Tag Archives: energy-efficient homes
Condominium building benefits from eco power
By Sherry Noik-Bent, National Post
Located at Front Street and Blue Jays Way, Element was the first residential project to sign on to Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling system (DLWC).
It’s the same system that’s already being used to cool concertgoers at the Air Canada Centre, workers at the TD Centre and shoppers at The Bay store on Queen Street, three of the dozen buildings currently hooked up. Another 28 buildings — Queen’s Park among them — are slated to connect by year’s end, and ano-ther four by 2008.
“I don’t know if it’s environmental consciousness or people are afraid that electricity prices are going to go up,” says Enwave president and CEO Dennis Fotinos, “but there’s this huge bandwagon effect.”
DLWC is the largest system of its kind in the world, capable of servicing a large swath of downtown Toronto. Three massive pipes extend 83 metres below the surface of Lake Ontario and extract water from its frigid depths, where the temperature is a consistent 4 C. By way of an energy-transfer station, cold-air energy is extracted and distributed to Enwave’s customers for air conditioning, while the clean, drinkable water continues on its way into the municipal supply.
It’s an exceptionally clean, green solution for an urban jungle like Toronto, where most citizens feel the lake is only good for boating, fireworks-watching and, if you’re brave, swimming.
The DLWC makes use of a renewable resource, is CFC-free, and requires 90% less electricity to operate than conventional condo cooling equipment, resulting in significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you’re talking about living green, you have to talk about it in the macro perspective,” says Tridel’s environmental consultant, Jamie James. “If we can create more energy-efficient homes, we can reduce urban air pollution and we can improve the province’s ability to deliver stable electricity.”
Indeed, this method of cooling alone cuts Element’s energy consumption by about half a million kilowatt-hours per year. Aside from the obvious cost savings, the bonus for residents is that their heating and cooling will not be seasonal, as in typical condos, but rather available all year round. And, certainly, no one’s going to miss the extra noise, pollution and humidity a giant chiller would generate at the juncture of Toronto’s busy sports and entertainment districts.
“We’re now in an age where we have to look at building performance,” Mr. James adds, “because that also impacts quality of life in the city,”
To that end, in-suite energy-saving features, such as Energy Star appliances, further reduce consumption by 300,000 to 400,000 kilowatt-hours. Motion-triggered lighting in the underground garage will reap additional savings. The 354 units also have low-flow faucets and dual-flush toilets, which are expected to cut water use by at least one quarter.
Overall, the building will outperform national energy standards by about 25%, which qualifies Tridel for a $60,000 grant from Natural Resources Canada, under its Commercial Building Incentive Program (far less than the estimated half-million-dollar premium it cost to construct Element — a cost the company absorbed when the City turned down its request to build a few storeys higher than the planned 24). Of course, they could have just raised the prices of the suites, but Mr. James says it was important to the developer to keep them at market prices.
For its efforts, Element won the 2006 Green Toronto Award for energy conservation and was featured on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet program this past spring.
Now, a second condo has just announced it will tap in to DLWC. When the 70-storey Trump International Hotel and Towers is completed at Bay and Adelaide, this symbol of luxury and excess will actually be helping reduce harmful emissions by 3,224 tonnes per year and reduce energy consumption by close to three-million kilowatt-hours — an amount comparable to the electricity used by nearly 300 homes — by cooling its residences, hotel rooms, spa, business centre and restaurants with DLWC.
Mr. Fotinos, who recently returned from an industry conference in Nashville, says Toronto is seen as “a real leader” in forward thinking and environmentally friendly energy solutions. At the same time, though he lauds his clients’ efforts at being green, he isn’t sure that’s their only — or even their most important — motivation for using DLWC. “At the end of the day,” he says, “the reason they do it is because it makes economic sense.”
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To qualify, a home must exceed national energy efficiency standards
Kathryn Young, CanWest News Service
Kosta Hatzidimitriou was surprised, then pleased when he stumbled upon a green mortgage for his recent purchase of a three-bedroom single-family home.
