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Advancing green building technologies, one condo suite at a time

This evening I had a fascinating conversation with Subhi Alsayed of Tower Labs. If you haven’t yet heard of Tower Labs, I would encourage you to check them out. Here’s their mission statement:

Our mission is to facilitate the adoption of green building products, technologies and practices through pilot and demonstration projects in highrise buildings; and accelerate the evolution to a low-impact, sustainable urban environment.

What they do is test out new green building technologies in one-off condominium suites. And since they were founded by both MaRS and Tridel (which is one of, if not the largest condo developer in Toronto), they have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

This is important because the real estate industry is notoriously slow at innovating. I’ve written about this many times before. Whenever you try and introduce something new, there’s always a lot of change management that goes along with it. The construction trades, to use one example, need to get their heads around it. And until they do, they’re going to charge a premium for it.

So by creating a one-off test case, everybody gets to see how it works, how it is built, and, most importantly, how it actually performs in the real world.

One of the projects that they’re working on is something called NetZED, which stands for Net Zero Energy Dwelling. As the name suggests, it’s a condominium suite that produces as much energy as it consumes. 

The way it works is by trading energy. At night when the sun isn’t out and the panels on the roof aren’t able to produce energy, the suite “borrows” electricity from the building. But during the day when the sun is out, the suite powers itself and then returns any borrowed electricity to the building. Click here to learn more about the suite. It’s being built in the Aqualina Condos on Toronto’s waterfront.


I find all of this incredibly exciting. Not only because they’re working towards a more sustainable future, but also because they’re applying their efforts towards the multi-family building typology (towers). Given that most of the world now lives in cities, this is an important building typology to make even more sustainable.

Image: Tower Labs

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