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With the environment being a primary political issue for many Canadians, some board members and condominium residents may want to establish or incorporate a “green” policy when refurbishing their building. Climate change affects everyone, but most people don’t know how or if they can make any impact. For those board members and condominium residents who make every effort to lessen their impact on the environment, there are now options available for renovations.
Green building practices began to emerge as both high-rise commercial and residential construction exploded across North America. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building standard was developed in the early 1990s in response to the need for environmentally sustainable construction practices. The impact was immediate and positive. New buildings were designed from the ground up to be more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. A spinoff of the LEED program was the development of numerous environmentally sustainable building materials. This development coupled with the explosion of the condominium residential market in Metropolitan Toronto was an opportune time to integrate environmentally sustainable building materials into the condominium refurbishment market.
With the largest concentration of high-rise condominium buildings in Canada, Toronto is also home to a vast inventory of older condominium buildings. On average, these buildings are refurbished every 12 to 15 years. The refurbishment process requires substantial resources and generates a sizable amount of waste. Managing waste is a part of the LEED program; as a result, the marketplace has developed practices and materials to aid in the process. New sustainable building materials, combined with waste diversion programs, can reduce the environmental impact a refurbishment project has on landfill. Many of the major building suppliers across North America have developed environmentally sustainable building materials and programs in response to customer demand.
In the case of suspended ceilings, a Mississauga-based company has developed a Ceiling Panel Recycling Program. This program involves the company picking up the ceiling tiles that are being removed from a building and recycling the materials back into new ceiling tiles – thus reducing both waste and the need for new material extraction.
Carpet manufacturers also have a similar program. One of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers has partnered with Siemens Technologies to create the first Waste to Energy facility in the carpet industry. Waste carpet can now be incinerated in this special facility, generating electricity for its manufacturing facilities. The company also offers numerous programs where it will recycle the existing flooring (usually carpet). Clients then have the option of utilizing 100 per cent sustainable carpet for their refurbishment project, and when replacement is requires, the old carpet can be re-manufactured into new carpet reducing the environmental impact and need for raw materials. One company has even developed completely sustainable printed patter carpet. Printed carpet offers clients not only the freedom of design in a typical or unique flooring configurations, but at the same time divers carpet waste from landfill.
Next to carpet, wall covering is the second largest item – and the second largest waste item – in a refurbishment project. Many of the major wall covering manufacturers have recycling programs available in which wall coverings are 100 per cent sustainable. In 12- 15 years, when the building is due for another refurbishment, the manufacturer will recycle the wall covering that is removed back into the new wall covering, diverting any potential waste from landfill. Most manufacturers can also recycle the wall covering into other goods.
Paint is the single largest contributor of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) to the environment. Many refurbishment projects use large amounts of paint, wall covering and carpet adhesives, which also off-gas VOC’s. Through market demand and government legislation, the paint industry has also been forced to develop greener products. Recent legislation requires that alkyd or oil paint no longer be available for standard interior painting, leaving only waterborne or latex paint products. As a result, when older buildings are refurbished. they will need to be converted from oil paints to latex paints.
Many of the newer buildings have already been coated with latex paints during the initial building phase, making them compliant with current legislation. Paint manufacturers have environmentally friendly paint systems and many products meeting LEED certification, further enhancing the green experience.
These new technologies and programs provide the means to make an immediate impact on a building’s green footprint. As property managers and boards present green alternatives to condominium owners, an added feature that applies to both carpet and wall covering is that many suppliers offer certificates to their clients guaranteeing that all waste materials were recycled. In turn, boards of directors can provide this information to the building residents, reinforcing the green experience,
Much can be said for the availability of sustainable building materials, but one of the most important factors in encouraging their use relies heavily on the price point. Typically, when people hear the word “green” they immediately think “expensive”. And in the early phase of the green revolution, the new technologies were expensive. They weren’t widely used, nor were they widely marketed. That has now changed.
