Taxing McMansions and other buildings by roof size to cover stormwater costs

Want a McMansion or another building that covers a lot of ground in Mississauga? You will have to pay more for stormwater costs:

In a move that’s a first for the GTA, Canada’s largest suburb and its sixth largest city will soon charge home owners and businesses for storm water costs based on how much of their property is covered. If you have a very small house that causes little run-off water, you will pay nothing. But if your home is in the highest of five size categories, it will cost $170 in 2016 for your share of the city’s storm-water management costs. It’s an approach that Toronto is also looking at ahead of its 2016 budget process, according to a city spokesperson…

Councillor George Carlson, council’s resident environmentalist, has championed the innovative approach since it was first examined in 2011. He recognizes the impact of climate change, but said development trends are also at the root of the problem. “You can’t use pipes the size of Dixie straws when we need massive concrete culverts,” he said after the meeting. “There were streets in Mississauga that looked like Venice in July of 2013 (when a major storm event wreaked havoc across the GTA).”

“But look at all the asphalt and parking lots and McMansions in this city. All of that covered land is sending more and more run-off water into pipes that were probably already too small. I can see the king and queen needing to live in a castle, but does every third person have to?”…

Charges to businesses will be based on a formula that measures the total covered amount of space, but they will be able to save up to 50 per cent of their fee by putting in measures such as catchment basins and permeable material to prevent storm run-off.

It will be interesting to see how this works out. The Councillor quoted above said he thinks this could have an impact on building sizes down the road. Communities with lots of sprawling development often have water problems and solutions range from permeable pavement to green roofs to taxes like these. But, many of these solutions are after the fact which can get quite costly (just see the massive Deep Tunnel project in the Chicago area).

If the real estate pressure is there to build McMansions, I wonder if there are ways around such a fee. (To be honest, $170 a year doesn’t sound like much for the types who buy McMansions.) What if people built underground to get extra space and to minimize the roof size (a la the luxury underground facilities in London)? Presumably there are height restrictions in the community that would limit building up.

Meme adding more and more gables to your McMansion

At MemeGenerator, check out the McMansion gables image:

xzibit-yo-dawg - tonight on "pimp my mcmansion" : Yo dawg! We heard you liked gables  so we put gables inside your gables alongside your gables!

McMansions are often known for their multiple gables. These add more volume and angles to the roofline. They are typically not necessary so are considered gauche for simply trying to impress.

This is based on the Xzibit Yo Dawg meme which is described thusly:

Yo Dawg, or Sup Dawg, is an image macro series based on portrait shots of American hip hop artist Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, better known by his stage name Xzibit, and humorous captions that are composed around the recursive phrasal template “Yo Dawg, I herd you like (noun X), so I put an (noun X) in your (noun Y) so you can (verb Z) while you (verb Z).” Since rising to popularity in early 2007, the series has been considered one of the most well-known and longest lasting examples of recursive humor on the Internet…

While Xzibit initially began his career in the entertainment industry as a rapper from Los Angeles, his mainstream breakthrough came almost a decade later as the host of the MTV show Pimp My Ride, which ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2007. In the show, Xzibit gained a reputation for adding luxurious amenities and equipments like fish tanks, clothes dryers and fireplaces into the participant’s car, presumably without consent.

So if Xzibit is known for a show featuring consumption, the connection to McMansions makes some sense.

Why not give McMansions green roofs?

McMansions can be made green by adding green roofs:

Where it gets tricky for a McMansion is that green roofs tend to lend themselves to shallower gradients, not to 20deg-30deg pitches. We’ll assume for now that a McMansion roof structure [typically prefabricated timber trusses] has enough load capacity to bear a fully soaked green roof.

Here’s how it could potentially be done;

1. Remove the existing cladding – whether it be concrete tiles or metal decking. Metal decking could remain if the load isn’t too much. Replace with marine ply board;

2. Add the requisite layers of waterproofing, drainage cell, insulation and geotextile;

3. Add the perimeter angles to hold the soil/planting [sounds like it could be a tricky detail, but it is possible];

4. Add the soil profile and planting. For this one there are various methods available – I didn’t have any luck sourcing Australian examples/products so the US it is. There are proprietary soil stabilisation products available for steeper slopes with in-situ planting, or there is planting in plastic trays or even mats which come ready-established.

I agree with the final assessment of the post: I’ve not seen this proposal before. How much might it cost to retrofit the roof of an existing large home? It seems like the easiest way to make this happen would be to change buildings codes to require greener roofs and then the cost simply becomes part of the new home.

With more interest in greener dwellings (tiny houses, net zero energy homes, passive homes, etc.) plus the negative connotations of owning a McMansion or larger homes, I suspect more of these homes will be constructed with green features. However, I continue to wonder: will a large home with some green features, like a green roof, be considered green enough?