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Ontario’s first sustainable net-zero community shaping up in London

Patricia Williams
Ontario’s first sustainable net-zero community shaping up in London
LISA LOGAN PHOTOGRAPHY — The Sifton Centre is the first commercial building to be constructed at the West 5 development in London, Ont. Designed by Toronto’s Diamond Schmitt Architects, the centre is home to Sifton Properties’ corporate offices. West 5 is reportedly the province’s inaugural net-zero community.

Sifton Properties Ltd. of London, Ont. has embarked on an ambitious 10-year project to build what is believed to be the province’s first sustainable, net-zero community.

Three years in the making, the 70-acre West 5 development will encompass 2,000 apartments, condominiums and townhouses along with 400,000 square feet of commercial space and a 1.6-acre park.

Located in west London, the community is being designed and built using SMART and net-zero technologies. The development will ultimately generate all of the electricity that it uses.

“Sifton has always been proactive in bringing new building techniques and designs to southwestern Ontario,” says president and CEO Richard Sifton. “We like doing things that are out of the box.”

The inaugural building is the Sifton Centre, home of Sifton Properties’ corporate office. The 60,000-square-foot building was designed by Diamond Schmitt Architects and constructed by D. Grant & Sons Ltd.

The building houses both office and retail space.

It incorporates a number of technologies including a solar rooftop and facade; automated lighting, heating and cooling based on occupancy sensors, level of sunlight and solar gain; dynamic glass windows that automatically tint and adjust to sunlight; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and a green roof.

Sifton Properties said the centre generates sufficient electricity to power 14 houses for a year. It also houses a 24,000-litre rainwater cistern that can flush toilets within the building more than 6,000 times with no draw on city water.

“It’s thinking about how you build a better mousetrap and working from that,” said Sifton, who joined the family-owned company in 1989 and has been president and CEO for the past 12 years.

Construction is currently underway on 87 townhouse units.

In the coming months, construction is slated to start on a 10-storey apartment building also designed by Diamond Schmitt, a 41,000-square-foot office building, designed by Tillmann Ruth Robinson Architects, and by year’s end, a seniors apartment building designed by Cornerstone Architecture.

A 4,000-square-foot pet services building is scheduled to open in April.

“There is no moss (growing) around here,” Sifton joked.

Down the road, a solar parkade will be constructed to service the Sifton Centre, the adjacent office building and the pet services facility.

Sifton has retained EllisDon as construction manager on the upcoming apartment building. D. Grant & Sons is the construction manager on the new office building.

In undertaking the development, Sifton Properties has been working with the City of London, London Hydro and s2e Technologies, a firm that specializes in the creation and delivery of large-scale environmentally sustainable solutions and SMART communities.

Late last year, Sifton and s2e won a 2017 Smart Energy Communities Award from Quest (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow) in the real estate sector for West 5.

Sifton said executing a net-zero development of this magnitude has been a learning experience for all involved — from local building officials and regulatory agencies to the design professionals themselves.

“There aren’t that many architects or engineers with experience designing net-zero buildings,” he said. “So, we are ahead of the curve. Consequently, we spent a lot more time designing the Sifton Centre than we would have otherwise.”

In some cases, Sifton said, local trades had to be brought up to speed on proper installation techniques for such items as the solar facades on the Sifton Centre.

Keeping abreast of rapidly evolving technologies is an ongoing challenge, Sifton said.

“Things are changing so fast that you can’t rely on what you knew a year ago. You have to continually update,” he explained.

West 5 was formally unveiled at a trade show in London in late January 2015.

Established in London in 1923, Sifton Properties is a diversified land development and property management company.

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