Ottawa Community Housing reduces carbon footprint while building additional affordable housing capacity
At Ottawa Community Housing, we have successfully matched our desire to make the world a better place with a healthy bottom line, all while addressing the urgent need for additional affordable housing stock. The outcome has been a more comfortable living environment for tenants, significant savings, and a remarkable reduction in our carbon footprint.
The greening of OCH began in earnest in 2010 with the hiring of a dedicated resource. Since then, the team has now grown to include a Manager of Conservation and Sustainability, an Energy and Sustainability Officer as well as several partnerships delivering energy savings with local resources.
The first OCH green plan, the Eco2 Plan, was developed in 2011 and helped channel the organization’s efforts in three areas – our buildings, our people and our culture. Since its implementation, over $10M was received as a result of energy reduction initiatives. Every year, monies are reinvested into a Green Fund – designed to provide capital for future sustainability projects.
It seems all that work has paid off. We received two regional awards for our sustainability practices in November. Dan Dicaire, OCH’s Manager of Conservation and Sustainability, was named Canada’s Young Energy Professional of the Year by the Association of Energy Professionals for his leadership in sustainable design practices and reducing OCH’s carbon footprint on November 18. On November 20, OCH received the Innovation – Green Building Award of the Year from the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association Annual Housing Design Awards for the newly built Carlington Community at 1290 Coldrey Ave.
We built the Carlington Community in partnership with the Carlington Community Health Centre. This new community provides a home for more than 40 seniors and was designed to the passive house standard – meaning it uses 85 percent less energy to heat and cool the homes than traditional buildings. You can heat and cool a one-bedroom with the same amount of energy it takes to run a hairdryer. It was Ontario’s first mixed-use passive house.
The Carlington building is just one example of how OCH is paving the way for more sustainable communities. Mosaïq, one of our newest communities construction, includes a six-storey high-rise apartment building on track to be the country’s largest passive house.
Elements of sustainable design such as passive house and net zero designations are included in OCH’s building standards and considered in requests for proposals when working toward retrofitting existing communities.
We are currently working on an innovative partnership with Natural Resources Canada to renew four aging townhomes in Overbrook. The project is a Prefabricated Exterior Energy Retrofit (PEER). The work provides better insulation by installing new airtight and highly insulated outer walls for the four homes – giving the homes a new life.
As a result of the retrofit, the four homes will get an electrical upgrade, a new roof, new windows and a bank of 34-kilowatt solar panels that will produce 40,000 kWh annually – the amount of energy consumed by more than four average homes each year. The solar panels will make the four, Overbook townhomes net zero, meaning they will put as much energy back into the grid as they consume.
Retrofits to our existing housing stock have saved OCH more than $35 million in utility costs since the development of the Eco2Plan.
Other green initiatives
Since 2010, we have installed solar arrays in 36 OCH communities. Today, those arrays generate 400,000 kWh, enough power each year to charge more than 9 million smart phones.
OCH installed several building automation systems that help reduce energy consumption for heating and cooling. They allow staff to monitor the heating and water systems for anything that requires repair. This work helps keep tenants more comfortable and improves the systems’ reliability because they are constantly monitored, and staff can see an outage in real time.
Engaging tenants to help divert waste and reduce energy consumption is an important part of our ongoing green planning. Currently, 30 apartment buildings have TV screens in their lobby to display the energy consumption and offer tips on how tenants can reduce their energy use. We are also working on improved diversion for organics and recyclables in our high-rise communities, aiming to divert up to 50 percent of waste from landfills.
“Our organization has big plans, and there is much more amazing work to come,” said Dan Dicaire, Manager of Conservation and Sustainability.
This is a guest post from ONPHA member Ottawa Community Housing.
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