What does smart really mean in the context of building the ‘smart’ cities of the future in Canada? If you ask Paul Dowsett, co-founder of Sustainable.TO Architects, the answer is simple… literally.

At the RSI (Rethink Sustainability Initiatives) 2018 Leadership Summit in Toronto, Dowsett was part of a discussion looking at how new thinking can build smarter, greener, more connected communities. And for Dowsett, it starts with the understanding that ‘simple’ is the new ‘smart’.

In his presentation, he stressed the need to ensure that buildings constructed today need to be able to sustain the catastrophic weather events that are becoming more frequent due to the changing climate. And doing so means taking a more simplistic approach to the design: the right amount of the right material in the right place.

Building simple also means factoring in passive technologies, working with nature instead of working to combat it, as has been the traditional approach in years past. This includes incorporating windows and natural assets in a way that will provide a net positive benefit on the household, keeping buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

In the construction of the building itself, Dowsett points to three key factors to building a simple home: airtight, insulate, ventilate. Building with these three factors in mind allows heating and cooling mechanisms to enter the building, stay in the building, circulate through the building, and leave the building in an energy efficient manner.

Transit Impacts

Being smart about building in the wake of the changing climate also applies to transit systems, something that Metrolinx has identified and is working on a system to address this.

Dr. Quentin Chiotti, who is a senior advisor on sustainability for regional planning at policy at Metrolinx, discussed how the organization has to develop a new strategy in the wake of differing severe weather events that caused significant disruptions to the network in four consecutive years from 2013 to 2016. And according to weather modeling widely done, the days of intense heat and cold, as well as quick bursts of significant precipitation, are only going to increase.

In recognition of the uptick in severe weather events, Metrolinx will soon release a Climate Adaptation Strategy. The new strategy will provide over 40 key actions to build climate resilience into the Metrolinx network throughout the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area.

Building simple, working with nature, and preparing built infrastructure for the new climate realities are all key action items that will result in the smart development needed for our future cities.

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