TowerWise helps fund four Toronto multi-res energy retrofits

Toronto-based The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) will partner with Natural Resources Canada and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to help fund energy retrofits in four Toronto and Hamilton multi-residential properties.


TowerWise is a program operated by Toronto-based The Atmospheric Fund.

The demonstration projects are the next phase in TAF’s TowerWise program. It is designed to encourage owners and managers of existing multi-res properties in the GTA and GTHA to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“To reduce urban carbon emissions, we need to make older buildings, especially multi-unit buildings, drastically more energy efficient. The TowerWise project demonstrates how to achieve this,” TAF CEO Julia Langer said in a release announcing the latest phase. “Earlier TowerWise demonstration buildings showed that 20-30 per cent energy savings are achievable and profitable through targeted upgrades.

“We now aim for a minimum of 40 per cent energy and emission savings through deep energy retrofits.”

The TowerWise goal aligns with Toronto’s TransformTO climate plan, which calls for existing buildings to achieve an average of 40 per cent energy performance improvement by 2050.

Retrofits to cost $9 million

The latest four retrofits are estimated to cost $9 million including capital costs. Partial funding will be provided by NRC ($487,700) and the IESO ($500,000), with matching funding from TAF. TAF spokesman Tim Ehlich and low carbon buildings manager Ekaterina Tzekova told RENX the rest of the funding remains to be negotiated — including how much will be provided by the building owners.

This phase includes four demonstration sites with different building types, demographics and ownership structures, representing the broader multi-residential sector – including low-income housing.

Though it has not yet identified the properties involved, Ehlich said they include high-rise and low-rise buildings constructed between 1986 and 1992. One City Housing Hamilton and one Toronto Community Housing building will participate, as well as a townhouse complex and a condo tower.

They range in height from three to 47 floors, and together contain more than 780 units (between 40-500 units per site).

“They are suitable for this demonstration because there is a great opportunity to improve the performance of the heating systems, envelope and fresh air ventilation,” Ehlich and Tzekova told RENX.

The planned energy efficiency retrofits include equipment replacements (boilers, HVAC systems), improved insulation, and innovative technologies such as heat pumps. Building performance verification will include both real-time energy monitoring and the Government of Canada EnerGuide energy performance labelling program.

Projects to begin this year

TAF approached what it calls a “diverse set” of building owners and managers to solicit participation in this phase of the program. Planning is ongoing, with work set to start later this year and be completed in 2019.

As more funding becomes available, TAF plans to approach additional building managers to participate in further phases.

“Multi-residential buildings form the backbone of Canada’s urban housing stock – and the federal government is proud to support a project that demonstrates how we can make them energy efficient,” Natural Resources minister Jim Carr said in the release.

TAF said 10 buildings have been involved in the retrofit program so far, seven Toronto Community Housing buildings and three co-ops in Toronto.

“The IESO is proud to support TAF to drastically reduce energy use across the Toronto-area building stock,” said Terry Young, IESO’s vice-president of policy, engagement and innovation in the release. “Energy retrofits not only save operating costs and cut emissions, they improve indoor air quality and comfort for residents, and they help reduce strain on the electricity system.

“The TowerWise project represents the kind of innovation and market transformation that the IESO seeks to enable.”

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