As the demand has increased, more manufacturers have offered sustainable building materials, providing the consumer with more choice. More choice has forced the marketplace to become more competitive resulting in better pricing. In other words, going green is more affordable than ever before and should be considered as a part of every building refurbishment project.
Built in 1975, 150 Heath Street, in the heart of Foresthill, was ahead of its time. Built by Cadillac Fairview, this building was the first, if not one of the first, luxury condominiums in the City of Toronto. Built as a flag ship building, 150 Heath Street represented a new era in apartment style living. Cadillac Fairview spared little expense when they built this building and the craftsmanship and quality is still evident today. Originally, the building consisted of 52 units, four per floor over 13 floors. Now the building has 46 suites as some owners doubled up over time combining two suites into one. In 1975 the common elements represented luxury at its best throughout the building. The main lobby was spacious with 12’ ceilings and all the trim solid English Oak, including the ceiling itself. The building had two Party Rooms that looked onto beautifully manicured gardens and a staff entrance and staff lounge on the main floor as well. Each typical corridor had solid oak cornice moulding with matching solid oak baseboards. All the suite entrances were trimmed in oak with double oak doors. Two levels of underground parking provided the residents with ample space to park. This building was very unique, not just because of its location and style, but because it was a condominium. In 1975 condominium living was a new concept and in its infancy. The idea of owning an apartment was a novel concept and the sharing of expenses made the idea even more appealing. Today, Toronto boasts one of the largest condominium markets in North America second only to the State of Florida. 150 Heath Street is still a luxury building, even by today’s standards, however; in order to compete in today’s marketplace 150 Heath Street needs to “keep up with the Jones’”.
The building still has all its original amenities, but it still has all its original finishes as well. This is where our refurbishment story begins. The Board recognized that the building needed a facelift in order to maintain market value. Though the building was immaculately kept and the finishes well maintained, the finish style was out of date. The Board understood that a refurbishment was more than replacing the architectural finishes. A refurbishment was an investment in the Corporation and a good investment always pays dividends, and in this case the pay off is realized through increased real estate values. When a refurbishment project is approached in the right manner the outcome is certain and immediate. Teaming up with a good designer and a good contractor makes or breaks a project. The process to find the right mix is long and arduous, but a worth while exercise never the less.
The Board interviewed a number of design firms and contracted Paul Maggiacomo of Tanner Hill Associates to complete the design process. Tanner Hill Associates is one of Toronto’s pre-eminent condominium design firms. They specialize in new condominium design as well as refurbishment projects. Paul collaborated with the Board to develop a number of design plans that worked with the buildings existing features while modernizing the buildings identity. This approach was important to the Board as they wanted to retain the existing feeling of the building while modernizing the finishes. The final design was a complete success. Paul was able to successfully merge the existing styles using new materials and modern design to develop a completely new look for the building. Paul introduced hard surface flooring in all the typical residential corridor elevator lobbies to deal with wear issues on the carpet. He used 24” x 24” porcelain tiles that perfectly mimicked natural limestone and bordered them with granite for a sophisticated look. By using the porcelain replica tiles the Corporation saved on the long term maintenance costs associated with natural stone. The existing carpet was made of wool and held up amazingly well for its age. Paul continued with the use of wool, but chose to develop a completely new carpet design using a printed wool carpet from Design Origins. Printed carpet provides more design freedom and the ability to custom colour the carpet. One of the major issues Paul had to deal with was the upgrading of the corridor and lobby lighting. The existing lighting was original and still used incandescent bulbs. This was one area where immediate energy savings could be obtained with a short payback period. These are but a few of the design ideas Paul brought to the Board. Once the process was complete, and signed off at the Board level, Paul presented the final design to the residents through a town hall style meeting. Paul has great success with this approach as residents are able to review the design with Paul while asking questions related to the design. Once the process was complete, the details were finalized and the project tendered. The tender was won by CPL condominium design interiors, a mid size boutique contracting firm who specializes in condominium refurbishment projects.
