With Earth Week upon us, it’s inspiring to hear about the people that are making a difference in moving towards sustainable living. Minto has an entire Sustainability Team dedicated to incorporating ‘Green Living’ strategies into all of the work we do. We sat down with a lovely member of the Sustainability Team, Roya Khaleeli, to find out more about her work as a Sustainable Design Professional.
Roya has been at Minto for just over three years now. She didn’t always work in sustainability though – she started out as a mechanical engineer, working in the automotive industry. But reading the book “Natural Capitalism” (by Paul Hawken) motivated Roya to change her career path. “I was inspired by the idea that there could be a different way of doing business which enables doing good by doing well,” she tells us. After getting her Masters in Sweden in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability, Roya worked as a Sustainability Consultant in London, UK, for over four years. When she came back to Toronto, Roya started her role with Minto’s Sustainability Team. It was a 10 year journey, but she says she’s lucky in terms of timing because there are many more jobs in sustainability now than there was when she started looking into it in 2002.
Roya’s role is focused primarily in the GTA where she works on embedding sustainable design practices into Minto’s communities. She collaborates with the design teams early on in each project to develop the strategy, which considers the particular market, the local green requirements, relevant third party building standards and opportunities for innovation. “It is critical that we approach our work in a way that is congruent with profitable business,” she says. Having involvement early on in the development process ensures that the green strategies are delivered while still remaining competitive in the marketplace.
Once the strategy is approved, part of her work is to train site staff to ensure the value is communicated to home buyers. “While some features deliver utility cost savings, others provide greater comfort, improved health or community connections,” she explains. “We also believe there are some features that can only be included through the quality of the construction process. Having a well-made air tight envelope is almost impossible to add after the home has been built as compared to granite countertops which can be added at any point.”
So far, Roya’s favorite project has been Minto Southshore. “It was a complex product to build and we set progressive targets for air tightness and we learned a lot in the process.” The team faced the challenge head on and Minto Southshore is what Roya describes as, “a beautiful space that allows home owners to live with a lesser impact on the environment, without even being aware of it. This is one of the main reasons I get so excited about my job.” Minto Southshore built upon the learning gained from Minto Caledonia Towns on the Park project, and Minto Longbranch will now be following in the footsteps of Minto Southshore.
As sustainable living is becoming more important in land development, we asked Roya what Green Living trends she sees will become prevalent in home building in the future. With the growing popularity of electric vehicles, she sees having electric vehicle charging stations on site as becoming more common. Minto already provides the basic infrastructure to support the future installation of electric vehicle charging stations at 775 King, and within the other five high rise projects that have launched since. Beyond improving energy performance, the target of Net Zero Energy buildings and greater water efficiency, another issue she sees becoming significant is a focus on design for better communities. With the introduction of standards such as LEED for Neighbourhood Development and BREEAM Communities (in the UK) she sees attention being directed towards designing communities to be more walkable, encouraging healthy lifestyles, and with greater access to services. On a more personal note, Roya would like to see “more community garden and food growing spaces included within projects; however, this requires demand from the market” which she hopes to see in the near future.
In her spare time, Roya has a number of hobbies that keep her busy. She is an avid tennis player, and just began taking tango lessons. Family is important to her, and she likes nothing better than enjoying really good food with great company. She also supports Habitat for Humanity where she volunteers once a month to build homes in the Toronto area, continuing her commitment to sustainable living.
Interested in learning more about Minto’s commitment to Green? Check out our Sustainability page, or learn more about each project’s Green Features on our Green Living pages on each project’s website.