February LEED Spotlight: Affordable housing community Mackenzie Green

Mackenzie Green, a new affordable housing community in Richmond Hill, recently received LEED Silver certification. The certification, and indeed the existence of the building itself, is a noteworthy achievement for a region in the midst of a significant housing crunch.

We spoke to Josh Scholten, Director of Housing Development and Asset Strategy for Housing and Long-Term Care for the Regional Municipality of York, about the project and why they chose LEED certification.

1. Tell me about the project and its unique features, particularly those that led to it certifying LEED Silver.

Mackenzie Green - Exterior

Mackenzie Green is a nine-storey building, owned and operated by Housing York Inc. It opened to tenants in March 2013 at 145 Essex Avenue in the Town of Richmond Hill. The building has 140 apartments, offering a mix of 70 affordable units (geared to income) and market-rent units. It is the ninth Regional Municipality of York facility to become LEED certified.

Although York Region is an affluent area for the most part, there is a limited supply of affordable housing options available for many. This is why York Regional Council through Housing York Inc. is creating housing options like Mackenzie Green.

Mackenzie Green is a great example of a forward-thinking rental housing development. Not only does the development provide safe and affordable housing to its residents, it does so through an environmentally-friendly, cost-effective approach.

Certification was awarded based on:

  • More than 40 per cent of building materials manufactured locally.
  • More than 75 per cent of construction waste diverted from landfill.
  • Energy and water-efficient laundry facilities and low-flow water fixtures such as dual-flush toilets.
  • Green power electricity and a roof that reflects sunlight and heat away from the building.
  • Energy-efficient lighting that limits light pollution.
  • Water-efficient landscaping with drought-tolerant plants, eliminating need for an irrigation system.
  • Tri?sorter chute system to separate waste, recyclables and organic waste.
  • Nearby transit and underground parking with indoor storage for 70 bicycles.

2. Why did you choose LEED certification?


Mackenzie Green - Construction

York Region has taken a sustainable approach to the expected growth challenges ahead. Building sustainable communities means that we must address both land use and the built form.

Green buildings are key components in achieving healthy and sustainable communities. Green building rating systems like LEED have higher energy savings and water efficiency, reduced CO2 emissions, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

The York Region Official Plan, approved by Regional Council in 2010, outlines green building policies that require that new buildings in York Region's new communities and Regional Centres and Corridors be constructed to LEED or "equivalent alternative" standards.

The Regional Official Plan uses the LEED rating system as a standard as it is the most comprehensive of all of the other building rating systems reviewed; it addresses not only the features of the building, but also the building site, and the larger community.

One of the key benefits that we like about the LEED system is that it is tied to a rigorous third party verification process and has stringent reporting and certification requirements to ensure that each of the requirements of the program are being met.

3. What was the biggest lesson learned from building a LEED project that you think would be valuable to others building LEED?

LEED projects are much different than others with many different ways of doing things, and lessons that are learned. Three key things we suggest for others building to LEED standards are:

  • Encourage the development of interactive tools such as the Green Building Education program, which educates the residents on the technology utilized in their building.

  • Hire an experienced LEED consultant early in the process to ensure the building components are well integrated in the design development stage.

  • Understand that it takes a strong project team committed to sustainable development to build a quality product

4. Is there anything else you'd like to add about your building or LEED in general?


Mackenzie Green - Construction

As we work to increase the stock of affordable housing in York, it's important that it's done within a sustainability framework and built to energy performance standards. We want to make sure they're energy efficient, easy for us to operate, and comfortable for the residents. We build our buildings for the long term because we're going to own them for a long time.

Mackenzie Green was built to our specifications by a developer for us. We wanted the building to be built to LEED standards. LEED certification means that it meets national and international standards not just in how the building operates, but in how it is built. During construction, for example, over 70 per cent of construction waste diverted from landfill.

It was important for us that our impact on the environmental was as limited as possible. For example, we made sure the building had tri-sorters for waste, recyclables and organic waste so residents could participate in our waste diversion program. Other features that helped achieve the Silver certification include energy and water-efficient laundry facilities, green power electricity, a roof that reflects sunlight and heat away from the building, underground storage for 70 bicycles, and proximity to transit.