Buildings that Green the World: Beyond “net zero” with Toronto-area builder Dave de Sylva
Posted: September 25, 2019
By Hannah Freedberg
Dave de Sylva, P.Eng. and President and Founder of Howland Green Homes, has always been focused on efficiency. He began his career in geothermal energy and eventually merged into sustainable design and construction. De Sylva has an ever-growing passion for science and believes “when you talk to science, science talks back”. This belief has helped de Sylva to continue asking questions, experimenting, and innovating past the norms.
Frustrated with the lack of action taken to fight climate change and the billions of dollars governments continue to give the fossil fuel industry, de Sylva decided to change the conversation. All of this brought him to the start of Howland Green and the Beyond Net Zero goal.
When de Sylva first learnt about Net Zero energy (the concept that a building can produce the same amount of energy that it consumes) people were saying it couldn’t be done. De Sylva took on the challenge to prove them wrong. Not only did he achieve net zero, but he managed to go beyond it with a building system that was net positive, meaning it produces more energy than it consumes. Every aspect of a Howland Green building has been engineered to reach its maximum efficiency. The concrete, windows, appliances, water tanks, water systems and more have all been engineered to be as efficient as possible. Howland Green has built seven net zero buildings in the GTA, including the first building that is Beyond Net Zero.
The Howland Green Tree Fund:
De Sylva is also helping to make the world a greener place. Working alongside Forest Recovery Canada (FRC), Howland Green has committed to plant 100,0
00 trees across the province through the Howland Green Tree Fund. As part of the Net Positive commitment, the fund sponsors mass plantings for each project the company completes. According to de Sylva, “The Howland Green Tree Fund reflects our passion for bringing real engagement of known technology to deal with ever increasing global climate issues.” Through tree planting, Howland Green is reducing its carbon footprint while also enhancing Ontario’s natural ecosystems and ensuring the ongoing sequestration of carbon for decades to come.
What’s in a Name?
When de Sylva attended the University of Toronto, he lived on Howland Avenue. Post graduation he decided to start his first company and wanted to name it Howland Management. De Sylva was told he couldn’t use the name unless it was his surname but could use the name How-Land instead. Because he was starting a land management company, he decided the name worked perfectly. For his new venture, he was finally able to use Howland, and chose Green to represent the eco-driven goals set by the company.
Efficiency: It’s in the details
Howland Green’s buildings get to zero net energy and below because they sweat the small stuff. The developer’s Bronte West condominiums in Milton, for example, feature thicker insulation in their walls and roofs. The windows, triple-glazed fiberglass filled with Low E Argon gas, reflect sun in summer and absorb heat in winter. Motion sensors control all parking and hallway lighting. Insulation wraps hot water tanks. Solar panels cover the roofs. Toilets and showers are low flow; appliances are high-efficiency. A network of pipes collects roof water, filters it and stores it in cisterns for use to flush toilets. Other cisterns collect surface water from parking lots, for use to irrigate shrubs and plants.