Downtown Toronto may be the last place you'd expect to find blossoming with green ideas, but Daniel Libeskind has planted a seed that's soon to grow into a 57-storey testament to eco-friendly design. Libeskind, an internationally-renowned architect, is the visionary behind the L Tower, a condo development that will sweep gracefully skyward from the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts at Yonge and Front streets. The goal? Gold candidacy for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) -- North America's green building rating system. The structure will house 496 suites -- all with low off-gassing carpets, paints and adhesives, and kitted out with low-flow plumbing and Energy Star appliances. STYLE AT HOME sat down with Libeskind to talk about what it means to be green, and how environmentally conscious architecture is just as important to a home as eco-friendly interiors.
STYLE AT HOME: What are some common misconceptions about green design?
DANIEL LIBESKIND: That it's expensive, uninspired and conventional looking. Buildings can be very stylish, sophisticated, elegant and contemporary, as well as be responsible to the environment.
S@H: Was it a challenge to incorporate the criteria for LEED Gold certification into your vision for the design of the L Tower?
DL: No. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity. Promoting sustainable, high-density living in the downtown area -- an area where people can use bicycles and mass transit, saving energy that they might normally use by commuting from the suburbs -- in itself makes a huge statement. Incorporating elements into the design, like reducing wasted energy with high-performance glazing, capturing and re-using rainwater for non-potable applications, purchasing greenpower, dual-flush toilets, water-conserving front-loading clothes washers, low-flow showers and the use of local materials in construction instead of importing them from far-flung regions combine to make for a very responsible building that meets LEED standards.
S@H: The selection of a location for the L Tower also carried with it some added environmental responsibilities. For instance, you made sure the existing green spaces surrounding the tower -- Berczy Park, for instance -- wouldn't be adversely affected by the tower.
DL: That's a key component of the design. First of all, we located the tower in the corner of the site that was farthest from Berczy Park. And then the shape of the tower, the curvature, was designed in response to angles of light so that the tower wouldn't throw any shadows that interfered with the park. The curve isn't just a shape that's aesthetic, but one that's environmentally friendly in terms of thinking of public spaces. Responsible design also means taking responsibility for the existing green spaces.
S@H: Going beyond interior appointments -- low off-gassing carpets and paints, energy-efficient appliances, and water-saving plumbing -- what are some environmentally sound construction options for a home or condo? How do you get green bones?
DL: A green building is one that doesn't take the environment for granted. It considers the quality of the materials used and their sustainability, and the long-term durability of the structure. An architect has to ask, "Are we going to craft the building in a way which will make it still habitable 20, 30 or even 50 years from now?" Again, I think building a high-density condominium in the downtown core such as the L Tower is itself a new response -- locating the structure so that people can walk or use public transit -- collectively sharing more of the responsibility, rather than building a house in the country where you still need a car, which wastes gasoline and pollutes the environment.
The L Tower, units from mid-$200,000, 877-577-2533, Toronto, 416-777-2533; Ltower.ca. Studio Daniel Libeskind, New York, 212-497-9100; daniel-libeskind.com.
Developers: Castlepoint Realty Partners Ltd., Fernbrook Homes and Cityzen Urban Lifestyle.