Green living in century-old home

News Feb 03, 2009 Bloor West Villager

From the insulation below the basement floors to the top of the green roof, 53 High Park Blvd. is an exercise in urban green living.

One might pass by and take note of the beautiful building, never realizing that inside are four condominiums that encapsulate green principles and community living. This building was an 8,000 square foot purpose-built apartment building which was completely gutted and renovated using the latest green technologies and techniques to create four new 2,000-plus square foot condos.

Parkdale real estate agent/builder, co-designer and resident of the project, Neil Spiegel has taken a nod at eco-friendly custom home building in the past, but this project is a deep bow.

The geothermal heating, Heat Recovery Ventilators, green roofs, the latest in super-insulation technology, sound proofing, appliances, windows, and finishing's - it's all green.

This project began about a year and a half ago when a stately old building gave rise to some greener possibilities.

Spiegel, a three time Green Party candidate for Parkdale-High Park, started talking to an acquaintance, Jennifer Penney, about the possibility of turning the building into four units. Spiegel said both he and Penney have a green interest, but also have families, and any project would have to accommodate both those things.

It wasn't until the idea of adding a third floor to the 80-plus year-old building was bantered about that the idea started to seem real.

Spiegel and his partner Ann Shin along with Penney and her partner Donald Cole undertook the unique challenge: to transform an old mansion on High Park Boulevard into a modern, green co-operative condo dwelling.

Co-housing is sort of an architectural recognition of the nature of a small community, Spiegel explained.

"It's just a community that recognizes the nature of community," he said.

There are some shared spaces like the front yard, back yard, common work area, cold seller, shared laundry.

But, in addition to spaces there is some shared decision-making. Shared locations and facilities mean an opportunity for engagement and some compromise. These are the experiences that build a balanced empathetic community, Spiegel said.

"The building envelope, ventilation system and the reuse issues, those were really our big focus," Spiegel explained.

Perhaps, he said, the biggest undertaking was insulation. The entire brick structure was wrapped in insulation, essentially creating an envelope, which reduces the requirement for heating and cooling.

Under the concrete slab in the basement are recycled insulated door cut outs for insulation. All roofs are blown with R40 of spray made of soy and recycled plastic bottles.

With the level of insulation the heating system becomes less important, Spiegel explained. They looked at three or four different approaches to heating the building.

"We even talked at one point about spending more money on windows and just put in electric baseboard heaters," he said. "The disadvantage of that is people do want air conditioning in this climate and you can't get air conditioning from baseboards."

They settled on geothermal which allows for hot and cold water to be distributed around the house to air handlers - used to condition and circulate air - in-floor heating system and radiators.

The addition of a green roof meant the building had to be modified to take the load from the roof. The roof is slightly pitched and covered in six inches of dirt and 1,200 square feet of sedums, small plants that will retain water and reduce run-off.

Inside, the floors are made of bamboo and non-volatile organic compounds paint was used. They tried to maintain a lot of the interior fixtures, like doors and hardware to reduce material and give new life to items that otherwise would have gone to landfill.

"Trying to work with an old building, trying to reuse materials, those are all things that don't save you any money," he said. "Our society doesn't charge people for their use of the waste stream so much."

Spiegel and his young family will live in one of the units and Penney and hers in the other. There are two units for sale in the home. For more information or to read Spiegel's blog on the building process visit www.spiegel.ca

Green living in century-old home

Co-housing seen as a community recognizing the nature of community

News Feb 03, 2009 Bloor West Villager

From the insulation below the basement floors to the top of the green roof, 53 High Park Blvd. is an exercise in urban green living.

One might pass by and take note of the beautiful building, never realizing that inside are four condominiums that encapsulate green principles and community living. This building was an 8,000 square foot purpose-built apartment building which was completely gutted and renovated using the latest green technologies and techniques to create four new 2,000-plus square foot condos.

Parkdale real estate agent/builder, co-designer and resident of the project, Neil Spiegel has taken a nod at eco-friendly custom home building in the past, but this project is a deep bow.

The geothermal heating, Heat Recovery Ventilators, green roofs, the latest in super-insulation technology, sound proofing, appliances, windows, and finishing's - it's all green.

This project began about a year and a half ago when a stately old building gave rise to some greener possibilities.

Spiegel, a three time Green Party candidate for Parkdale-High Park, started talking to an acquaintance, Jennifer Penney, about the possibility of turning the building into four units. Spiegel said both he and Penney have a green interest, but also have families, and any project would have to accommodate both those things.

It wasn't until the idea of adding a third floor to the 80-plus year-old building was bantered about that the idea started to seem real.

Spiegel and his partner Ann Shin along with Penney and her partner Donald Cole undertook the unique challenge: to transform an old mansion on High Park Boulevard into a modern, green co-operative condo dwelling.

Co-housing is sort of an architectural recognition of the nature of a small community, Spiegel explained.

"It's just a community that recognizes the nature of community," he said.

There are some shared spaces like the front yard, back yard, common work area, cold seller, shared laundry.