“The wife and I are trying to get more environmentally conscious and energy efficient,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s about time the banks got involved [in enviro-friendly products] because everybody else is.”
His new Citizens Bank of Canada mortgage included a $10,000 line of credit at prime for energy-efficient upgrades. and a blue recycling bin filled with $875 worth of information and coupons, including a $375 home energy audit to help determine what improvements can be made to his 18-year-old Toronto-area home.
“It’s interesting to find out a bank is doing this instead of some government agency,” Hatzidimitriou said. “I like that.”
Banks and credit unions are starting to offer what they call “green mortgages” and “green loans” for energy-efficient improvements, and plan to roll out more products in the coming months.
Vancity Credit Union (which wholly owns Citizens Bank) has been involved for many years in financing green and sustainable commercial properties, and now offers a climate change mortgage. Vancity doesn’t advertise this mortgage; instead it takes the money usually spent acquiring mortgage business — $1,250 per mortgage — and invests it in a climate change fund.
Even some of the bigger banks are examining green possibilities.
“We are very seriously looking at this,” said Kelly Hechler, spokeswoman for TD Canada Trust. “We know there’s interest out there. We’ve seen it in polls we’ve done of homeowners who say it’s becoming an important thing to them.”
Although they’re a first step toward making Canadian homes more energy efficient, these financial deals don’t always meet the more strict definition of a green mortgage or green loan that government and green building promoters would like to see.
Gordon Shields, co-ordinator of the Net-Zero Energy Home Coalition, said a green mortgage usually refers to preferential interest rates for a mortgage on a home that’s measurably more energy efficient than one built to the provincial or national building code, such as R-2000, Energy Star, Built Green, Power Smart or Novoclimat homes. The homes are labelled and the energy efficiency measured, and tying the mortgage to that measurement is important.
“That would be a key component,” said Shields. “We would want to see a green mortgage premised on exceeding the national building code standard or national average.”
Steffan Jones, manager of home ownership policy for the insurance sector at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., also said he doesn’t consider them true green mortgages.
“A lot of this is marketing,” Jones said. “But there is a benefit. If they’re encouraging people to get energy audits and at least think about it and perhaps know what kinds of improvements they can make, that’s the benefit that can’t be quantified.”
Since 2003, CMHC has offered an incentive for homebuyers who need mortgage insurance to buy certified energy-efficient homes or to buy existing homes and make them more efficient: they can receive a 10% refund on their mortgage loan insurance premium and extended amortization periods of up to 40 years without any surcharges. All homes must be either certified under one of the energy-efficiency programs or have energy audits to prove their energy-efficiency rating.
“Anything that makes things more energy efficient, there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Shields, whose group promotes net-zero-energy homes that produce as much energy (solar, wind or geothermal) as they use in a year.
True green mortgages and loans would help Canada’s housing supply become more energy efficient much faster, Shields said. Buildings produce about 40% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Canada Green Building Council.
Meanwhile, it’s been a learning experience for Hatzidimitriou as he goes through his blue box of coupons and information.
“It’s definitely made me revamp my plan for the future,” he said, adding that he’ll now put money into energy-efficient changes rather than landscaping, ceramic floors or granite counters.
Whether it’s a condo in Toronto, a suburban house or a country property, the environment is increasingly top-of-mind with homebuyers and builders
By Sherry Noik-Bent – National Post
It is often said that we haven’t inherited the Earth from our fathers, we’re borrowing it from our children. Today, with a heightened awareness of environmental concerns, homebuilders are making a commitment to create cleaner, more energy-efficient homes.
The movement toward environmentally friendly building is swiftly gaining ground in this country and it is homebuyers who may come out the biggest winners.
Sustainable housing is booming, with options like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, energy-efficient light bulbs and even windmills coming in to widespread use in new homes.
“‘Green buildings’ is really just a word for high-performance buildings,” says Thomas Mueller, president of the Canada Green Building Council.
