TAF’s new $4.2 million TowerWise Retrofit Project will finance and implement energy efficiency upgrades in seven Toronto Community Housing buildings across Metro Toronto, Scarborough, Etobicoke, and North York. In addition to expected greenhouse gas reductions of 30%, the project will be complimented by a slew of other benefits.

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710 Trethewey Drive, slated for construction January 2016. 

Last week in the greenspace between two Toronto Community Housing towers on Trethewey Drive, project partners met the media and city councillors to formally kick off the project. Councillor and Affordable Housing Committee Chair Ana Bailão and local ward 12 Councillor Frank Di Giorgio spoke of the need for renewal as TCHC faces the real challenges associated with buildings in excess of 50 years old. “Supporting this partnership is one example of how the City is working hard to improve quality of life for TCHC residents. The Toronto Atmospheric Fund investment will both improve affordable housing and reduce carbon emissions for the City,” said Bailão. Attendees and the building tenant representative toured the site to learn about the retrofit designs and met staff from Ecosystem Energy, the engineers selected for the project. Upgrades will include low-flow faucets and toilets, high efficiency boilers, double-glazed windows, and LED lighting.

Toronto Community Housing  is the largest social housing provider in Canada and the second largest in North America. It is home to about 164,000 residents, including seniors, families, refugees, recent newcomers to Canada, and people with special needs. Toronto Council and Toronto Community Housing have placed an emphasis on energy efficiency improvements and related savings as a revenue stream to help address a capital repair need, improve building conditions, and reduce the ongoing funding requirements of the City’s housing stock. For TAF, the sheer volume of the aging buildings offers a significant opportunity to cut greenhouse gas emissions (about half of Toronto’s climate change causing emissions come from buildings) and to demonstrate best practices for buildings all across the city.

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Research team conducts unit monitoring with resident Maria.

Staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer is a priority for just about every Canadian, so the project is focused on improving home comfort for TCHC residents. According to the International Energy Agency, every $1 of savings from a whole-building energy retrofit can also generate up to $3 in health and wellness benefits. Working in partnership with the University of Toronto, a team of TAF engineers and researchers are engaging residents in monitoring activities and surveys to measure indoor conditions before and after the construction. The goal is to improve temperature, air quality, and indoor comfort – some areas of concern for the residents TAF surveyed. Already in the works since February, the data collected will help to inform the retrofit design to improve overall health and comfort inside units. This research will be the first of its kind in Canada in a multi-residence building.

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Project in the design phase on Kendleton Avenue

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of this project, the financing will be structured as an Energy Savings Performance Agreement. TAF provides all of the capital up front and shares utility cost savings with TCHC over ten years. The retrofits will be financed from the TAF endowment and a low-interest loan secured from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM). Utility incentives for verified conservation measures will be secured once the project is completed.

TAF has also raised additional funds from government, corporate and foundation sources to enhance project planning, monitoring and evaluation. Detailed case studies documenting project outcomes will be published in order to document best practices and lessons learned. As the TowerWise Retrofit Project unfolds, we hope to provide valuable data and results that can be used across other TCHC buildings, the City of Toronto, utilities, and other municipalities. Stay tuned for more!

Media coverage of the launch event was featured in the Toronto Star and Inside Toronto.

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Retrofits under consideration for seven TCHC buildings