings will stand for decades, so what can we do about them today? What strategies can we adopt to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings?

Here are some ideas. Let’s focus on low-cost/no-cost measures. If you follow these suggestions, it’ll make a difference―both for the environment, and for your energy bill.

Don’t leave the lights on

Do you really need to be lighting every floor of your office building all the time? Aside from emergency lights, it makes sense to use control strategies like daylight dimming and occupancy sensors to reduce your energy usage during evenings and weekends. Daylight dimming detectors adjust lighting according to the amount of sunlight available, and occupancy sensors work like indoor motion lights to detect if a person is present.

Program that thermostat

Here’s another easy one. To maximize energy savings, it’s wise to use a variable temperature strategy. In office buildings, set your thermostat to a comfortable room temperature for the mornings and afternoons, when the building is occupied. In the evenings, reduce it. For example, during full occupancy times, set your temperature to 21C (70F). Lower it to 15C or 16C (59F-60F) during off-hours. At home, make sure to use a smart thermostat or a programmable thermostat. Why heat a room that much if no one’s in it?

Close down your fresh air damper

Here’s a related point to the last one. Some building operators keep central fans running for too long, which supply fresh air to spaces when it’s not necessary. If there’s no one in your building during nights or on weekends, it doesn’t make sense to provide continuous fresh air. At night, revert to the minimum airflow required for conditioning the space.

Shut off your equipment

Instruct staff members to power down their laptops and desktop computers at night. Reduce the receptacle power use during unoccupied times. I realize that businesses need to update their systems occasionally, so perhaps you can schedule patch/maintenance updates on weekends for a couple of hours. But don’t leave those computers on every night.

Fix those old windows

Windows in older buildings are often leaky. This leads to more heat escaping from your comfortably conditioned spaces, which means that you need to supply even more heat — and you lose more energy this way. Look into fixing or replacing those drafty windows as soon as you can.

Upgrade your equipment

People often don’t upgrade their equipment when they should. All pieces of equipment have a useful service life. For example, if your furnace has a service life of 20 years, don’t let it run for 30. If you are planning on doing a mid-life retrofit to your building, do not replace your equipment on a like-for-like basis, but upgrade and improve on the equipment’s efficiency. Technology improves every day, so the efficiency of appliances and devices also improves constantly. If your furnace is running at a low efficiency, you’re going to be dealing with some big bills.

Design for tomorrow, not for today

Apart from the cost, look ahead to the future. The temperature will be warmer, so if you’re designing/and or upgrading a cooling system, you need to account for extra cooling load in the future. Design for tomorrow, not today.

A few final thoughts

For both existing building retrofits, as well as for new developments, clients are typically focused on upfront costs. Most stakeholders will prioritize upfront cost — how much is this going to be at the outset? But we need to start considering life-cycle cost and think of how much it’s going to cost to operate the building on a day-to-day basis. Can you save $10,000 down the road by spending $500 extra today?

High-performance and low-carbon buildings will produce lower operating costs than more conventional strategies. Like I mentioned earlier, success stories like evolv1 are helping to change this mentality — evolv1 is a living example of net-zero carbon emissions balanced with a financially viable solution.

These are steps that we can take to help address the current climate crisis, while also designing, building, and retrofitting buildings to be energy- and cost-efficient and more comfortable for users.

Afaf Azzouz is a buildings energy specialist with Stantec’s Energy and mechanical engineering group in Ottawa. She recently won the 2018 Emerging Green Leader Award from the CaGBC of Ontario. https://www.stantec.com/en

SHARE  

Featured Products