Monday, April 18, 2011

My New Second Home

I work in the coolest office building at the coolest site ever. EVER.

This is the directory in the Centre for Green Cities at Evergreen Brick Works. Note all the environmental NGOs! I'm on Level 4... can you guess who I work for?

The Centre for Green Cities is a LEED Platinum building and heritage site rolled into one - with a green roof no less. It's such a cool place that I even took a picture of a toilet. It's not just any toilet: pull up for number one, push down for number two, and it's low-flow either way! Other building features include high-efficiency insulation, harvesting of waste heat, solar panels, recycled/salvaged building materials, and many more.

This may be old hat to many of you, but sinks with motion sensors are still awesome in my books. I used to work at a hospital and washed my hands up to twice an hour but couldn't turn the tap off while lathering because that would defeat the purpose of using soap in the first place. Problem solved at the Centre for Green Cities. Also, note the Dyson hand dryer! It works in 12 seconds, but I routinely use it for only five seconds because my hands are so close to dry by then that I can let them air dry on my walk back to my desk with no fear of contamination - because there is no door to open on the way out of the washroom, just a zig zag! *Happy sigh*

The shared kitchen features a cupboard full of plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs, as well as the usual cutlery in a drawer below it, two countertop compost bins, non-toxic dish detergent, and a high efficiency dishwasher. The best part? People seem to actually take turns unloading the dishwasher, and rarely does anything pile up in the sink. Shared responsibility is a beautiful thing.

Yup, that's a Prius and a Mini Cooper at the AutoShare spaces in the parking lot.

Unfortunately there were no electric vehicles being charged when I was out snapping pictures last week, but I've seen them before! They exist! They're cool! They're at my building!!

Okay, some history about the site: for 150 years, bricks were manufactured here that built some of Toronto's landmark buildings. About 30 years ago, the factory shut its doors for good, and the clay quarry was largely filled in with earth from downtown excavations for the construction of office towers. The land now belongs to the City of Toronto and is being preserved for its historical and geological significance. Evergreen, a charitable organization with the mandate of making cities more livable, has taken out a long lease of the site and spent the last ten years building around the remains of the original structures to create an environmental community centre that features a farmers' market, garden centre, year-round workshops and seminars, school and camp programming for children, and frequent naturalization projects.

Situated in the ravines of the lower Don River watershed, it's a stunningly beautiful place. Interestingly, it's also located on a flood plain, so there's actually a flood hotline to call in the morning when overnight rains are heavy, especially at this time of year when the ground hasn't thawed enough to absorb lots of surface water. In this picture you can see leftover bricks from the factory placed in ditches to help move excess water. The mounds of soil will eventually be planted with native grasses that will help keep the dirt in place. Oh, and the graffiti isn't going to be removed because it's part of Toronto's cultural heritage. Neat!

The largest map of Toronto in the world with metal pipes depicting the various river watersheds. This is going to be a living wall in the summer, as the pipes will bring rainwater down through the structure, and a pump will ensure continuous flow!

This is one of 15 cisterns placed around the site that collect rainwater for use in the gardens and washrooms. The water is also used to help cool the roof above my head!

This is the pond in what remains of the quarry. I can get to this spot in less than five minutes after leaving my desk. What a treasure.

So, do you know who I work for? I'll give you some clues that will lead you to the answer with some online searching:
  • I'm an intern.
  • My position exists thanks to the Sustainability Network and may not last terribly long.
  • I'm helping to make my ENGO's outreach more inclusive of diverse communities.
The first person to get it right (excluding those who already knew the answer before reading this post) will win a guest blog post written by me! Assuming you think favourably of my writing and have a blog! We can always work something else out.


  1. Dang, I would love a guest blog post... but I already know who you work for, and I don't wanna cheat!

    The Brickworks are freakin' cool, though... a little slice of Portland moved to Toronto... if only Sakura trees were native to Ontario, it would be perfect!

    Great pictures, by the way!

  2. Indeed, Portland is a very green-oriented city, and working at the Brick Works makes me feel proud of the things Toronto has accomplished in terms of sustainability.

    There are sakura in High Park, I think. They're very well taken care of to survive our (relatively) harsh winters.

  3. Hmm...I'm going to guess EcoJustice. Your building sounds amazing. Mind if I'm jealous?

  4. I'm sorry, that's not it! Although you're "hot" because EcoJustice is one door down from my office.

    Haha, yes you can be jealous for now. I'm sure LEED Platinum buildings will be popping up all over the place in the next few years!

  5. Hey, I think I've been there! It's on Bayview, right? Maybe I was only at the park part. It was a former brickworks, I know that. Kewl beans!!

  6. Yes, it's on the portion of Bayview that runs alongside the DVP, in the valley of course. There are tons of nature trails in the area.

    When my brother and I were kids and we'd visit my aunt and uncle in East York, we'd head down into the ravine and explore the trails and riverbed. Fond memories of a beautiful part of town!

  7. Looks amazing! Electronics Product Stewardship????

  8. Sorry, Lynn, that's not it either!

    Haha, I thought this would be so easy. I mentioned the Sustainability Network, so that's where you should start looking. :)

  9. OK-my guess is Greenpeace? Or maybe for the Sustainability Network? Your building is amazing-I'm jealous too! I love that there is an auto share service right there.

  10. Oops, you got it wrong, too, Lori!

    I'm sorry I made this so hard. Here are the clues again:

    1. I'm on LEVEL 4, so the organization has to be among those listed in the directory on that level.

    2. My position was created by the SUSTAINABILITY NETWORK in partnership with my organization.

    3. The goal of the internship is to find ways to reach out to more DIVERSE communities through my organization's programming.

  11. Also: you might notice that my predecessor is listed as an intern with my organization, in partnership with the Sustainability Network. They haven't updated their website since she left in February and I came on board earlier this month.

  12. The Sierra Club? I'd love to have you guest blog.

  13. Dingdingding! We have a winner. Yes, it's the Ontario chapter of the Sierra Club. Well done, Emily!

    Are you on Twitter? I'd rather give you my e-mail address with a direct message than display it here.

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. No kidding, Twitter really distracts me from work!

    I'm about to e-mail you. Let me know if you want me to delete your comment so your e-mail address is no longer visible on this page!