The Robertson Building is a restored warehouse that home to a cluster of community businesses, social entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations.
The Robertson Building was built for the James Robertson Company. It was constructed from 1911-1913 by Denison and Stephenson Architects, described by Toronto architectural historian John Blumenson as "good Edwardian architects." Prior to locating on Spadina at the address 207-219, the JAS Robertson Company operated from headquarters on King Street West. Advertisements JAS Robertson Company Catalogue from 1898-99 found in the journal, Canadian Architect and Builder, were for fixtures that were manufactured by others and distributed by Robertson.
Once the company moved to its Spadina location they were also manufacturing plumbing fittings and fixtures, featured in their substantial catalogues, and had opened a "sanitary exhibition" room. It would appear that the James Robertson Company was famous for its Spadina showroom, as an announcement from 1913 invites the community to come and "inspect the largest display of Plumbing and Sanitary Fixtures in the Dominion of Canada."
Green elements are a striking part of the eco-restorative* design of the Robertson Building. In March 2004, a 250 square foot living-breathing plant wall (bio-wall) designed by Air Quality Solutions (now Nedlaw Living Walls) was installed in the lobby of the Robertson building. The bio-wall is composed of several varieties of native and exotic green and flowering plants. The plant species were selected for their ability to reduce indoor air contaminants generated from common causes of building off-gassing and from the steady flow of traffic on Spadina Avenue.
In June 2004, a 4,000 square foot, extensive green roof was installed over half of the Robertson roof. The green roof was designed and installed by Gardens in the Sky. The green roof is supported by five inches of organic, light-weight planting media and a host of native plant species that are thriving in this elevated ecosystem. To complement the green roof, a greenhouse and cedar viewing deck were installed so that tenants and special guests can enjoy a spectacular skyline view of the city as well as proximity to typical green roof biodiversity in this environment.
The extensive green roof provides several other important environmental benefits to Toronto including: a habitat for birds, insects and other plant species; a micro-climate that reduces urban heat island effect; the retention of storm water when it rains preventing sewer overflow into Lake Ontario; the reduction of air pollutants by trapping and degrading contaminants; and protection of the roof membrane from harsh temperature changes giving greater longevity to a conventional roof.
*eco-restoration refers to activites that replace, rejuvenate or rebuild the natural ecology that may have existed before a building expropriated the natural elements. Hence, green elements like biowalls and green roofs are eco-restorative.