Living in Ontario, I have seen the manufacturing sector die. I have been watching: the results of “smart business decisions” decay Canadas economy, “smart political decisions” supporting the “free market” schemes cooked up in the Chicago schools ,the decreased standard of living for most Canadian families, the failure to invest and innovate using Canadian technology. Canadas revenues from taxes is down year after year. Privatization and more dependency on the private sector for a better Canada? How are things going so far?

The “next quarter” philosophy of economics is short sighted and needs to be questioned, but, its results are evident already. The markets have evolved to maximize operations for profit using the least investment. That is the sizzle in free markets. The economy is optimized according the laws they operate under and ROI ( return on investment ) plays an important role in accessing loans ( and grants ). The result: most companies ( and governments ) do not own the building the operate from.

Wow, where was I? Okay. So what concerns me is “Green money” or “Green economics” and greenwashing.

One example of “Green Economics” is the idea that companies become more “sustainable”. Some companies have adopted the notion that relocation to a “Green Building” is part of that effort. Selling this idea, relocation to a “Green Building” means: lower energy consumption, “eco-friendly” materials, government incentives, credibility of “green” operations, and the almighty marketing potential.

Sounds valiant and the right thing to do. Is it? From my observations, many industrial parks are becoming vacant. Developers tend to prefer new land ( especially flat farmland ) since development cost does not include demolition expenses. I have seen some larger facilities ( primarily those with high recyclable value: manufacturing type real estate ) razed for new “Green Building” space ( some being Big Box retailers ). Those that I have seen are rich in structural steel and machine systems ( mostly steel, copper, aluminum ). Don't misunderstand, recycling metals is a must.

The big picture here is the entire process ( of having a good place for companies to work in ). We build new buildings and leave old buildings for the market to transform ( raze or repurpose ). It is wasteful compared to repurposing buildings. People seem to forget how consumptive this is. Concrete production is responsible for ~10% of global emissions. When you think of humans and consuming, it makes sense. Look around, what do you see? Concrete folks. So when a new “Green Building” is going up, think of the emissions. Not only the emissions from making new concrete, but the emissions generated by each new item that building will contain ( green product or not ). Materials such as: glass, aluminum, steel, stone, copper, wood, cotton, paint, and the biggie:plastic.

Repurposing a building has environmental impacts as well. But, if we save the bones of a building ( and in some cases modifying them ), new standards of LEED can be utilized to repurpose. The benefit of repurposing is also a wise choice since existing infrastructure is conserved ( electrical grid connections, water mains and roads do not need to be constructed to service the new “Green Building”).

On this note, I would prefer Canada only provide “Green Money” to development projects that encompass this repurposing paradigm. Corporations that change buildings every few years for marketing image and lower tax regimes is having a destructive impact on our cities, our remaining greenspaces and most importantly, Canada farmlands.

I think it is time to have government regulate development that is scientifically-demonstrated as environmentally responsible.


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