Elementary Teachers' new head office a showcase of sustainability

The Toronto office building of The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is a showcase of sustainability. Toronto’s first purpose-built structure to achieve LEED Platinum is also the first in Canada to utilize an innovative geothermal heating and cooling system.

ETFO building“As educators, we are driven to lead by example,” ETFO president Sam Hammond said in a statement. “That is why we wanted our office to be a model and lead in terms of its environmental construction and footprint.”

The ETFO, Canada’s largest teacher federation, represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and educational professionals.

ETFO set the bar high for its new headquarters in order to provide a highly sustainable example to teach and inspire.

The building

The four-storey,  121, 072-square-foot edifice was completed last summer. In addition to office space, the downtown building includes training and conference facilities, a flexible event space and a coffee bar.

It includes a green roof, daylight motions sensors to adjust lighting levels, rainwater harvesting and automated exterior shading. The latter feature, an exterior shading blind system, represents one of the first large-scale applications in Canada.

It was carefully shaped and sculpted to fit into its “tight urban site” at 125 Isabella St in the Upper Jarvis area, according to the building’s contractor Bird Construction.

A special west-facing tree court was cut into the building into order to preserve a huge black walnut tree.

According to KPMB Architects, who designed the office, “The ETFO headquarters is conceived as a pinnacle of sustainable building practice with goals for a minimum 60% energy reduction over the Model National Energy Code Building.

“The ambition is to be the greenest, and most energy-efficient commercial office building in Metro Toronto.”

Unique construction technique

Prior to the ETFO project, drilling to sink geothermal “columns” was only possible pre-construction.

ETFO’s building partners pioneered a technology to bore down 50 storeys from the underground parking garage after a major part of the office had already been completed.  This enabled other trades to work concurrently with the installation of the geo-exchange.

Fenix Energy developed and designed its low-head room drilling solution in order to be able to retrofit high-rise commercial real estate with geothermal installations, says co-founder and vice-president of engineering Adrian Ryan.

The implications of the successful application of this new technology may be significant as it has opened the way to retrofit older structures with geothermal heating and cooling.

Bird Construction installed the geothermal technology, which involved drilling 84 holes, 150 metres deep. The system ties into a space heating and cooling network consisting of “hydronic capillary mats” installed in the ceiling grid.

The mats are made up of five-millimetre polypropylene tubes carrying water for heating and cooling.

The new system has achieved a 71 per cent reduction in heating and cooling energy for ETFO. The workplace heats, cools and provides fresh air at a fraction of the usual costs.

It took two years to develop the design and carry out consultations with the neighborhood and the City of Toronto to successfully rezone the site.

Experienced team

KPMB Architects has won 12 Governor General’s Medals for Architecture for its projects. The firm has designed a wide range of buildings from the Canadian Embassy in Berlin to Manitoba Hydro Place in Winnipeg.

Fenix Energy provides geo-thermal heating and cooling systems to a variety of buildings, including the $500-million Surrey Civic Centre in B.C., currently under construction.

Bird Construction has built all manner of projects across Canada, including the Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver and the Ontario Veterinary College on the University of Guelph campus.


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…

Read more

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…

Read more





Industry Events