Green: the New Red & Grey


            It’s hard to believe that there are only two more years until I graduate from NT’s dilapidated and pungent smelling, yet spirited, walls. It’s even harder to believe that our Commencement won’t even be held in the same building that we went to high school in! When I along with the grads of 2010 return to the place that has shaped us for four years, we won’t be returning to laugh at students getting lost (like all of us have in grade 9) on the legendary Stairway to Nowhere and the S-shaped basement, or to visit to the historic music wing, the modest auditorium, and other significant pieces of NT that have made our time here so unforgettable. That’s because by September 2010, the hundred year-old NT – our NT – will be no more. Instead, it will be replaced by an epic, full-fledged eco-school – the new North Toronto C.I.

            This green initiative, the first of its kind in the TDSB, is bound to ignite many changes in the school community as well as the Yonge & Eg neighborhood. But how did the green side come to the TDSB? And what will an eco-NT be like? With these questions, I had the privilege to speak with David Percival, the Manager of Standards, Compliance, and Environment for the TDSB.

            The new NT has been pegged as an eco-school since the building is L.E.E.D. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, meaning that it’s green. This certification is done by the Canadian Green Building Council, David explained, and is based on getting thirty-nine credits that encompass “a range of issues and achievements that make up the design of the building.” The credits are based on how waste is handled during construction, how records are being kept, the materials used, and how well the air quality is. We earned one L.E.E.D. credit by implementing something known as displacement ventilation in the classrooms, an environmentally-friendly alternative to excess air-conditioning.

            Even though “it takes a lot of effort to design and build to L.E.E.D.” standards in the midst of all these environmental considerations, David pointed out that construction won’t be extended It just means more care is added to building it, and the detailed amount of record-keeping is added to keep people honest.

            As far as the physical plans go, the school will be fully wheelchair-accessible and will have: a theatre, a green roof, a cafeteria which serves as a lobby for the theatre, a playing field with NATURAL turf, three large gyms, carefully-designed classrooms, and a courtyard that will be decorated with bits and pieces of historical items savaged from the existing building. Maybe we should put our swimming pool there too; that’s one way that we can still have a pool in the new school. Our eco-school will set an example of leadership in outstanding environmental stewardship and sustainability. To say that “our building is green” would reflect a lot of credibility, David said, and we will all be happier with the outcome; a better, cleaner school.

            In this case, the health and environment benefits of the new NT go hand in hand. The exterior wall is made up of a special building envelope that “should last many, many years.” The windows and walls will be tightly sealed, ensuring few leaks. The interior finishes won’t give off harmful compounds, and will use asbestos-free materials, which significantly improves the indoor quality. The carpets won’t give off urea gas and will be made of recycled material. The green roof will not only be a vivid addition to the plain, grey backdrop of Roehampton Ave., but will help manage storm water and reduce the need for air-conditioning, even to surrounding buildings in the summer.

            The playing field will have an irrigation system that manages run-off and conserves water flow to sewers. It will also accommodate sprinklers to only start watering when timers come on. The practically-designed classrooms will let more natural light enter the windows, reducing the need for those bright artificial lights that I’m sure many students have protested to be kept off on sunny days. With more windows, this open effect will come with almost panoramic views of the streets.

            So there you have it, the new NT. Buildings contribute a lot towards greenhouse gas emissions, so why not work towards reducing those high numbers? Our eco-school will present more opportunities for us to better understand environmental issues, recycle, and conserve energy.

            Making the most out of this opportunity is just the “right thing to do in our time”, as David put it. Let’s just hope that when we return, the future students won’t gawk at us as we frantically find our way around the new building, while admiring the washrooms with locks, the smooth walls, and the ungraffiti-ed on lockers. Let’s just hope that despite not having those unforgettable pieces of NT as we’ve experienced them, the spirit and tradition of the people will continue on. But just imagine how easy they’ll have it…