For our fall issue of Energy Matters we take a tour of a deep energy retrofit and a district energy project with Toronto Community Housing; we also get the opportunity to learn how Vila Gaspar Corte Real is seeing 17% annual energy savings at its building and how you can save money this winter and keep residents warm at the same time. Happy fall reading everyone!
In this issue of Energy Matters:
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Earlier this month, Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) hosted a behind-the-scenes tour of two major energy efficiency projects for members of HSC’s Energy Services Stakeholder Advisory Group. The projects included a deep energy retrofit and a district energy project, both in downtown Toronto.
The first stop was the Moss Park Tower Renewal, a deep retrofit partnership project between TCHC’s Facilities Management Division and the City of Toronto’s Energy & Environment Division. Located on Shuter Street, the site has 900 units across three towers. Through a combination of energy and water measures, TCHC is targeting a combined utility savings of 30% or $600,000 per year.
The efficiency measures are in various stages of completion. The focal point of the project is a Combined Heat and Power system (CHP) that will help reduce utility costs and ensure residents stay comfortable and unaffected during power outages in the city of Toronto. The CHP will also provide additional thermal capacity for the site. At present, the CHP system is in its pre-commissioning stage as are the boiler interconnection and building automation. However, other measures, including windows, common and exterior lighting, and toilets, aerators, and showerheads, are largely complete. TCHC also offers an ongoing window air conditioner exchange program and aims to install in-suite lighting and a water leak detection system in the coming months.
The group then headed to 252 Sackville Street, a LEED Gold-certified 22-storey seniors residence. This building houses a district energy plant that provides heating and cooling to 18 buildings – soon to be 21 – in the Regent Park redevelopment via a distribution system of insulated underground pipes. Built during the site’s construction, the plant has added more equipment as new buildings come online during each of the five phases of Regent Park’s redevelopment. It is up to 50% more efficient than standard in-house systems and has lower maintenance requirements, reduced noise, and fewer architectural constraints within the building than standard heating plants.
While natural gas is the primary fuel, the district energy plant can be adapted to solar, geothermal, and other alternative energy sources. The boilers and chillers are larger and more efficient models than if they each served single buildings, which helps save energy across Regent Park. The plant’s value increases as more buildings are connected since greater economies of scale are achieved. When the Regent Park redevelopment is complete, over 30 buildings across nearly 70 acres are anticipated to be connected to the Sackville plant.
Thank you to Boyd Dyer and his Toronto Community Housing team for hosting this great tour and showing how energy efficiency can be achieved through a variety of approaches.
Looking for a simple, low-cost way to cut air loss in your buildings? Why not try installing, repairing, and maintaining your backdraft dampers? Maintaining previously un-serviced dampers can result in a savings of as much as $250 per horsepower of the ventilation system fan. For example, a 60-unit building in southern Ontario, using a 20 horsepower fan, could see savings of as much as $5,000. In northern regions, these savings could be even higher.
What are Backdraft Dampers?
Backdraft dampers are small flaps of metal or plastic at the end of air ducts that close when a fan is turned off, preventing conditioned air from flowing out of the building and outside air from flowing in.
Typically, backdraft dampers are installed in relation to specific fans in the building, such as:
When any of these fans are stopped and backdraft dampers are missing or are stuck open, conditioned air flows through the ductwork and leaks out of the building. Your HVAC system then has to waste energy heating or cooling additional air to make up the loss, which costs you money.
You can take steps in your buildings by:
As a relatively low-cost and simple measure, properly installed and maintained backdraft dampers can help you reduce your utility costs while keeping your tenants comfortable all year long.
By leveraging partnerships with the City of Toronto, HSC, and Enbridge Gas Inc., Vila Gaspar is achieving 17% annual energy savings after upgrading its heating plant. Vila Gaspar was able to obtain over $78,000 in Enbridge Gas Inc. incentives and combined this with funding from the Social Housing Apartment Retrofit Program (SHARP) from the City of Toronto. With HSC acting as project manager, the 232-unit building, built in 1993, had an energy audit and analysis that identified the end-of-life heating plant as a major energy savings opportunity.
This provider also wanted to engage residents and staff on the project, not just to help maximize savings but to celebrate success as well. This comprehensive approach is helping Vila Gaspar save money and ensure resident comfort – a win/win for all!
Near or far, housing operators around the world are taking great strides to make their buildings energy and water efficient. A quick look at housing news over the past quarter highlights some leading-edge examples that can inspire you to take steps in your own portfolio:
Kelowna, BC, Councillors adopted a resolution endorsing an energy code implementation strategy for 1-3 storey residential buildings under 600 m2.
The decision means that all new homes must be 20% more energy efficient by June 2021. The move ensures compliance with the CleanBC Plan, which requires all new buildings to be net-zero energy ready by 2032. Check out the full story here!
In the past few years, we’ve seen several Ontario providers adopt Passive House standards, and despite slightly higher upfront construction costs, private developers are also looking to this standard. In New York City, which has high utility costs on top of astronomical rents, a market renter shares his experience living in a Passive House high-rise. (While we may not be able to afford his $3,100 in rent, his $30 winter utility bill sounds pretty good!).
A new 105-unit social housing development in Norwich, UK, is turning heads for being an affordable, energy efficient, high-density alternative to apartment blocks. Designed to the Passive House standard, the site faces south to maximize solar heat gain, is shaded in summer, and meets the local need for family homes. Inspired by nearby Victorian terraced homes, the architect opted for townhouses over towers to increase the amount of shared outdoor spaces and livability.
Energiesprong, a Dutch initiative, aims to refurbish social housing to net-zero energy on a mass scale by using pre-fabricated materials and bulk upgrades in a way that lowers manufacturing and contractor costs and increases the market for these retrofits. The UK is applying this model to social housing as a starting point to overcome challenges of energy poverty and private market barriers. Check out this story on Nottingham, UK’s urban redevelopment project for inspiration!
Housing providers are increasingly considering modular housing to help tackle housing shortages and affordability. Councillors in Cardiff, Wales, are looking at this construction method to cut on-site construction times and to increase energy efficiency. An innovative pilot will soon see 1,500 of these homes built with annual heating bills up to 90% lower than traditional homes. Learn more about this project here!
Have an inspiring energy project to share? Let us know!
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HSC is a non-profit organization that is committed to ensuring that Ontario residents have access to safe and affordable housing that improves their quality of life. If you’re looking for a meaningful career helping to support the affordable housing sector, HSC is the place for you!