With our TowerWise program we put ideas into action. We undertake energy efficiency retrofits in order to demonstrate solutions and accelerate retrofits across the multi-unit residential building (MURB) sector. We collaborate with building owners, utilities, governments, residents and others to identify and overcome the barriers to deep decarbonization in the sector.
Our vision: By 2030, the carbon emissions from large residential buildings in the GTHA are 35% lower than current level.
It’s ambitious. But achievable. It’s also necessary.
MURBs – condos, apartments, and co-ops – account for a quarter of building emissions in the region, residential and non-residential. Making deep carbon reductions across the MURBs will help achieve 2050 carbon reduction targets – in fact, the modelling shows these reductions are needed in order to achieve those targets.
Energy efficiency retrofits can renew the housing stock while also achieving a wide range of benefits – reducing operating costs, improving indoor environmental quality and resident comfort, and creating local jobs.
Reducing the feasibility barrier
One key barrier with retrofits is that their technical and economic feasibility of deep retrofits has not been adequately demonstrated. We’re changing that. We partner with affordable housing providers to design, construct and finance major retrofits — 10 buildings so far, housing over 1,600 low-income households. We take a comprehensive approach to retrofits; building upgrades have included new condensing boilers, gas absorption heat pumps, heat recovery ventilation, LED lighting, and smart thermostats. We continue to document the effects of these upgrades through real-time monitoring of whole building performance as well as research-grade instrumentation of key equipment and systems.
TowerWise is making a real difference
TowerWise retrofits have shown that 20-30 per cent energy savings and carbon reductions are achievable and highly profitable. The lessons learned and data collected have been used by our provincial and federal partners to support the development of new programs and equipment regulations.
Working with innovative social enterprise Building Up, we created retrofit training and employment opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment. We also proved that retrofits can substantially improve comfort and air quality for building residents.
- Energy use in buildings decreased 20-30 per cent
- 27,600 tonnes of carbon reduced
- $721,000 saved on utility bills, annually
- 83 million litres of water saved annually
- Improved resident comfort
- 100% increase in fresh air supplied to buildings
- TAF made a return on investment from every ESPA, proving the business case for retrofits
TowerWise won the Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence (2016) from Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (TAF and Toronto Community Housing jointly) and the Vital Ideas Award from the Toronto Foundation (2015).
We’re now working to develop the tools and resources needed to achieve 40 per cent energy savings in the multi-residential sector. This goal is in line with Toronto’s TransformTO climate plan.
TAF will undertake deep retrofits to four multi-unit residential buildings in the GTHA, examining technical feasibility, financial viability and social benefits.
- Cut energy use and carbon emissions by 40%
- Reduce water use
- Improve air quality and thermal comfort for residents
- Create green jobs for people experiencing economic disadvantage
- Accelerate deep retrofits across the GTHA
The four new demonstration sites represent a variety of building forms: stacked townhouses, low-rise multi-family, and high rise multi-family buildings – including low-income housing. By undertaking retrofits across varied sites, TAF is developing a wide range of best practice strategies for Canada’s multi-unit residential building sector.
- Ground and air-source heat pumps
- Photovoltaic panels
- LED lighting
- Air sealing/weatherization measures
The current ‘deep retrofit’ phase of our TowerWise project is made possible through the financial support of:
- The Green Municipal Fund, a Fund financed by the Government of Canada and administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities
- The Independent Electricity System Operator
- The National Housing Strategy under the NHS Demonstrations Initiative of Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation
- Natural Resources Canada
We’ve been running TowerWise since 2007. We’re grateful for financial support for earlier phases of TowerWise from ecobee, Enbridge, Toronto Foundation and Union Gas.