Thursday, 20 November 2014

Let the Light Shine In?

People, like plants, need light. I know I feel a little light-deprived in the depths of winter despite my Vitamin D and plug-in light enhancer that shines on my face for an hour each day during the lean months of limited sun.  This desire for light is often expressed when condo shoppers go shopping for condos as well. Bright, light-infused condos are appealing. Dark ones are not. Makes sense.

The thing is, this desire for light, in the form of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling condos is great for developers too. It is a lot less expensive to build a condo with a glass skin than a precast or brick skin with windows. The materials cost less and the time to put up such a condo happens faster and, in turn, costs less for developers.

There is a bit of a hitch, though, for window-clad condos. They may lead to buyers paying more for their beautiful, sun-filled view down the road. Condos whose skins are made almost exclusively of glass will need upkeep sooner than a condo mostly made of precast or brick, and that upkeep may be fairly expensive. Within twenty to twenty-five years, most of the glass on glass condos will need to be replaced, according to many engineers here in Toronto. The argon gas between the panes of glass may leak and fog up. To replace all of the glass in all of a given condo's units will lead to an increase in maintenance fees or a special assessment on top of the maintenance fees to pay for this expensive replacement.

On top of this potential expense, there is also some concern about energy efficiency with all glass-clad condos. So much so that the province of Ontario has adjusted its building code. Because a unit in a glass-clad condo is also not terribly energy efficient, the province has stepped in to make stricter building codes where only 40% of the condo's skin can be made up of glass. When the developers caught wind of this, they rushed in to apply for building permits for all glass buildings before the deadline from January of last year. So, you will see condos in the city of Toronto that are currently under construction that will have all glass skins. But in the future, this will be no longer allowed. In a sense, the older condos of yesteryear that were not all floor-to-ceiling glass but had some windows mixed with brick exteriors and cement exteriors, will be coming back. What is old will be  new again, with less light.

So, with the options to buy a glass-clad condo unit, an older condo with less light, or a future condo with less light, the question becomes: Is it smarter to buy a condo that is not all glass?

From an energy saving perspective and in terms of keeping your maintenance fees (and special assessments) of the future in check, the answer is a firm yes. There may be some creative solutions in the future to deal with all the condos that will need new windows, but for now, it is a cost that will be expensive.

Still, the new condo of the future is not the perfect solution. They will cost more to build, and the developers will likely pass on the cost to the buyers. You will get what you pay for. You are more likely to have a sturdy building that is less likely to have issues with its windows. Your energy bills will be appealing so that you will pay less to cool and heat your home.  You will, however, have less light. 

So, with that said, I encourage all condo purchasers, current and future, to take the path they feel is most suited for them. Just make sure you know the facts before you move ahead. 

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