The Markham Centre development runs from Highway 407 in the south to Highway 7 in the north, and from the west side of Warden Avenue as far east to Kennedy Road.
The Remington Group Inc. is the largest of several Markham Centre developers. Its 243-acre development includes a central retail core with shopping and entertainment at ground level, and opens onto a central piazza with offices and apartments. Says Rudy Bratty, Remington chairman and CEO: “This is a unique development built from the ground up to integrate with, rather than build over, the natural environment. Residents will be able to live, work and play in an economically vibrant community that emphasizes sustainable development.”
Some of the major contractors working with Remington are: Mason Song Associates Engineering Ltd. as lead civil engineering consultant, Young + Wright Architects Inc. for overall work planners, Forrec Ltd as landscape architects, Bousfields Inc. as planners and Quadrangle Architects Limited for site-specific work.
When developers approach the Town of Markham with a project, they must appear before the Markham Centre Advisory Committee and show that they share the municipality’s vision for development in the 21st century. The committee scores the project according to a Performance Measures Document that deals with everything from green infrastructure to transportation to the architecture and design of buildings. In 2003, the Performance Measures Document received an award of excellence from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
When it comes to energy, Markham District Energy Inc. is the town’s own energy company, with a mandate to heat and cool buildings for Markham Centre. Through Markham District Energy, electricity is produced for the local distribution grid at a cogeneration plant. Thermal energy is recovered from the generator and used to heat and cool buildings; hot and chilled water is distributed to homes and buildings through an underground network of piping, the piping that went in at the beginning when those roads were built.
District energy can reduce local emissions by 50 per cent and provide operating advantages for host buildings connected to the system, such as IBM Canada Ltd.’s software research laboratory and the Markham YMCA Rudy Bratty Centre. With district energy, the system’s plants are built around the perimeter of the development.
Residential developers reap the benefits of Markham District Energy, too. Circa, a new luxury condominium complex developed by Tridel and Dorsay Development Corp., was the first residential building in the system and the first in Canada to be EcoLogo-certified for heating and cooling provided by a district energy system. With such certification, the project gets Environment Canada’s stamp of approval as a leader in delivering energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.
Phase one of Circa is complete and it is anticipated that the 16-storey phase two will begin this year. Circa is the work of Turner Fleischer Architects Inc., mechanical electrical consulting engineering firm TeGi Engineering Inc., MBTW Group landscape architects and Mike Niven Interior Design Inc.
The development’s 778 condominium units are all connected to the district energy system. Using the concept of district energy, the developers of Circa didn’t have to install any boilers and chillers, and each condominium unit has individual heating and cooling controls.
“The biggest benefit is that you have zero emissions from your residential building,” said James Ritchie, Tridel senior vice-president. “It also provides reliable heating and cooling even during blackouts. And since you don’t have to put in any chillers or boilers, you free up valuable real estate in the building.”
Liberty Development Corporation was the next residential developer to buy in. Construction of Phase I of its development began last fall and the project, which is nearing completion, will involve two office towers and four residential buildings with 600 units, all connected to Markham District Energy.
Nowhere in North America has district energy been undertaken with a greenfield development to such a scale as it has in Markham.
“District energy makes a lot of sense for residential developers,” says Bruce Ander, president of Markham District Energy. “The system is cost competitive, reliable, and environmentally sound, and you can defer capital so it’s a good package for developers. Markham Centre was essentially a big 1,000-acre field. There were no roads, no infrastructure, nothing. District energy was linked at the hip with the urban planning process from the very beginning.”
Energy aside, Markham Centre also involves LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified developments, meaning the development meets specific environmental standards. The town is promoting ‘green roof’ technology, too. Green roofs are complex growing systems on the rooftops of buildings which incorporate irrigation and drainage systems, high-quality waterproofing and root-repellant membranes. A green roof has been installed on top of the recreational centre of the Circa building and more are planned. Environmental benefits of green roofs include reduced storm run-off, better heat and sound insulation, improved air quality, reduced ambient heat and better aesthetics.
It all follows the Markham Centre Master Plan that sustains a natural heritage system and promotes a pattern of mixed land use and transit-oriented development to reduce dependency on cars. Its guiding principles are:
- Ecological sustainability.
- A sense of place.
- Protecting the Rouge River Valley lands.
- Enhancing pedestrian activity.
- Encouraging public transit.
- Transforming Highway 7 into an urban boulevard.
- Well-managed traffic and parking.
- New financial framework to build and sustain a high-quality, public environment.
- Providing a cultural and social focus.
- An effective network of streets.
- Respect for quality of life of existing and future residents.
Abiding by these principles is making Markham a municipality that is more than just talking about going green. It’s doing it.