Pointing to sustainable design as an emerging good news story for 2022, Corporate Knights magazine is citing revved up EV infrastructure, smarter land use planning, and a shift to electric heating as top trends to watch for.
From how we get around, to where and how we live, policy-makers and urban planners are embracing the imperative for sustainable design, the Toronto-based publication writes.
Case in point: “multi-billion dollar government incentives” announced last year to build out EV charging infrastructure, incentives that will support policy moves like Toronto’s Green Standard plan which will “soon require developers to ensure that all parking spaces in new condo and office towers are fitted with EV chargers.”
Likewise poised for growth are microgrids and stationary batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall, Corporate Knights says.
“For college campuses, larger industrial sites, or fleet depots, microgrid developers are installing onsite stationary batteries and rooftop solar panels to allow property owners to load-shift, meaning they are less exposed to peak period rates while still being able to operate charging stations for EVs,” the news story states.
And while the technology “remains nascent,” there will come a time when microgrids “will be able to draw power from parked EVs equipped with ‘vehicle-to-grid’ inverters.”
Another strong possibility is that gas furnaces will continue to exit, as homeowners enabled by provincial and federal incentives make the switch to electric heat pumps. But “policy-makers remain hesitant to stoke this transition, partly because of the lobbying heft of the natural gas industry, but also because they haven’t figured out how to provide enough clean electricity to satisfy additional loads from space and water heating.”
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting for developers and builders to address the problem of embodied carbon—the carbon emitted to produce building materials like steel or drywall. British Columbia made disclosures on embodied carbon mandatory in 2021, and Toronto will do the same in the next iteration of its Green Standard.
Thanks in part to bitter lessons learned from the pandemic, “fresher air for all” has also become a rallying cry. Recalling decades of suffering the effects of “crummy indoor air quality, thanks to off-gassing from synthetic carpets and other textiles, hermetically sealed windows and substandard or poorly maintained ventilation systems,” Corporate Knights heralds a moment “when architects, property managers, and public sector agencies found religion around air quality and ventilation, the neglected poor cousins of the sustainable design world.”
Finally, some cities [ahem, Ottawa?—Ed.] seem to be recognizing the need for smarter land use planning, as seen in Toronto City Council’s recent vote to permit multiplex buildings to promote intensification in low-rise neighborhoods. Other recent policy moves include “automatic permissions for basement apartments, laneway suites, and backyard ‘accessory dwelling units’ (aka garden suites) in neighbourhoods dominated by single family homes.”
Separately, Bloomberg City Lab showcased [$] the concept of “regenerative architecture” as laid out in a new book called Flourish: Design Paradigms for Our Planetary Emergency.
Seeking to mimic nature by using materials and energy in ways that allow for their perpetual renewal, the nascent practice of regenerative architecture offers a much deeper dive into green building than mainstream sustainable design, which focuses on harm reduction and efficient use of materials, City Lab writes. Amongst the examples of regenerative architecture showcased in Flourish are a full-sized theatre composed entirely from living bamboo in Zhejiang, China, and a salt water-cooled greenhouse in Qatar that has turned a barren desert into a home for birds, butterflies, and jerboas, a tiny, very speedy, and incredibly cute hopping rodent that looks like a cross between a mouse, a rabbit, and a kangaroo.