The geo-exchange system — one of the first in the region and a first for Minto — will reduce fossil fuel use for space heating and cooling by up to 95 per cent, providing low-carbon energy to five residential condo towers over three phases at Oakvillage. It also has the potential for future expansion as development continues.
“Today, we are proud to be commencing work on the geo-exchange system at our North Oak Towers, after years of research and planning,” said Mike LaPlante, vice-president of land development, Minto Communities GTA, in a statement. “This is an important step in significantly reducing carbon emissions, protecting future residents from rising energy costs, and supporting the Town of Oakville’s community energy strategy.”
Vancouver-based Creative Energy’s solution will distribute ambient water (for space heating and cooling) and heating water (for local hot water production) through the boreholes from a central hub, connecting to each building through heat exchangers. Interconnected to three geothermal fields, the system will allow facilities to share energy efficiently and cost-effectively.
Boreholes to be drilled over several months
Creative Energy and Minto did not disclose financial details of the system, but Creative’s VP of development, Diego Mandelbaum, told SustainableBiz the drilling of the hundreds of closed-loop vertical boreholes would continue for the next several months.
Mandelbaum said the boreholes would range from 600 to 800 feet deep. The first phase, which began Monday morning, includes 60 to 90 holes drilled between now and June, while the second phase will see 30 to 60 additional holes soon after. Fifty to 90 more spots will be dug later in the final step.
Located near Dundas St. and Trafalgar Ave., the building under construction will stand 20 storeys and contain 207 units. It’s part of a 38-hectare, master-planned community constructed in multiple phases, including townhomes.
Two of the five planned towers are under construction, development for the third tower is expected soon, and sales could launch later this year, LaPlante told SustainableBiz. News about the fourth and fifth towers has not yet been released, as the company is still doing its due diligence.
Buildout is expected by about 2027.
First geothermal project for Minto
Minto has been considering geothermal systems for some time, but this is the first community energy system for the firm.
The company released its sustainability plan in 2020 and has been working to minimize the carbon footprint of its portfolio.
It manages 14,600 rental units and carries 2.4 million square feet of commercial space. Minto has also built more than 95,800 homes in the Ottawa, Calgary and Greater Toronto Areas and has an investment management portfolio of about $4.1 billion (as of January 2022).
North Oak Towers is targeting Energy Star’s Multifamily High-Rise Certification and will also utilize energy recovery ventilators, air and water filtration systems to lower its carbon footprint.
“We’ve done a lot of research and feasibility studies on more projects than just this one,” LaPlante said. “(The) Town of Oakville has been great to work with, and with this, and for what will eventually be five towers all contiguous with a piece of land, it made sense for us.”
Part of that “research” was a three-day hackathon hosted by Minto to devise innovative energy, construction and circular economy solutions for Oakvillage. One of the winners was Ross DK, a Danish company specializing in geothermal resources and producing geothermal energy for district heating.
Minto, Creative Energy partnership
The partnership with Creative Energy enables Minto to finally implement geothermal technology after years of study and analysis.
“We are looking to make sure we’re getting ahead of the curve about some of these sustainable features,” said LaPlante. “Here at Village, we’re doing geothermal, and at other projects, we’re offering net-zero-ready and full net-zero units — something we plan on doing more in the future.
“This is all part of trying to get ahead, whether it’s a carbon tax or the cost of heating and cooling in the future and looking at ways to help our homeowners and communities.”
The net-zero energy upgrades Laplante discussed are for select single-family homes in some of its low-rise communities, including The Heights of Harmony and Union Village.
Oakville, meanwhile, has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2041. The Minto-Creative Energy partnership could spark future projects utilizing similar technology to help the town achieve that standard.
“Ensuring new construction is delivered to the highest energy standards is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The geo-exchange system that Minto’s North Oak Tower project is deploying is the solution that will help Oakville achieve its Community Energy Strategy goals. We hope systems like these become a standard across all of Oakville’s new developments,” said John Matthiesen, chair of Future Energy Oakville.
Creative Energy expanding in Ontario, U.S.
Creative Energy has been looking to expand in Ontario for several years and U.S. cities, including Seattle and San Jose. In business since 1968, it is one of the largest district energy solutions providers in North America and serves over 215 customers across more than 45 million sq. ft. of connected real estate.
“We are expanding as we speak and have more and more projects (coming in the pipeline),” said Krishnan Iyer, president and CEO of Creative Energy. “We are proud to partner with Minto Communities GTA in bringing low carbon heating and cooling to the new North Oak development, implementing an innovative geo-exchange community energy system.”
Mandelbaum added the North Oak project has been in the works for two and a half years.
“(The plan) has gone through multiple iterations, optimizations and revisions to make sure that we can strike the best sustainable, affordable and resilient product. The final concept was finalized maybe six months ago or so, and we’re finally about to hit the first drill today, an exciting milestone for us,” he said.
Iyer said Creative Energy has 15 active projects across Canada and the U.S. This latest announcement is its second in Ontario.
In 2019, the company installed a district energy and micro-grid system at Toronto’s Mirvish Village — a 4.5-acre development on the iconic Honest Ed’s site at Bathurst St. and Bloor St. W.