Richard Lyons, President of CPL condominium design interiors, began the process by meeting with both the Property Manager and Paul Maggiacomo of Tanner Hill Associates to review the tender package and the scope of work. Once everything was complete, and the contracts signed, the project was underway.
This article originally appeared in Condo Business magazine.
You can also view a PDF version of this article.
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Condo Business magazine.
A condominium high-rise suite’s equity is directly tied to how the common elements are managed and maintained. Lobbies, corridors, amenity spaces and exterior ground all influence the real-estate value of a suite. So, it is important to invest in each of these areas in order to maintain the equity of the suite. With ever increasing competition from an abundance of new builds, maintaining ‘curb appeal’ is paramount.
Real estate agents know the importance of ‘curb appeal’. Invariably, their first suggestions, before listing a house, focus on the front entrance—moving plants, repainting, fixing steps—and inside the doorway, ensuring the space is inviting. That first impression is just as important in a condominium high-rise. For high-rise suite owners, their suite door is the secondary entrance; the lobby is where guests and potential purchasers will form their first impression.
If tiles aren’t cracked, or wall coverings aren’t damaged, sometimes updating a lobby is not at the top of the priority list for a Board of Directors. But over time, the once welcoming entrance, now stale and outdated, becomes nothing more than flow through space that says “we’re too busy to worry about this now”.
This was the case at YRCC 591 (5 Weldrick Road, Richmond Hill). The lobby had gone well beyond its ‘best before’ date. Though the lobby was still fully functional, the furniture still in good shape and the colours weren’t offensive, there was a tiredness about the space. Everyone just walked through the space, there was no sense of community, no lift to spirits or to selling prices.
With potential buyers in mind, owners hope that their lobby is inviting, chock full of the ‘wow’ factor to keep a buyer’s interest peaked even before seeing the suite. Owners want to impress and garner compliments rather than explain away dreary colours and fading fashions. If the lobby isn’t presenting an inviting first impression, then it might be time to rethink the look.
When the Board of Directors at YRCC 591 brought in Trevor Kruse, from Hudson Kruse Design, to present a new look, they knew the time had come. Owners and residents alike agreed a change was needed. Trevor knew they were demanding something dramatic and unique.
Everyone may want a new image, but how easy is it to renovate a lobby while residents continue to move through the space? New builds have an easier time implementing complex design features without the extra concerns of public access. For a short time residents may feel like they are living in a construction zone, but addressing an older building’s features to update amenities and attract potential investment means owners, residents, and management must accommodate these inconveniences. When asked how difficult it was to get residents and owners on side for the project, Trevor Kruse happily reflected on his experience at YRCC 591, “There wasn’t any resistance.” Kruse noted that the lobby had become so outdated the community was eager to update it. “When a refurbishment is started so long after it should have been, it is easy to make improvements.”
But design is not a stand-alone issue when contemplating major changes; an important question on manager’s and owner’s minds, “What is the rate of return on investment?”
As talk of a “condo bubble” heats up and as the condominium inventory in Toronto continues to rise, older buildings need to stay current to better situate themselves in the event of a bubble burst. As CMHC statistics for April were announced—housing starts are up 14 percent—concerns that the market is headed toward a major correction are running rampant throughout the industry. The impact could well be felt most acutely in the older condominium market as builders lower prices on the abundance of new units and overall real estate values drop.
When shopping for a new condominium, buyers take appearance into account. It’s human nature. Older buildings in themselves attract many buyers due to the unit size as they are on average larger in square footage however; the hallways are typically dated and tired causing many buyers to rethink where they wanted to live. In Toronto, the largest condominium market in North America, competition is fierce. Older buildings are at a disadvantage, having to compete against new buildings that have more modern amenities and utilize modern technologies. A newly refurbished building will have more appeal than an older building and puts the updated building in the same category as new builds.
In October 2011, CPL condominium design interiors completed a major residential corridor/common elements refurbishment project at PCC 110 (1535 Lakeshore Road East, Mississauga). Shelley Porritt, a real estate agent in Toronto with over 15 years experience in the condominium market, remarks, “By refurbishing the building, typically we see an increase in sales, and renovated units sell quicker when the building reflects the updates and renovations of the interior unit.” Directly after the renovation project, owners selling their suites saw an immediate 3% value increase, even before the active ‘spring’ season.
