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Danish architects, I was warned by a publicist with the country’s consulate, are sometime a bit tongue-tied when asked to describe how they incorporate sustainability principles into their projects. Seems it’s just a thing they do.

Reframed for a Canadian audience, the question tracks a bit like asking Toronto Maples Leafs star Auston Matthews what it’s like to play with a hockey stick.

“In Denmark, that’s what’s expected,” muses architect Kolja Nielsen, chief executive of Cebra Aarhus, a Copenhagen firm that will be designing a yet-to-be unveiled mid-rise project in Toronto for Streetcar Developments. “[We] don’t market ourselves as green any more.”

Maybe so, but Toronto’s development and design sector will – or should – be soaking up a lot from Danish approaches in coming years. Earlier this month, the international developer Hines revealed that it had selected 3XN, another Copenhagen firm, to design a two-building tall-timber office complex for a property on the south side of Queen’s Quay East, in Bayside. It will be 3XN’s second commission in the area, the first being a Hines/Tridel Corp. residential project announced in 2016, also for Bayside.

These firms, according to their principals, take a broad-ranging approach to sustainable architecture, one that incorporates all the predictable elements (that includes passive design, low-carbon materials and energy efficiency), but also pushes past regulatory requirements or even green building certification standards, such as LEED.

3XN, for example, sees buildings as “material banks,” so its architects look for opportunities to work with components that can be easily re-used in the future. The 120-person partnership also operates a 20-employee green R&D subsidiary called GXN that has developed up-cycled building products, including LED light fixtures fashioned from discarded nylon fishing nets.

Senior partner Kasper Guldager Jensen, who heads GXN, says the goal is to weave these and other sustainable design ideas into a broader framework that incorporates the social and financial viability of their projects. “If we talk about sustainability, we have to talk about value creation,” he explains, noting that such projects last longer, improve surrounding urban streetscape, cost less to maintain and therefore see their value grow more significantly than ordinary buildings.

Nielsen adds that Danish builders no longer question the connection between green design and long-term value. “A lot of our clients go beyond [regulations].” Condo investors get it, too. “You’ll get higher prices in 15 years when you sell.”

For Full Globe and Mail Article: Click Here



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