May 16, 2005

Work starts on Canada's first LEED-certified church

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in Toronto last week for what will become Canada's first house of worship to be certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) rating system as a leader in energy and environmental design. The new St Gabriel's church, when completed in about 15 months, will not only beautify the neighbourhood, it will conserve energy and improve air quality through a series of ecological innovations.

LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a volunteer organization that brings together public- and private-sector leaders to promote high-performance sustainable buildings. No other Canadian church has yet earned such distinction. To help finance the project, the Church sold most of the land on its 7.5-acre site to developer Shane Baghai, who plans to build townhouses and condominiums which will also incorporate ecologically friendly technology.

The new St Gabriel's will appear to grow out of the surrounding landscape, with a south-facing solar glass wall which will harness the energy of the winter sun and create a visual bridge connecting worshippers inside with a vibrant outdoor garden. To preserve the residential ambience of the surrounding neighbourhood, most of the parking spaces for worshippers will be underground. Inside, the church will be divided into two main areas: a gathering space just inside the main doors, and the worship space, where masses will be celebrated.

The gathering space will feature a "living wall," draped in foliage over which a thin layer of water will constantly flow. The living wall is designed to improve the quality of incoming air and purify the air when a congregation is using the gathering space, the worship space, or both.

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