But, in addition to spaces there is some shared decision-making. Shared locations and facilities mean an opportunity for engagement and some compromise. These are the experiences that build a balanced empathetic community, Spiegel said.

"The building envelope, ventilation system and the reuse issues, those were really our big focus," Spiegel explained.

Perhaps, he said, the biggest undertaking was insulation. The entire brick structure was wrapped in insulation, essentially creating an envelope, which reduces the requirement for heating and cooling.

Under the concrete slab in the basement are recycled insulated door cut outs for insulation. All roofs are blown with R40 of spray made of soy and recycled plastic bottles.

With the level of insulation the heating system becomes less important, Spiegel explained. They looked at three or four different approaches to heating the building.

"We even talked at one point about spending more money on windows and just put in electric baseboard heaters," he said. "The disadvantage of that is people do want air conditioning in this climate and you can't get air conditioning from baseboards."

They settled on geothermal which allows for hot and cold water to be distributed around the house to air handlers - used to condition and circulate air - in-floor heating system and radiators.

The addition of a green roof meant the building had to be modified to take the load from the roof. The roof is slightly pitched and covered in six inches of dirt and 1,200 square feet of sedums, small plants that will retain water and reduce run-off.

Inside, the floors are made of bamboo and non-volatile organic compounds paint was used. They tried to maintain a lot of the interior fixtures, like doors and hardware to reduce material and give new life to items that otherwise would have gone to landfill.

"Trying to work with an old building, trying to reuse materials, those are all things that don't save you any money," he said. "Our society doesn't charge people for their use of the waste stream so much."

Spiegel and his young family will live in one of the units and Penney and hers in the other. There are two units for sale in the home. For more information or to read Spiegel's blog on the building process visit www.spiegel.ca

Green living in century-old home

Co-housing seen as a community recognizing the nature of community

News Feb 03, 2009 Bloor West Villager

From the insulation below the basement floors to the top of the green roof, 53 High Park Blvd. is an exercise in urban green living.

One might pass by and take note of the beautiful building, never realizing that inside are four condominiums that encapsulate green principles and community living. This building was an 8,000 square foot purpose-built apartment building which was completely gutted and renovated using the latest green technologies and techniques to create four new 2,000-plus square foot condos.

Parkdale real estate agent/builder, co-designer and resident of the project, Neil Spiegel has taken a nod at eco-friendly custom home building in the past, but this project is a deep bow.

The geothermal heating, Heat Recovery Ventilators, green roofs, the latest in super-insulation technology, sound proofing, appliances, windows, and finishing's - it's all green.

This project began about a year and a half ago when a stately old building gave rise to some greener possibilities.

Spiegel, a three time Green Party candidate for Parkdale-High Park, started talking to an acquaintance, Jennifer Penney, about the possibility of turning the building into four units. Spiegel said both he and Penney have a green interest, but also have families, and any project would have to accommodate both those things.

It wasn't until the idea of adding a third floor to the 80-plus year-old building was bantered about that the idea started to seem real.

Spiegel and his partner Ann Shin along with Penney and her partner Donald Cole undertook the unique challenge: to transform an old mansion on High Park Boulevard into a modern, green co-operative condo dwelling.

Co-housing is sort of an architectural recognition of the nature of a small community, Spiegel explained.

"It's just a community that recognizes the nature of community," he said.

There are some shared spaces like the front yard, back yard, common work area, cold seller, shared laundry.

But, in addition to spaces there is some shared decision-making. Shared locations and facilities mean an opportunity for engagement and some compromise. These are the experiences that build a balanced empathetic community, Spiegel said.

"The building envelope, ventilation system and the reuse issues, those were really our big focus," Spiegel explained.

Perhaps, he said, the biggest undertaking was insulation. The entire brick structure was wrapped in insulation, essentially creating an envelope, which reduces the requirement for heating and cooling.

Under the concrete slab in the basement are recycled insulated door cut outs for insulation. All roofs are blown with R40 of spray made of soy and recycled plastic bottles.

With the level of insulation the heating system becomes less important, Spiegel explained. They looked at three or four different approaches to heating the building.

"We even talked at one point about spending more money on windows and just put in electric baseboard heaters," he said. "The disadvantage of that is people do want air conditioning in this climate and you can't get air conditioning from baseboards."

They settled on geothermal which allows for hot and cold water to be distributed around the house to air handlers - used to condition and circulate air - in-floor heating system and radiators.

The addition of a green roof meant the building had to be modified to take the load from the roof. The roof is slightly pitched and covered in six inches of dirt and 1,200 square feet of sedums, small plants that will retain water and reduce run-off.

Inside, the floors are made of bamboo and non-volatile organic compounds paint was used. They tried to maintain a lot of the interior fixtures, like doors and hardware to reduce material and give new life to items that otherwise would have gone to landfill.

"Trying to work with an old building, trying to reuse materials, those are all things that don't save you any money," he said. "Our society doesn't charge people for their use of the waste stream so much."

Spiegel and his young family will live in one of the units and Penney and hers in the other. There are two units for sale in the home. For more information or to read Spiegel's blog on the building process visit www.spiegel.ca