Posts Tagged ‘towers’

New York’s “greenest” skyscaper is actually its biggest energy hog: New Republic

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Energy hog tower, despite LEED certification

Must read: Bank of America’s Toxic Tower: New York’s “greenest” skyscaper is actually its biggest energy hog in New Republic.

“According to data released by New York City last fall, the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York—and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change.”

“LEED has helped create a market for sustainability where one didn’t exist before. The problem is that real-estate developers have been able to game the system, racking up points for relatively minor measures. A USA Today series last October found developers accruing points simply by posting educational displays throughout a building and installing bike racks—and avoiding measures that might be more costly and effective.”

““What LEED designers deliver is what most LEED building owners want—namely, green publicity, not energy savings,” John Scofield, a professor of physics at Oberlin, testified before the House last year.”

See also The End of the Age of Tall Buildings.


Condo marketing company’s own employees posing as buyers from China to drive condo sales; busted by blog

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Mac Marketing poses own employees as condo buyers with backing of parents from China

UPDATE: this is getting better and better. Parody twitter of Vancouver’s condo-boosting blog, Vancouver is Awesome. And this expose in Business in Vancouver magazine, one of the few press outlets that doesn’t take advertising dollars from the developers who dominate this town. BIV also ran this follow-up story on the Vancouver Is Awesome blog/Bob Rennie/condo marketing relationship. Thanks to Glen Korstrom and Bob Mackin for those stories. Here’s a Storify of some of the Twitter fracas that ensued.

Here’s the story. It’s the case of a condo marketing company, MAC Marketing, posing two of its own employees – who are not even actually sisters – as sisters scouting for condos before their parents arrive from abroad carrying wallets. The photo above is a screenshot from a CTV news broadcast. This little bit of fraudulent theatre is a bald-faced attempt to drive speculation in the condo market, which is currently in an unprecedented slump, in the hope that it will start up again. Obviously the danger is that local buyers will pay far too much for starter condos if they believe the hype that money from abroad will reignite the still-inflated yet stagnant Vancouver real estate market. This story is reprinted from the Globe and Mail, in response to the blog that originally broke the story. Read on:

“A Vancouver real estate marketing company is apologizing for having two employees pose as prospective homebuyers in televised news segments on a supposed spike in sales around the Lunar New Year.

The two young women – presented as house-hunting sisters, whose parents would be in town from China for the New Year to help them purchase a condo – are in fact an administrative assistant and a sales assistant with MAC Marketing Solutions, president Cameron McNeill confirmed to The Globe and Mail.

“All I can say is that I deeply apologize for having misled the media for being there,” said Mr. McNeill, who said he was out of town over the Family Day long weekend when the news segments aired on local stations, including CTV and CBC. “We were busy and I don’t know if the girls were put up to it, or just put on the spot, or if it happened spontaneously. Regardless, it was wrong and I take full responsibility, on my own shoulders.”

The news segments were on the supposed spike in sales activity in the weeks around Lunar New Year – a pattern Mr. McNeill insists is “100 per cent true.” In one news segment, the women tour a suite in downtown Vancouver’s Maddox condo development – which is being marketed by MAC. One woman tells the camera they cannot afford to buy on their own and must rely on assistance from their parents.

“We definitely like it here, but we have to talk to our parents,” she says. “Maybe tomorrow we will bring them here.

“If we like this place, we have to tell them and they make the decision. Usually, Chinese people like to buy during this time.”

In reality, the women are not even related.

The misrepresentation was first spotted by the local online community and then dissected on local blogs, message boards and comment sections. Some noticed that a Google search of one of the women’s names turned up her Facebook and LinkedIn pages – both since deleted – which stated she worked at MAC.

Mr. McNeill said there have been discussions about the incident within the company but it is not yet known who is behind it.

“I’m trying my best to figure it out,” he said. “Will there be some heads rolling? I don’t know.”

When asked if the ploy may lead to terminations at the company, Mr. McNeill said it would depend on the depth of responsibility.

“If it was blatant and on the hands of one person, then I think there might be some severe repercussions, but it’s hard for me to answer that without knowing all the details surrounding it.”

He said he is not aware of anything like this having happened at the company before.”

More to come.

No comment.

The End of the Age of Tall Buildings

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Vancouver towers from Wikimedia Commons

[Update: see post on this topic on the Vancouver Lights blog. Also see this critique of glass highrises by Lisa Rochon in the Globe and Mail.]

