Typically, construction isn’t associated with organic ecosystems or the preservation of nature. But change is on the horizon.

The City of Toronto’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy sees the city bringing its emissions to net zero by 2040. But even sooner than that, a mandated shift under the strategy requires the construction of all new buildings with near-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – that’s a short seven years, in the world of construction.  

The mandate is backed by receipts; recent data released about the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) showed buildings are responsible for more emissions than any other industry – including transportation and agriculture – at 44% of the area’s total. 

In the development realm, emissions come from many angles: the materials used throughout construction, the building process itself, and the continued operation of buildings after completion. With so many elements at play, there’s no one way forward – rather, a series of industry-wide fixes will be required to bring forth long-term change.

As with any innovative advancement, implementation won’t be easy. But Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon is already stepping up to the plate. 

READ: Toronto’s Net-Zero Building Goals Call for Innovative Construction

For decades, EllisDon has been shaping Canadian real estate, and the company recently branched into the development sector. Over the years, EllisDon has made notable contributions to a greener construction future through innovative building practices and patent-pending materials. And further, the company is making waves when it comes to supporting and reviving local ecology – something well outside this industry’s norm. 

After being contracted by Waterfront Toronto to carry out the Port Lands Flood Protection Project, EllisDon is using every innovative, sustainable technique at their disposal to bring life back to the heavily contaminated east-end waterfront.

Tasked with providing flood protection for the pocket of Toronto stretching between Eastern Avenue and Queen Street, Woodbine Avenue and the Shipping Channel, and Lake Ontario, the project requires EllisDon to create a new mouth for the Don River – already, no small feat. Add to this the responsibility of naturalizing the surrounding areas with wetlands, meadows, and forested slopes, plus new parks and trails, and spectators can begin to imagine the care and attention a project of this scope would require. 

Soil, for example, isn’t merely hauled to a given site. Instead, it’s meticulously remediated with advanced cleaning systems, and several layers of high-tech barriers are put in place to prevent any potential re-contamination. 

Everything from where rocks are placed in a new fish habitat, to where each one of thousands of new trees will be planted, is precisely tracked by GPS. The water that goes through a powerful filtration system before being pumped back out into the lake is "about as close to bottled as you can get," says EllisDon Communications Director Cameron Coleman. 

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In fact, Coleman, who has worked on the Port Lands project for 5 years, says that they've been so successful in their environmental restoration that nature has come bouncing back much quicker than expected. Geese and ducks have flocked to the site, and the once heavily polluted water has now attracted new species of fish not seen there previously.

READ: GTA-Based Construction Company Makes Major Strides with Mass Timber

While EllisDon has made strides in sustainable construction, collaboration is required across the industry if Toronto is going to meet its net-zero emission targets. They point to movements like the Buy Clean Alliance, of which EllisDon is a signatory, that are helping to push the need for emissions reductions in steel, cement, aluminum, and wood.

If more industry players, big or small, join in on the movement -- and soon -- the building sector will be in a much better position to reach its goals.

This article is part of an ongoing series on sustainable building practices. To read more in this series, click here and here. Happy Earth Month!

Cover Image: Port Lands via ATGImages/Shutterstock

This article was produced in partnership with STOREYS Custom Studio.

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