Good design ensures that the corporation receives the best advice on what to do and how to do it. Partnered with good design is strong execution. If the design is not implemented properly, its return on investment will be compromised. Good design creates demand and demand translates into increased property values and the more values increase the more equity created.
When a Board of Directors is planning for a refurbishment project, it is important to remember that it isn’t all about the new design trends or the hip colours, though they play an important role. Good design should incorporate long term maintenance concerns, energy conservation and material utilization (sustainability), along with new technologies that can save the corporation on maintenance and overhead expenditures immediately and into the future.
Too often design is compromised without understanding how it impacts the return on investment. Investing in new technologies, which will remain with the corporation for the next 12-15 years, if not longer, will have a direct impact on how the building is perceived within the real-estate community. Smart corporations can now market their community to perspective buyers as not only new but progressive, ultimately affecting demand for suites and increasing their selling price.
A re-design and refurbishment not only refreshes the architectural finishes within the building but also is an investment into the community which has very real and measurable returns!
Cathy Doherty is a member of CPL condominium design interiors: a refurbishment and painting firm based in Oakville, serving the GTA and Golden Horseshoe condominium marketplace for over 20 years. For more information and to view a showcase of projects, visit www.cpldesigninteriors.com.
Read this article as it originally appeared in Condo Business magazine: Situated to Survive the Bubble
Thank-you David Glendenning of Wilson Blanchard for this great reference letter regarding the condominium refurbishment project at Halton Condominium Corporation 371 in Burlington.
Click the image at left for a larger version.
Often a board of directors and property manager find the process of refurbishing common areas of a condominium to be onerous and divisive. The process starts in much the same way in almost every condominium community, with a collective desire within the community to update the decor. But like all homeowners, condominium owners come with a variety of reasons to pursue this change. Whether it is to replace worn and damaged materials, upgrade and update out of a style decor or improve the investment value of their home in a competitive real estate market, condominium owners usually agree on one thing – it is time. It is the job of the board and property manager to manage, direct and refine these desires.
A key component in managing a refurbishment project is communication. Communication helps to keep owners informed of the changes taking place in their community. No owner has every complained that there has been too much information on a project’s development. Updates in the community’s regular newsletter or a similar communication solely dedicated to the project are highly recommended. Each milestone should be fully disclosed and explained so that rumour does not become the overarching method of communication. When the time is right, owners will be eager to voice their opinion.
To be a successful refurbishment project, both the board and property manager must, in some way, engage the input of the owners. This collaborative process helps to avoid marginalizing those owners genuinely interested in the outcome of the project.
The owner engagement process often starts with a design committee. Made up of owners who express an interest in helping direct the design, this first step will help the board avoid any criticism that decisions are being made in a vacuum. Property managers and boards know that everyone has an opinion, but not everyone can dedicate the time it takes to see a refurbishment project through its development. In some communities there is an abundance of interest, in which case the board must find a way to narrow down the numbers, while in other communities only a few parties step forward to help in the design process.
The design committee’s mandate is to pick design options that will satisfy the majority of the owners. One hundred percent agreement is virtually impossible. It becomes a delicate balance to strike, finding a style that most owners don’t find offensive or better yet, like. To negotiate this balance, an experienced condominium designer’s services should be engaged. This may be in conjunction with a design/build firm or independent of the contractor. To expect the design committee to choose between all manner of carpet, tiles, wall covering and lighting fixtures, and then choose a colour scheme to compliment the community is not only unreasonable but invites unnecessary criticism. With a professional designer, critical owners will not be able to blame their neighbors for their lack of “good taste”. Professional design allows for a greater breadth of product knowledge, improved aesthetics and generally a better overall experience for the condominium community.
