The 10-year, $3 million project, done in partnership with Efficiency Capital and engineering firms Finn Projects and SensorSuite Inc., has already received international recognition.
Toronto, Ont. – The starting phase of an ambitious and innovative 10-year, $3-million energy and water savings retrofit project has been completed at eight of WoodGreen Community Housing’s social housing buildings in Toronto. It is the first project in Canada to achieve the internationally recognized Investor Ready Energy Efficiency (IREE) certification, awarded by Green Business Certification Inc. Canada.
For the project, WoodGreen unlocked financing to improve close to 1,000 units for its vulnerable population of clients and to increase the sustainability of its aging housing stock. WoodGreen Community Housing commissioned Efficiency Capital, which brought in engineering firms Finn Projects and SensorSuite Inc., to help develop and implement this unique model. The project was funded by Efficiency Capital/The Atmospheric Fund, the City of Toronto’s Better Building Partnerships loans, and WoodGreen’s capital reserves.
“WoodGreen is proud to be part of this exciting project that is tackling two huge issues for Toronto: affordable housing renewal and climate change,” said Mwarigha, WoodGreen’s Vice President of Housing and Homelessness Services. “A project like this — based on a model that combines upfront investment by private, public, and WoodGreen’s loans and paid for through monetizing energy savings — has never been done in Canada before. It shows that it is possible for affordable housing to also be a leader in self-financed sustainable housing.”
“We are thrilled to have leveraged our risk-free investment model of financial and energy savings for building owners to create a successful retrofit program for WoodGreen Community Housing,” said Chandra Ramadurai, CEO of Efficiency Capital. “Providing energy-efficient upgrades to aging infrastructure is extremely important to mitigate climate change and keep building tenants safe and comfortable. These upgrades are especially important for social housing and non-profit organizations, where budgets are often prioritized towards funding critical services to their communities versus maintenance and asset renewal.”
This project has many benefits for WoodGreen, the residents of its buildings, and the environment. First, it provided much-needed improvements — such as replacing the boilers, chillers, make-up air units, etc. — to the aging buildings, which also improved the air quality and comfort of tenants’ homes and increased the value of the buildings. Second, the project will reduce WoodGreen’s building portfolio carbon footprint by 250 tonnes per year, supporting the City of Toronto’s TransformTO climate action strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 65 per cent of 1990 levels by 2033.
“SensorSuite is proud to support such an innovative project, a project like this highlights the carbon savings potential when intelligent energy efficiency systems are put to work to create smart buildings,” said Glen Spry, CEO of SensorSuite.
“As the design-builder providing guaranteed energy savings, Finn Projects is delighted to have assisted WoodGreen and Efficiency Capital in delivering this project. The IREE certification, achieved on the basis of our engineering calculations, provided a solid foundation for the investments in this project to achieve WoodGreen’s goals of improving indoor environmental conditions for its residents while realizing significant GHG emission reductions,” said Derrick Finn, President of Finn Projects. “The importance of GHG reductions in Canada’s housing stock is particularly important at this time when we see the devastating impacts of climate change in Western Canada and around the world. Despite the fact that the retrofit commenced during COVID-19, we were able to deliver the project on time, for which we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the WoodGreen operational staff for their cooperation.”
Furthermore, in addition to saving WoodGreen hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in utility costs, the unique real-time measurement and monetization of the savings will be used to pay back the financial loans associated with the building retrofits. The upgrades will provide nearly $5.7 million in savings over the next 20-30 years and will allow WoodGreen to avoid approximately $6.1 million in capital costs that could then be used for other improvements. This means WoodGreen won’t incur any additional operational costs. In turn, clients won’t face service level reductions to pay for the buildings’ energy savings and modernization costs.
This model, pioneered by Efficiency Capital and WoodGreen, shows that it’s possible for non-profits to modernize their buildings, make them more energy-efficient, and use the savings to pay back financial loans associated with the project.
WoodGreen Community Housing is one of the largest non-municipal providers of affordable housing in Toronto and provides the opportunity for youth, seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities, psychiatric survivors, and people with a long history of homelessness to thrive in safe, affordable housing. Since 2008, WoodGreen has contributed more than 200 units of new affordable housing to Toronto’s stock.