Located just West of the downtown business district, Block 31 is home to thousands of Torontonians who now have access to two schools, a community center, and childcare center that is powered in part by clean energy. Part of a holistic sustainable development plan, the municipal buildings feature a green roof and other energy efficient construction elements in addition to solar rooftop panels.
At Polar Racking, we are proud to play a role in creating sustainable living in downtown Toronto. We supplied flush mount racking (PRR) to support 231 modules on the side of the building facing the Gardiner highway, and ballasted flat roof racking (PR2) to support 369 modules on the top of the roof. The advantage of working with Polar Racking is that our solution requires fewer ballast blocks and therefore has significantly less weight impact on this brand-new school roof. The modular design allowed us to adapt to changing conditions as they constructed the buildings by adjusting the layout and not lose any energy production capacity.
What makes us proud is that the rooftop solar racking on the municipal buildings in Block 31 is creating long-term value for the community, while reducing energy costs for decades to come and serving as an example of how to build neighborhoods in the future.
In the past few years, California mandated that all new buildings are required to be built with solar panels. New York City quickly followed suit in 2019 with Local Law 92 and Local Law 94, requiring solar, a green roof, or a combination of the two for all new buildings and existing buildings undergoing major roof renovations. While laws drive these initiatives forward, there is much to be said for leader communities such as Toronto, which take on change without the legislative requirements.
As sustainable development becomes more normalized in all regions of the world, initiatives like Block 31 can serve as a model for other municipalities. The secondary knock-on effect of installing rooftop solar racking on these municipal buildings is both educational and promotional. In a high-traffic metropolis like Toronto, the panels are a visible reminder of sustainable development that is functional and cost-effective – and normal.
Block 31 green initiatives are also a ‘teachable moment’ for the many students and young people who will be involved with this community center. Educating the young users of the space will help promote the importance of both renewable energy and community-based programs around the city. And perhaps one day, they will be able to take such programs as a given standard for all buildings in Canada.
What is Block 31?
In the mid-1990s, the Canadian National Railways (CN) gave three City blocks to the City of Toronto (blocks 31, 32, and 36). The purpose of this was to provide more space for community infrastructure in the area.
Blocks 31 and 26 are highly connected and were designed to support the needs of Torontonians living in the area with centralized community services. The City of Toronto built affordable housing and the Fort York Library in Block 26. Through a collaboration with the TDSB and the Toronto Catholic school board among others, the city designated Block 31 as the area for schools, community centers, and childcare centers.
The project goals of Block 31 include:
- Providing community facilities for nearby residents
- Creating a community hub in a high-density neighborhood
- Connecting new facilities with Canoe Landing Park
- Providing spaces for community-run events
Sustainability could be added to those goals as many buildings feature a diverse array of energy efficient elements and clean energy that will serve the community for years to come.
Integrating renewable energy into public buildings will not only help reduce expensive municipal operating costs that would otherwise be coming out of the pockets of taxpayers, but it will also help Canada reach their climate goals and become a leader in green energy.
The next time you are on the Gardiner Expressway remember to glance over at the neighborhood just west of Spadina Street. Polar Racking’s rooftop solar racking is clearly visible from the road, alongside the green roof, the park, and garden surrounding the buildings. It is a beautiful, safe space to build a community.
If you are looking to install rooftop solar on your municipal building, contact Polar Racking at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer free consultations to ensure that your project turns out just the way you want it – at the right price.