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Giants Enwave, RioCan partner to create greener buildings

AAmy JAcobs, senior vice-president, commercial operations, Enwave. (Courtesy Enwave)
Amy Jacobs, senior vice-president, commercial operations, Enwave. (Courtesy Enwave)

RioCan REIT and Enwave Energy Corporation have entered into a strategic partnership to explore sustainable energy solutions at designated RioCan development projects.

Enwave, a leader in the field of district energy and renowned for pioneering deep lake water cooling technology, will apply its vast expertise in lowering greenhouse gas emissions to help RioCan reduce the carbon footprint of its properties.

"This new partnership is an exclusive commitment between Enwave and RioCan to work on projects that RioCan is developing and to assist them in attaining their sustainability objectives," said Amy Jacobs, senior vice-president, commercial operations at Enwave in Toronto.

"The most expected outcome would be the installation of district energy systems or geoexchange systems to serve those (property) developments, but the technology could also branch out into other areas within the sustainable sector. This would involve addressing not only thermal energy requirements, but potentially electrical ones or water saving.

"Enwave's role is that of a full energy partner to RioCan on a wide number of areas."

RioCan Leaside Centre in Toronto already under preparation

One of the first projects falling under the partnership is the RioCan Leaside Centre in Toronto. It will involve the implementation of a district-scale and energy-efficient geoexchange solution at the 1.3-million-square-foot mixed-use development site.

"Our Enwave team has already been working very closely on Leaside for a number of months, which involves five buildings to be developed by RioCan within the same area and those five buildings will be served by geoexchange technology," Jacobs added.

"There will be a common system shared by the five buildings and geoexchange water will be delivered to these five buildings to aid them in their individual heating and cooling requirements."

Incorporating this energy-efficient solution at Leaside will not only reduce electricity consumption by a substantial amount, but also generate significantly less greenhouse gases than traditional HVAC systems.

"With respect to sustainability, the main impact of our work at Leaside relates to emissions savings — I don't have specific numbers to give you — but the geoexchange solution will achieve a significant reduction in the buildings' carbon footprint. This typically involves a 60 per cent to 80 per cent energy savings versus traditional boiler/cooling systems."

Enwave was founded as a publicly owned utility that provided heating to Toronto-area municipal buildings and hospitals by means of a centralized, "district" network system.

Today, Enwave has a proven track record in the deployment of geothermal energy systems and is the leading district energy provider in North America. The company first gained international attention for its implementation of the pioneering Deep Lake Water Cooling (DLWC) system underneath Toronto, which draws water from Lake Ontario to drive a heat exchange system that provides cooling for office towers and hospitals.

Partnership follows companies' work on The Well

The announcement of the partnership between RioCan and Enwave is the natural outgrowth of their previous collaboration on The Well.

This project is regarded as Toronto's first true mixed-use development, and involves the construction of an innovative district energy thermal reservoir located deep below the site of the former Globe and Mail headquarters.

Once completed, The Well will provide low-carbon underground heating and cooling to a 3 million square foot, seven-building retail, residential and office complex being built by RioCan REIT and fellow developer Allied Properties REIT.

This project carries the added benefit of enabling Enwave to expand its DLWC system into a scalable, sustainable alternative to conventional HVAC systems and has seen an increasing number of buildings join Enwave's low-carbon client network.

In 2020, Enwave embarked on a separate massive $100 million DLWC expansion project in partnership with the City of Toronto. The undertaking is an integral part of the company's broader plan to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the strain on local electricity and water systems in Toronto. The project is expected to be completed in 2024.

Overall, Enwave is one of the largest commercial operators of community-based thermal energy systems in North America and is focused on providing scalable and sustainable energy solutions tailored to municipalities, commercial developments, universities, hospitals and residential communities.

RioCan embraces its ESG responsibility

By joining forces with Enwave, RioCan has taken a further step in its strategic commitment to a low-carbon economy and ESG objectives.

In October, the company was presented with two BOMA Commercial Real Estate Trailblazers Awards in recognition of its efforts to lower carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency at its properties.

The company was also ranked as the top trust with respect to public disclosure and earned above-average GRESB assessments scores.

"Responsible stewardship is essential to protecting and maximizing long-term value. Whether they relate to existing assets or developments, our environmental sustainability initiatives are critical in transitioning to a low-carbon economy," said Jonathan Gitlin, president and CEO of RioCan, in.a prepared statement.

"RioCan is proud to lead the way in integrating ESG best practices in everything we do. We continue to make progress and it’s an honour to be recognized for our ESG achievements."

Enwave GeoCommunities Unit

Enwave also operates a separate unit called GeoCommunities which targets off-district, low-carbon geoexchange projects similar to those of its RioCan Leaside venture.

Launched in February 2021, the GeoCommunities division has embarked on two stand-alone geoexchange projects involving residential towers currently under construction.

"We launched Enwave GeoCommunities with the intent of accelerating the adoption of low-carbon technology and by doing so we hope to further build and develop the supply chain related to drilling, especially in Canada," Jacobs explained. "Our GeoCommunities brand, coupled with the Enwave core business, is anticipated to drive that supply-chain development by bringing a larger pipeline of customers to the geoexchange market."

"We're no so much looking at making technological advances themselves, but rather to bringing more awareness about the existing technology and encouraging other vendors that we have existing relationships with to expand into the geoexchange base as a technology of the future."

"That's really one of the ultimate goals that we hope to realize."

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