When I encourage people to try to make adjustments in life to live greener—something that benefits the planet by leading to less greenhouse gas emissions—there are a few different responses I get. There’s the response from the skeptics: “No need, business-as-usual is totally safe and fine, and economically the best option.” Then there’s the response from those who believe in the problem, but can’t bring themselves to make the changes: “What difference can I make? Do I really need to make huge changes when the rest of the planet isn’t doing their fair share?”
The further up the business ladder you move, the harder it seems to make the greener choices. Individuals have it easiest, families a little tougher, then buildings and businesses. The toughest it seems are the multinational corporations and governments, because they have so many stake-holders to keep happy, many of whom care much more about the economy of today rather than the environment of tomorrow.
That’s why I find it extremely refreshing to find a company that’s doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. DLC Equity Partners Inc., a Toronto-based developer is building the first-ever sustainable health care facility in Canada. Located in Stouffville, Ontario—about a 45 minute drive from where I work—it will provide space for general practitioners, dentists, a compound pharmacist, a walk-in clinic, and laboratory and ultrasound facilities.
That may not sound much different than many other medical arts buildings, but it’s not the occupants that will set it apart: green initiatives such as geothermal and radiant-floor heating and cooling, clean-air technology, rainwater harvesting for toilets and outdoor irrigation, LED lighting, smart-building systems, solar panels, and a Hempcrete building envelope are all part of the design. The developers are even putting in a rooftop garden.
Frank Deluca, the CEO of DCL Equity Partners Inc. felt that many new developments were embracing greener and healthier options, but not so much in medical buildings. Many of our medical facilities are found within “sick” buildings that are unhealthy to the environment and, therefore, to those who inhabit it. As Deluca describes it, “The buildings we entrust for our health and wellbeing simply aren’t meeting the mark. This motivated me to see if I could design, engineer and build a better medical office building that would embrace the kinds of green features that can contribute to health and wellbeing, and yet also be economically sustainable.”
One strong supporter for the plan is the mayor of Stouffville, Wayne Emmerson. Although any new medical building and the services it provides helps to unload some of the demands on the local hospital, Emmerson also applauds the green initiatives. “It’s one of the biggest projects we’ve ever had in our municipality involving green, sustainable buildings. It’s the way of the future. The more buildings that do this, the better off we’ll be and the better it will be for future generations.”
The project has also received attention from the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care. Kent Waddington, its co-founder and Communications Director, has applauded Deluca and his team for using their vision to be the first in Ontario to build such a green health care facility. By demonstrating such a project can be done, on a scale that can easily be applied anywhere to any community, Waddington hopes that this project will serve as a catalyst, setting a benchmark that others will hopefully follow.
This project has made me realize that for such endeavours to be successful, a few criteria are required:
- There needs to be a vision of what can be done better than it’s been done before.
- There needs to be a champion who is prepared to take the lead and move forward, identifying obstacles and creating solutions to overcome them.
- Some involved might have concerns about the economic impact of choosing greener options but have to be able to see the bigger picture—that not every decision should be based on dollars alone.
- Support from the community, political leaders, and others who share in the vision are all helpful to achieve success.
Clearly we need to find more opportunities to move toward greener options. That doesn’t just apply to individuals and families, but also businesses, corporations, societies and governments. I applaud Frank Deluca and those at DCL Equity Partners Inc. for taking on initiatives that are clearly beneficial to our planet. I’m sad that I work too far away to be able to move my practice into this facility because I think those of us who believe in such measures need to do what we can to support them. I only hope that this project is the first of many. As Deluca puts it: “This will be the F1 of buildings from a comfort, and energy performance standpoint designed and engineered exclusively for healthcare.”
All I can say is it’s about time. The day when this sort of design is the rule rather than the exception in new building developments can’t come soon enough for me.