“You get a better building in terms of performance, durability, health, energy, water and so… a better building that provides a better value for the customer.”
The council is a non-profit coalition of building professionals that kick-started this green revolution. Since its inception in December, 2002, the organization has rapidly signed on 1,100 member firms and organizations including architects and engineers, contractors, builders and even municipalities (the City of Vancouver was first; the City of Toronto came later).
The council’s board of directors is made up of private and public-sector building representatives. And its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program has quickly become the gold — and silver and platinum — standard for green building.
LEED is the latest buzzword in building. And with a growing number of projects seeking certification — 278 registered in Canada, 16 of them condo and/or loft projects in the GTA — it’s something Canadian homebuyers are going to hear more and more about.
Modified from the original U.S. version for our climates, LEED Canada is a system of rating buildings for their environmental impact and performance using a points system. The points result in ratings from “certified” to “silver” to “gold” to “platinum.” The 72 techno-speak criteria on the Project Checklist — things like “erosion and sedimentation control” and “ozone protection” — will likely be of little interest to consumers. But the end result is a definitive green-print for developers to follow and a mark homebuyers can count on.
“Green buildings were around before, but the LEED rating system really presents a common framework and a common language so we can say what a green building really is,” elaborates Mr. Mueller.
With LEED, builders must meet certain prerequisites, then accumulate credits in six categories: sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and design process. Any combination of points between 26 and 32 results in a “certified” assignation. Between 33 and 38 nets “silver”; 39-51 receives “gold”; and 52-70 scores “platinum.”
Though inspection and certification happen post-construction, buyers can be assured a building will meet at least the minimum LEED standard if it has registered, because registration denotes a commitment.
What builders — and homebuyers — are realizing is that an environmentally friendly building doesn’t have to look like an eccentric space-age edifice or a primitive tree house.
Take the Radiance at Minto Gardens, a 33-storey condo in North York. Last month, it became the first residential high-rise to be LEED Canada certified, garnering a silver rating.
“The biggest ‘green’ feature of this building is that it looks like any other building,” says Andrew Pride, Minto’s vice-president of energy management.
Furthermore, while residents go about their normal lives, Minto’s innovations bring them significant savings and — here’s the best part — doesn’t require any extra effort on their part. Quite the opposite, in fact.
By using energy-efficient hallway lighting and installing motion sensors in the stairwells — triggered, like a refrigerator bulb, the instant the door is opened — the building’s common-area energy consumption in its first year of occupancy was 33% lower than in a non-green building, saving an estimated $200,000 on maintenance fees.
Inside the 377 condos, Minto has introduced energy-efficient thermostats, specially designed HRV (heat recovery ventilator) fan coils, and the very popular “all off” switch by the entrance that kills all the lights and exhaust fans at once.
But where the residents are most empowered is in the individual metering of hydro and hot and cold water. “This allows you to control your own cost,” says Mr. Pride. In “a typical condo, water is included in the condo fees, so your neighbour’s water use is your cost.” When consumers are able to see a breakdown of their consumption, they are more inclined to take simple measures, such as not running the tap when they brush their teeth and not running the dishwasher with just a few plates. The result has been a 55% reduction in water use — the equivalent of a one-litre bottle every second — compared with a similar-sized condo, and a savings of approximately $55,000 a year.
No detail has been overlooked in constructing a more efficient, healthy building that will appeal to homeowners and also provide city-wide environmental benefits like reduced emissions, waste and rainwater runoff.
But with higher building costs, what’s the incentive for developers?
“This building’s [cost is] somewhere around 3% to 4% higher than an equivalent condo in Toronto,” says Mr. Pride. “We absorbed it. It was part of what we wanted to build and what we wanted to demonstrate.”
Still, that’s not a viable long-term business plan for Minto. So until costs come down on going green, the company is exploring new ways to make up the difference, such as a “green loan” — a loan by Minto to the condo corporation that is paid back over time by a portion of the residents’ maintenance fees.
“There is a difference,” says Mr. Pride, “and there is a choice.”
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