Apologies that this is such a long post. For urbanist nerds only, perhaps, though this issue affects anyone interested in urban affordability

The other evening I had to go to a meeting in a condo tower’s boardroom. I left the building at dusk and found that I couldn’t orient myself. I was with a friend and we actually stood there in the windy canyon between glass towers trying to figure out which way we were going. We oriented ourselves after a minute but were left with the impression of a confusing, generic, bleak, pedestrian-free dead zone in which the only moving objects were cars. And this was on a dry, balmy late September night! I cycled home and ten minutes later found my own neighbourhood alive with people still out walking and talking at 9 pm.

The worst part is that these generic glass towers—which are being erected all over town and steadily damaging neighbourhood life and texture—are not fully inhabited. Realtors have been warning us for some time that a large percentage of condos are owned by absent non-resident investors (probably both local and foreign). We await studies of hydro/electricity usage to prove this, but it’s almost certain that there is an element of property speculation in the tower business.

Now it turns out that on top of the aesthetic problems and the property speculation, the towers aren’t even green. This is pretty egregious considering that their “sustainability” has been their main political justification at City Hall over two different administrations.

Why are we still letting developers build condo towers, exactly?

The excerpts below are from Adapting Buildings and Cities for Climate Change: a 21st Century Survival Guide (2nd Edition, 2009) by Sue Roaf, David Chrichton, Fergus Nicol. It was published in 2009 and I’m told is internationally regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative study of this topic to date. It is described at and can be downloaded free of charge here.

My interest in this topic is motivated by what I see happening in Vancouver where the newest architectural style is something I just call “Tall Naked Capital.” A new shadow-throwing, wind-producing towers do damage to the quality of pedestrian spaces in this city, not to mention all the other effects such as sterile streetscapes, failure to fit in with existing historical architecture, community patterns and existing cultures, as well as raising local rents and property prices. The main beneficiaries of towers seem to be the mega-developers who build them. What’s most disturbing is the unexamined notion that these buildings, due to their density, are “green.” What is green about them, and does their dense stacking of humans really outweigh their non-green impacts? Are they really green or have developers merely disseminated that myth? Vancouver has always been dominated by powerful developers, who, by the way, have built virtually no great buildings in 30 years, have recently tried to ram a downtown mega-casino down our throats, and are generally working against the best interests of the city and its inhabitants by helping to drive up land prices.

The chapter below makes interesting reading. Introduction to this topic by a friend of mine:

“Apparently the University of BC’s School of Community and Regional Planning SCARP “Urban Studio” project has used this and other sustainability research to demonstrate that Vancouver could meet extremely aggressive  growth demand projections for about the next half-century, without further upzoning (or spot rezonings) for highrises in the West End, Heritage Districts, or Downtown South, through the use of low-rise and lower mid-rise building forms that are consistent with existing Local Area Plans and City Plan Visions. For an earlier draft of this (supplied by Patrick Condon) see .

This is primarily accomplished through build-out of existing mixed-use (C2) zones and moderate extensions of these zones along arterials presently served by transit. With rate-of-change and inclusionary rental polices, and increased DCLs (to lock in funding for public amenities), such incremental, iterative redevelopment would protect and provide relatively “affordable” housing (“core-need” requires senior government funding), and a sufficient increase in retail and services for the expanded population in walkable neighbourhood centres, respecting and protecting human scale, neighbourhood character, public views, access to sun and sky for homes, gardens and the public realm through the use of building forms that are inherently “green”—unlike the highrises and mega-towers for which the big developers have been lobbying Council. In fact, the rezoning policies and spot rezonings that these developers, city staff and Council have been relentlessly pursuing (not only downtown, but in Marpole, Norquay, Mount Pleasant, etc), undermine the neighbourhood-based CityPlan paradigm (which, ironically, is essentially “greener” than many of the greenwashed, developer-driven EcoDensity/Greenest City land-use policies), by diverting development to these less sustainable and generally more problematic large-scale options.”


The age of skyscrapers is at an end. It must now be considered an experimental building typology that has failed. With the arrival of the global economic slump in 2007/08, so began the end of the age of tall buildings. We wrote of its imminent demise in the first edition of this book and since then the prediction has come true. The reasons we gave in 2003 and what has happened since, are covered below in a review of the phenomena that must constitute the twentieth century’s greatest‘ follies de grandeur.