BOMA Toronto earns top international prize for its CDM program

A three-year pilot project that resulted in 52 megawatts of energy reduction is getting internationally recognized. The American-based Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) is giving a coveted award to the Building Managers and Owners Association of the Greater Toronto Area (BOMA Toronto).

In September, at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., BOMA Toronto will formally receive the Canada Region’s Energy Project of the Year for 2013. The award is the top prize for Canada and is for BOMA Toronto’s Conservation and Demand Management Program (CDM).

The program ran from 2007 to 2010 and targeted large commercial properties of over 25,000 sq. ft. in the City of Toronto. BOMA Toronto acted as the agent for the Ontario Power Authority and ran audits on the large commercial properties to see where energy savings could be found.

Ultimately, conserving 52 megawatts in power was roughly equal to taking 30,000 cars off the roads for a year.

This is the second award the CDM program has received. In 2012, it also won honours from the Canadian Society of Association Executives.

Team work makes the difference

Chris Conway, BOMA Toronto’s president, said the CDM program was different in many ways from other, similar energy conservation programs. Instead of just a single person in an office devoting, say, 30 per cent of his or her time to the project, BOMA Toronto assembled a team of 10.

Conway said they had “engineers on staff and salespeople who were beating the street and trying to get this done in a very tangible way where you could clearly measure the results.”

Conway said he used to work in government and saw far too many missed targets in his time there. “People say, ‘Oh, let’s participate in Kyoto,’ and then 10 years later, what’s happened? We’ve missed the targets.

“You see a number of these big picture abstract initiatives and I think what’s neat about this is it was pretty straight-forward. It was tangible and there were real energy savings.”

For the CDM program, BOMA Toronto through the provincial government offered an incentive of a couple thousand dollars to carry out an energy audit on buildings. Commercial property owners would request an audit and BOMA would come in and identify various ways in which the buildings could conserve energy.

After the retrofits were carried out, a third-party engineering firm verified the savings and then the property owner received a cheque for a portion of the amount of the energy saved.

Conway said the program fit very well with the commercial real estate sector, where in the past few years more and more buildings have added their own conservation and sustainability targets.

“It’s amazing what’s happened with the whole environmental space in real estate,” Conway said. “It’s become competitive.”

Whereas a few years ago integrating conservation programs into buildings might have been seen as costly and inconvenient, the trend now is for structures to be as green and sustainable as possible.

Being green gets serious

Conway noted that BOMA’s 11 chapters Canada-wide have an awards program and that they’re very popular among building owners. “It’s a big deal. People really want these awards, and part of it is you’ve really got to run things well.”

“You’ve got to be sustainable, energy efficient, cutting edge and have the various designations: BOMA BESt, LEED, these types of things.”

By way of example, Conway cited property developer and manager Bentall Kennedy, which he called a “huge entity,” and said is worth approximately $23-billion. According to Conway, Bentall Kennedy employs an entire team devoted to sustainability, including an individual specializing in contaminated land remediation.

“The companies are getting very serious about this stuff, very competitive about tenants,” Conway said.

In Toronto, any new construction is now routinely being built to high LEED standards and with BOMA BESt certification. “This is the way the trend is going in this sector,” Conway said.

CDM pilot an effective kick starter

Despite the success of the CDM pilot program, BOMA discontinued it in 2010. Some talk took place about expanding the program to encompass Ontario, but BOMA decided that was beyond its scope as an organization.

The non-profit realized that the CDM was starting to turn into a business and that they’d end up potentially competing with some of its members in the engineering sphere.

“Our role really is more to promote this type of thing and help be a channel as opposed to going out and running projects,” Conway said.

BOMA Toronto, however, is still working closely with Toronto Hydro and a number of other utilities, hosting webinars and breakfast talks on the subject, which has proved to be incredibly popular.

The highest attendance BOMA has ever had for a webinar was on one of the incentive programs, attracting about 150 people.

A multiple award-winning reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years, Charles Mandel most recently worked as the National Observer's climate change reporter. He is a former Atlantic correspondent…

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A multiple award-winning reporter, writer and editor for more than 25 years, Charles Mandel most recently worked as the National Observer's climate change reporter. He is a former Atlantic correspondent…

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