We spend the vast majority of our time indoors working, sleeping, eating, socializing, and shopping. But we rarely make the connection between our activities and the fact that buildings are the largest source of carbon emissions in the GTHA with a share of 44 per cent. We need to significantly improve the way existing buildings perform – and we need to do it quickly. TAF is doing just that with the next phase of its TowerWise retrofit program.

Across the region, multi-residential buildings play a significant role as a pillar of our housing stock. In Toronto alone, they house more than half of the city’s population – and emit nearly 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. The case for energy efficiency retrofits is there; however, a lack of demonstration projects, capital, and confidence in performance makes it difficult for building owners to undertake these needed improvements.

To show that building retrofits work with existing technologies, TAF continues its trailblazing TowerWise retrofit program. Thanks to funding from Natural Resources Canada and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), we aim to demonstrate that deep energy savings – achieving a minimum of 40 per cent energy and emission reductions – are financially and technically feasible. Building on our experience from our previous TowerWise work, we will undertake a number of deep energy retrofits to quantify the economic, environmental, and social benefits.

See also the TowerWise release and backgrounder (PDF).

So far we’ve identified four ideal multi-residential candidates for this work, providing a cross section of different building types, demographics, and ownership structures – including low-income housing.

Through earlier demonstration work that included community housing and co-ops, TAF has shown that 20-30 per cent energy savings are achievable and profitable. However, getting to 40 per cent is no small feat. Achieving such substantial reductions will require measures that will include:

  • Installing heat pumps;
  • Improving the building envelope (reduce air leakage)
  • Utilizing solar thermal (for domestic hot water) and renewable solar energy;
  • Modifying ventilation systems and improving fresh air supply;
  • Upgrading to high-efficiency lighting; and
  • Retro-commissioning (or optimizing) existing building systems.

With these planned building improvements we go beyond achieving energy, emission and cost reductions. These measures also give us the opportunity to achieve multiple benefits such as improving indoor comfort and environmental quality, addressing overdue capital repairs, and extending building lifespan – benefits that are especially relevant for low-income housing. Using the data gathered, we will identify best practices and develop scale-up recommendations for the GTHA and other urban areas across Canada.

The new phase of the TowerWise program also ties in with the Council-approved TransformTO climate action plan to reach Toronto’s 2050 target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent (over 1990). Among other goals, it calls for existing buildings to achieve an average of 40 per cent energy performance improvement through retrofits. Together with our funders and partners on the ground, the TAF team looks forward to this exciting new chapter of the TowerWise program!