Toronto raises standards for new development, mandates net-zero for new city-owned buildings

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

A new version of the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) is now in effect for new development applications.

Rules for mid to high-rise residential and non-residential development, apply to residential apartment buildings four storeys and higher, and all industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) developments. For low-rise residential construction, the TGS applies to development less than four storeys with a minimum of five dwelling units.

Since 2010, the TGS has set requirements for high-performance, new development in Toronto with a goal to improve air and water quality, manage stormwater onsite, enhance the urban forest and biodiversity and provide energy efficient buildings.

City staff say regulations have resulted in annual GHG emissions reductions of 169,383 CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent); the equivalent of taking 52,000 cars off the road every year.

Version four of the TGS raises the bar to limit GHG emissions from newly constructed buildings, provide electric vehicle charging in parking spaces and enhance stormwater management and landscape requirements. Newly constructed city-owned buildings must be net-zero.

New voluntary tracking requirements have been introduced for building construction and landscaping materials and two ground-breaking studies funded by The Atmospheric Fund currently underway will define potential future performance requirements for “embodied emissions” in building materials such as concrete, steel and insulation in small and large buildings.

There are three tiers of performance measures and tier one is mandatory through the planning approval process. Tiers two and three are higher level voluntary standards associated with financial incentives verified post construction.

Updated green standards will be released in 2025 and 2028 and Toronto will require all new development to meet the highest tier of performance by that time.

City officials say restrictions will result in 30.5 metric tonnes of cumulative emissions reductions by 2050, which equates to removing more than nine million cars from roads.

Highlights of the new rules include:

  • Requirements for near zero GHG emissions buildings for mid- and high-rise residential and non-residential buildings by 2028. All new non-residential, city-owned buildings to be designed to achieve net-zero GHG emissions.
  • Tier 2 and 3 buildings and city-owned projects must track and report GHG emissions of building structural and envelope components and landscaping materials and updated requirements for sustainable building materials.
  • Tier 1 construction projects will require all residential parking spaces and 25 per cent of non-residential spaces to be electric vehicle ready.
  • Enhanced Tier 1 requirements for regionally-appropriate plants for sites within natural heritage and ravine protected areas; increased bird protection through requiring visual markers on the first (exterior) surface of glazing and dense patterns on facades with higher bird collision risk.

New requirements have also been added to Tier 1 to create “green streets” and on-site “green infrastructure” – a natural systems approach to managing stormwater.

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