The designer will audit all existing finished and consider the building demographics before refining the design direction. Oftern, a surver will be used to poll the owners’ impression of the overall existing design, commenting on specifics such as the lighting, design styles, and element conditions. Again, this tool allows interested parties to have an input in the process. The design committee needs to be able to listen to the many voices and opinions and consider options which may be contrary to their own ideas.
Along with design, another concern to address is ‘green’ initiatives. As responsible consumers, most owners want to ensure that they are taking the environment into consideration. The refurbishment process generates a substantial amount of waste which can be diverted from landfill, if properly managed. Green initiatives, based on the concept of waste diversion and the introduction of sustainable building materials, can still be cost effective. By addressing these concerns in advance, residents who feel strongly about the condominium corporation’s environmental footprint will appreciate the efforts that have been taken.
As the design process draws to a close, an important step in the owner engagement process is to allow for a voting process to take place. In some cases, a town hall format works: where the designer presents two options to the ownership for questions. In other situations, the two design options are left for viewing (actual mock-ups or a collection of sample materials). Both approaches include a voting mechanism to ensure the final design is the one that most owners have had the opportunity to become familiar with and are happy with.
It is not necessary to employ all of the above engagement tactics, however, by doing so may alleviate the divisive nature of decor decisions. Design should inspire, motivate and capture the attention of not only the residents, but potential residents as well. Refurbishment has obvious aesthetic and return on investment benefits, but it makes no sense to invest time and money without maximizing owner engagement from the beginning.
By Richard Lyons
There comes a time in the life of a high-rise condominium, when the corridors become run down and need replacement from all the wear and tear over the years. When it comes time to refurbish your condominium’s corridors, the first decision that will likely be made is one regarding new carpeting and flooring. Eventually, the necessity of new carpet can no longer be ignored. The challenge is determining what the most suitable replacement product is. There are a multitude of factors that go into researching solutions that are going to compliment the interior details and finishes, provide long-term durability and ultimately enhance building values.
Due to sheer volume, the purchase of corridor carpet is costly, and for this reason, it deserves particular attention. Some research and thought should go into the selection of the ideal carpet product. Your design professional will be able to assist in this process and ensure that the most suitable product is ultimately purchased, within the allotted budget. Cost, though it is a consistent contributing factor, should never be the only reason for making the carpet selection. Many condominium boards in the past have regretted their decision to install the least expensive product because of its poorer than expected performance over time.
Whether the interior concept of the condominium is traditional, transitional or contemporary the options for material are virtually endless. The choices for patterned carpet is generally between either nylon tufted or printed in the market today. Between the two types there are seemingly endless varieties of colour, pattern and texture. Both types have been specifically engineered for public area condominium use, making them more durable and reliable than normal residential carpet. The decision between the two products generally comes down to overall aesthetic principles and minimum yardages. Often, manufacturers will set minimum requirements for custom products. This is something that should be kept in mind during the decision process.
Printed carpet is virtually unlimited when it comes to range of colour and pattern. It provides a wide array of options, such as developing the manufacturer’s standard pattern to be coloured specifically to a building, or, alternatively, a completely original carpet can be created. Variations are often available when it comes to surface textures, ounce weights, production widths and base construction. It is important to consider all of these things when contemplating the installation of a print carpet.
Tufted carpet, although not offering the same assortment of colour options, the patterns can be equally as extensive as printed carpet. Similarly to print, various standard patterns are available that can be custom coloured. Custom capabilities, offered by manufacturers, when it comes to patterns are only limited by the production process.
Maintenance of the carpet is just as important as visual appeal. Operational requirements vary from building to building and, in most cases, depend heavily on the demographics of the property. Based on specific needs, base construction, yarn systems and ounce weights should be specified accordingly. For example, increased stain resistance or a moisture barrier may be desired by pet friendly properties, or a corridor with heavier traffic may make fibre locking products or those with higher ounce weights a necessity. These are technical issues that will need to be considered in conjunction with aesthetics.
For more information and to view a showcase of projects, visit www.cplgroup.ca.