Walas in Toronto: Integrative Thinking in Sustainable Retrofit Development

On June 7th, 2018, Walas Concepts presented a sneak peak on the latest European retrofitting strategies. As part of their presentation at the Canadian Green Building Council’s 10th annual Building Lasting Change conference in Toronto, World of Walas showed examples of best practices from around the world that excel in sustainability and building performance.

Over half of the housing stock by 2050 has already been built. If countries are to achieve the 80% emission reduction targets set for 2050, older buildings must be retrofitted to reach high sustainability standards in operations. However, retrofitting older buildings to reach sustainability standards can be costly. World of Walas sees an opportunity to economically create more sustainable buildings through an integrative approach to sustainability. We believe that smart combinations of sustainable products and approaches can achieve more than individual components. When we look at innovations, we see them as integrated and comprehensive solutions.

An example of Walas’ approach to smart innovations is CarbonBlue, a solar parkade. Due to zoning requirements and a need for parking spaces for commuters, Walas had to retain the grey concrete parking lot outside of Carbon6, a 500,000 sq ft complex operated by World of Walas. As part of our work to transition the building to clean energy, Walas saw an opportunity to use a smart combination of innovations. Solar panels were mounted on top of a sustainably farmed African hardwood frame, which sequester CO2. Water that falls on the solar panels is collected, filtered and reused in the building. The parkade filters the air from the nearby train station and cools the air under the parkade by providing partial shading, making it into a green retreat and an amenity to the community.

As Walas, we see a great underutilized potential in working with the environment, rather than against it. Buildings should not just be the resources and building materials brought onto the land. Buildings should increasingly focus on using the resources that already exist on the land. Rather than having CarbonBlue just be about the transition to clean energy, we used the natural resources in the environment, such as space, heat, lighting, water and air, to create a solution that’s more sustainable and economic than a traditional steel parkade.

When retrofitting buildings, developers often experience limitations that are not present in new buildings and custom designs. There may be limited space, fragile structural integrity, difficulty with layouts and outdated heating/cooling systems. When planning for retrofits, finding smart combinations that utilize latent resources can help justify the upgrade, based on the increased ROI.
Upgrades to existing systems apply to both, buildings and cities. As more people migrate to cities, and cities become increasingly dense, there is a need to either upgrade infrastructure that has been embedded into the streets and foundations of buildings decades before that, or to reduce the demand for city infrastructure. The opportunity for cities is to work with developers to use the holistic integration of innovations to maximize the benefit of natural resources in the city.

We look forward to following up with connections made in Toronto and providing our knowledge in the holistic implementation of innovations and designing around the future of work.