Green Condos: A Way to Downsize in More Ways Than One?

By Andrew Mitchell | Buying Real Estate

With the children all grown up and the intriguing prospect of travel and increased mobility that comes with retirement, many Montreal-area homeowners are looking into the possibility of “downsizing” – i.e. selling the family home and moving into a cozier, more manageable condominium for two. And with ideas of sustainable or “green” energy now entering the mainstream, it’s only natural that many of these condo buyers would be interested in reducing their “ecological footprint” as they downsize.

If that describes you, then you’ll definitely want to look into the latest developments in “green condo” design.

Green Condos vs Greenhouse Gas Emissions

First things first: what is a green condo, anyway? How does a building contribute to the project of creating a better world for our children and grandchildren? Well, according to architects and green design professionals, there are many ways to work toward that goal – and each structure will mix and match them in different proportions.

Some of the more popular green condo features include: geothermal heating systems (which tap into natural heat reserves beneath the surface of the Earth), solar panel energy generation, water-saving plumbing, hot water systems that wait until you need the water to do their work, hybrid generators and window design that allows for maximum use of natural light.

Some green design strategies harken back to very old ideas – i.e. covering the roof with plant life that creates an extra layer of very efficient insulation (and does wonders for air quality in the bargain). Other complexes work to facilitate carpooling and car sharing between residents, and promote more ecologically conscious methods of waste disposal (including easy and effective composting).

Any or all of these technological and social initiatives may be part of the particular green condo on your radar. Certainly, at least some of them must be in place in order for the structure to qualify for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. That international third-party organization rates buildings in five crucial categories:

  1. energy efficiency
  2. water efficiency
  3. materials selection
  4. indoor environmental quality
  5. sustainable site development

A good real estate broker can help you to identify the green condos in the Montreal area (and the projects that are under way as you read this article) – and to verify their official LEED standing.

Okay, How Much Is This Going To Cost Me?

The green condo is an appealing idea, but people downsize to save money and free up funds for travel, leisure activities and other family projects. That’s the bottom line. So will buying one of these properties defeat the whole purpose of downsizing? The answer to that question isn’t necessarily a simple one.

Building a condominium to LEED specifications does cost more than run of the mill residential construction – and those costs will be reflected in the asking price. On the other hand, since so much of green design is focused on getting more out of less energy, your monthly heating, cooking, lighting and water-associated bills are likely to be much lower. In the long run, these savings should more than make up for the higher sale price. However, green condo buyers should definitely be prepared to pay more up front.

Point Nord LEED certified neighbourhood on Nun's Island

The Pointe-Nord neighbourhood on Nun’s Island is one of the few LEED certified green neighbourhoods in Canada.

Other Pros and Cons To Consider:

Green condo ownership may offer significant health benefits – an important item to consider, particularly for those looking to make the most of their golden years. The extra stringent air quality standards established by LEED may make these dwellings especially attractive to those with respiratory conditions. Better airflow goes a long way toward preventing the development of harmful mold, for instance – and the emphasis upon hypoallergenic and non-irritating building materials can only be a positive.

On the other hand, buyers should not forget to factor in the peculiar aspects of condominium culture. People who have spent their entire adult lives in single-family homes may not take immediately (or, indeed, ever) to the group dynamics of collective ownership. There will be meetings to attend, votes to cast (potentially minority votes) and rules to abide by. Naturally, these provisos apply to all condos – not merely green ones. However, as the reader may well imagine, the latter type of community may tend to attract a more politically engaged and opinionated breed of member.

Depending upon your point of view, this could be another major item on the positive side of the ledger – the opportunity to connect with a readymade community of likeminded individuals. But for buyers whose interest in fostering a greener planet does not necessarily go hand in hand with a passion for group discussion, the new situation could take some getting used to.

Green condos may not be for everyone, but they certainly are a new and ever more prominent feature on the local real estate landscape. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities for green downsizing in the Montreal area, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation consultation.

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An earlier version of this article I wrote appeared in the Montreal Times newspaper. 


About the Author

I'm Andrew Mitchell, Chartered Real Estate Broker and Owner of Vistacor Realty Group. I help buyers, sellers and investors in the West Island, Montreal and Vaudreuil-Soulanges areas buy and sell homes. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights and relevant real estate market updates. Contact me with any questions. Follow me on twitter here.