energy consumption

A race against energy consumption

How the Race to Reduce program boosted landlord-tenant connections in office buildings
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
By Rebecca Melnyk

Over the past four years, about 69 million square feet of Toronto’s office stock participated in an ambitious challenge to lower energy usage in buildings. CivicAction’s Race to Reduce united landlords and tenants in collaborative sustainable initiatives in an effort to meet a minimum reduction target of 10 per cent. All races must eventually come to an end, with accomplishments and challenges along the way, but this race inspired partakers to keep moving towards long-term sustainable goals.

At the time of the Race to Reduce launch in 2011, the focus on collaboration between landlord and tenant was still in its infancy, says Steven Sorensen, vice-president of operations for Cadillac Fairview’s Toronto office portfolio and chair of the original working group that established the race.

“There wasn’t a great deal of success amongst the landlords in our industry in reaching out to tenants to try to collaborate on identifying and acting on energy savings opportunities,” he notes.

However, he adds, the race proved to be a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness and encourage partnership through a friendly competition and, ultimately, to encourage landlords to team up with larger clients and reduce their environmental footprint. Overall, out of the 196 buildings that registered, 64 per cent achieved more than a 10 per cent energy decrease, with a collective reduction of amounting to 12.1 per cent—equal to 193 million equivalent kilowatt hours (ekWh), and a $13.7 million savings overall.

Energy savings boost

Cadillac Fairview was among the landlords that participated. Prior to the race, the company jumpstarted its occupant engagement program, through which green councils met on a quarterly basis to discuss tenant initiatives and opportunities in its base buildings.

The company also had an ongoing corporate conservation plan, where energy managers closely monitored energy patterns of use to identify problem areas and opportunities. Extensive sub-metering systems were in position to study tenants’ hydro consumption and the base building consumption in respective areas.

During the race, Cadillac Fairview teamed up with one of its largest clients, RBC, which occupies more than 70 per cent of the space in Toronto’s RBC Centre, among other locations. The team partnered to attain a double LEED Gold certification, through both the construction and interior fit-out. Both organizations achieved optimal energy savings from identifying base building and conservation measures, while meeting frequently with stakeholders and contractors to discuss LEED certification.

“We were able to capitalize on the collective input from various stakeholders who operate in our buildings and prioritize the most energy efficient opportunities and begin to embark on them as a team,” Sorensen adds.

RBC not only partnered with Cadillac Fairview, but all of its key landlords to focus on reducing kilowatt-hours, according to Nadeem Shabbar, global head to corporate real estate at RBC. In turn, RBC earned ten awards for its leading initiatives since the start of the Race to Reduce.

At Bentall Kennedy’s Meadowvale Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, RBC helped implement a necessary lighting system upgrade, which resulted in a new digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) control system to lower the building’s environmental impact. The DALI system can monitor and control each lighting fixture individually based on variables such as occupancy, daylight and operating hours. A benchmark of 50 per cent ekWh savings target was established, with a 2,216.8 tonne annual reduction in carbon dioxide.

For Oxford Properties’ RBC WaterPark Place, Royal Bank Plaza and 315 Front Street West, initiatives resulted in a total energy savings of 16,000 MWh—the equivalent of powering about 1,333 homes for a year.

Harnessing momentum

To continue reducing energy, Oxford plans to engage tenants on a monthly basis and guarantee they sustain efforts through any business changes.

For Cadillac Fairview, there are further plans to promote and market its involvement with LEED. TD Centre, for example, is now LEED Platinum certified, which is an accomplishment for a 40-year-old complex. There will also be a focus on sustainability from both an industry and tenant perspective to regularly communicate achievements to clients. Such communication has been deployed through TD’s annual sustainability report, which will continue to disclose initiatives and performance metrics associated with the company’s environmental efforts.

Overall, the race showcased success stories between landlords and tenants, and the proactive approach to reducing carbon emission. According to Sevaun Palvetzian, chief executive officer of CivicAction, a participant survey showed that 62 per cent of participants believed the race was responsible for activities that might not have transpired otherwise.

“In the past you would sign a lease with a tenant and you wouldn’t really have a lot of interaction with them until the lease came for renewal or if there were specific issues in the tenant premises,” adds Sorensen. “Now we’re working with them more collaboratively, looking at our common business interests as it relates to saving money and reducing energy costs.”

From the tenant perspective, RBC aims to continue to engage employees as it recruits people to work at the company.

“A key requirement we find with the new workforce is they are asking what we are doing in the area of sustainability,” Shabbar says. The young talent coming into the organization asks this question, and concern for the planet is paramount.”

What the Race to Reduce has accomplished is a feat that will inform an incoming generation of office workers. With a new perspective on how energy benchmarking should be a given, combined with the idea that energy savings results from collaboration between landlords and tenants, further achievements in energy efficiency await. Looking ahead, BOMA Toronto has committed to developing the next iteration of the Race to Reduce, while Manitoba Hydro has announced its support of a Race to Reduce in Winnipeg.

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