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The future of Toronto building is up and over

There’s a potential downside to the Green Belt strategy that has worked so well in preventing suburban sprawl and maintaining some natural landscape with easy reach of Canada’s biggest city. The more intense the building gets, the more expensive it is to build, to run a business and to live.

We’ve already seen the price of detached homes shoot up to near Vancouveresque levels.

But that, says Barry Charnish, is where the engineers come in.

“We’re running out of land,” he says. “And now that the heyday of condos is going away, the sites are getting more difficult.”

Charnish is founding principal of Entuitive, the engineering firm specializing in large-scale commercial, industrial and residential building that’s behind some of the more innovative approaches to increasingly constructed development needs, including Brookfield's Manhattan West complex over Penn Station in New York, and Garrison Point here in Toronto.

Garrison Point is a development in a triangular plot of land between the Milton rail line and the Lakeshore rail line just west of Liberty Village, and to Charnish, it represents what is going to be an increasingly common development challenge as land in cities like Toronto increase in both density and price, requiring infrastructure, like trains, subways and streetcars, to be incorporated into future complexes.

“Our problem at Garrison is on a couple of levels,” he says. “There’s the noise mitigation and vibration mitigation associated with the rail facilities. There’s also the issue of building it in the context of the existing construction that’s going on with the Strachan Street reconstruction, where they’re dropping the Milton Line down and building a residential building economically so that the client can sell at a reasonable price and make a reasonable profit. On Garrison, we’re faced with improving the quality of the windows, having building structure between the train tracks and the residential component and expansion joints so that there’s some mitigation of the noise.”

According tio Charnish, as land gets more scarce, and more complicated structures become the norm, engineers will increasingly be taking their place beside the architects as the major players in how buildings are designed.

Charnish cites 33 Bloor Street East as another, earlier example of the issue, where Entuitive had to install 10-foot deep transfer girders to support the building on top of the Yonge-Bloor subway station. Ordinarily, that would have been done with underground support, but because of the subway, and parking requirements, the building ended up being a good deal more complicated than it appears from the outside.

Germany’s been in the news recently with their plans to erect parkland over parts of the Autobahn, and Charnish sees the day in the not-too-distant future when major Canadian thoroughfares, like Decarie Boulevard in Montreal, will have to be built over, not with parkland, but with buildings.

The next big challenge in Toronto, he figures, is the southwest corner of Yonge and Eglinton, with its TTC hub, which will ultimately require large spans to be built into the buildings that will no doubt be doing up in conjunction with the new LRT line. Charnish also says he wouldn’t be surprised is the entire corridor between the CNE and Sherbourne were built up along the same lines. “That’s pretty prime land,” he says.

Writer: Bert Archer
Source: Barry Charnish
Photos: Courtesy of Hariri Pontarini Architects and CityzenDominus

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