A colleague of mine said something the other day that resonated with me. He doesn’t receive any “physical” mail.  “Any?” I asked him. In disbelief, I rephrased the question, “None?” “None,” he replied with a smile. He receives no mail.  All online billing. All digital correspondence with friends and families. I contemplated the paperless bliss (and immediately went online to change my banking and utility company preferences to those that were still killing trees). Late bloomer, I suppose but can now proudly declare myself mostly paperless. It will be interesting to see what still ends up in my mailbox each day. That is, if it isn’t on Canada Posts hit list, and their plan to replace door-to-door delivery with community mailboxes. Why? Why else? To save money. Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau however, put plans on hold. The original goal was to convert 5.1 M homes by 2018.

community box

There’s a small comfort in learning that I’m not alone in my late adoption to paperless. According to Joanne McNeish, at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, after almost 20 years, more than 90 per cent of online Canadians still resist giving up paper bills, over 20 years after their inception. Why? Paper represents control. When finanicial information is received on paper, people feel more in control. “You can touch it, hold on to it and keep it for reference for as long as you want. The paper bill is a form of protection that can call banks and billing organizations to act on your behalf.”

But what about the planet? Shouldn’t that come before our need for control? There’s the argument that not using paper billing saves trees. Lots of them. In 2012, customers that switched to online billing helped Rogers save 1.6 million kilograms of paper by moving to online billing. It’s interesting to see how all of the different providers deal with their respective paper bill charges (Special mention that they often make the list of finalists among “Canada’s dumbest charge contest“).

It’s estimated that we Canadians pay between $495 million to $734 million per year to receive paper bills (that were previously free). Still however, we can all admit that snail mail is on the decline and there’s an impact on our country’s mail delivery system – Canada Post, many critics of which claim has had its day.

A Huffington Post May 2015 article reported that Canada Post’s first quarter delivered a profit, in comparison to a loss from the same period the year prior, despite a “steep decline” in the volume of mail letters. Mail letter fell 8.4 per cent, (41 million pieces) compared with the year before. Their business component focusing on parcels (online shopping is growing 30% annually in Canada) and stamps were largely responsible for the increase with revenue growth of 6.4%. Again, a sign, the postal service cited, that Canadians are increasingly adopting digital means for mail.  Some articles take it even further and argue that maintaining the current rate of decline, mail will soon become obsolete, in less than two decades (not unlike the fate of the fax machine and typewriter).

Canada Post however, isn’t “dead.” It’s changed. A new business model. One article describes the Crown Corporation as in the midst of a transition and experiencing a “historic pivot as the  company, quickly [moves] from a focus on mail with some parcels, to parcels with some mail.”

mail decline

So what, if anything, does this have to do with condos? What does this have to do with my colleague, who happens to be in design and décor (and receives no mail)? Well – let’s start with smart space planning & designing better buildings.  Keeping in mind the changing trends in mail delivery, he recently recommended a switch to front-loading mailrooms in our communities to save space. They’re typically rear-loading, meaning access to individual lockboxes is provided at the rear from a secure enclosed room. Wouldn’t and couldn’t the space be better utilized? After all, we all agree it’s at a premium these days.

With restructured mailrooms that focus more on parcels, and less on the odd birthday card that your Aunt snail-mails you once a year, a little more thoughtful design can be a win-win for everyone. Imagine not needing to stop by the mail room every day just to clear out unaddressed admail, now better known by the industry as “Neighbourhood Mail” flyers. Sounds so much friendlier, doesn’t it? Have you ever looked at the recycling in your condo mail room? Here’s a funny observation from a self-identified “casual mail room trash inspector.” Imagine a condo life where you received a notification on your phone with a code to access a private, secure locker, sized appropriately for your delivery, whatever it may be.

So what’s the problem? In two words, Canada Post. Not only are condominiums not allowed to reduce the number of mailboxes in a community – nor are they permitted to alter the mailroom environment into any variation from what we’re all too familiar with… the eyesore of neatly stacked rows and columns of boxes.



According to Canada Post Delivery Planning Standards Manual for Builders & Developers, on page 13, any residential buildings of more than 100 units must provide rear-loading mailroom . Why? Here’s their explanation…

“For a building of this many units, a mailroom allows for more efficient delivery of the mail because there is not a large number of panels to continually open and close. Multiple open panels can also hinder the flow and safety of lobby traffic. A mailroom also provides a higher degree of security for the bags of undelivered mail that the carrier has.”

mail standards manual

Can you imagine the standstill traffic in a lobby due to overwhelming mail delivery? Personally, I can’t.

Canada Post was once well described in a Globe & Mail article to be “a public monopoly, that enjoys privileged access to our homes.” Let’s hope they never forget the privilege. But let’s also hope that they’re intelligent enough to revisit it and ensure that it meets today’s changing requirements.  To date, I haven’t heard any rumors of builders and developers challenging this space planning issue in their communities, but I think it’s worthy of the time and effort.

Until then – (or until you decide to go paperless) – if you want to clear out all of the junk in your mailbox  – Canada Post has been kind enough to share some of their wisdom on doing just that.

Feature Image: stylepinner.com

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