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Energy Matters: December 2020

Energy Matters: December 2020

As we enter the holiday season, keeping tenants warm and safe are top priorities, with energy efficiency playing a key role. In this issue, we look at a project that is transforming a deteriorating apartment tower into a groundbreaking model for ultra-low energy use and affordability; explore incentives to save on natural gas and electricity costs in 2021; and consider how to incorporate energy efficiency into modular housing projects.

From the HSC Energy team, we wish you safe and Happy Holidays!

In this Issue:

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What to do with a Postwar High-rise in Disrepair?

Faced with selling, rebuilding, or rehabilitating its oldest high-rise, CityHousing Hamilton (CHH) opted to transform its Ken Soble Tower at 500 MacNab Street North, Hamilton, into North America’s first Passive House high-rise retrofit. Not only will this make the building a model for energy performance and housing quality, this option also came at considerably less cost than rebuilding.

The 18-storey tower, built in 1967, carried a significant capital deficit and had been in declining condition for years. In order to determine the best course of action, CHH undertook a study of the site, which identified retrofit as an excellent and financially viable option. Choosing this route, CHH decided to revitalize the tower to the Passive House “EnerPHit” standard for deep energy retrofits.

Overview diagram of EnerPHit & Asset Renewal detailing improvements to systems, envelope and modernization.
*CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE * Source: ERA Architects

The project will:

  • Target a 70 percent decrease in overall energy intensity and a 94 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Improve the building’s ability to withstand future extreme climate events.
  • Significantly reduce operating and maintenance costs.
  • Modernize 146 affordable seniors units in the sought-after waterfront neighbourhood.
Images of workers in tower conducting tests.
Air Tightness Testing. Source: ERA Architects

At an estimated cost of approximately $34 million, the Ken Soble Tower retrofit is scoped for completion in spring 2021.

Curious to know what features the finished building will include? Watch for an in-depth article on this innovative project in our next issue of Energy Matters!

Changes to Electricity Incentives Are Coming in 2021

As we noted in our September issue of Energy Matters, current electricity incentive programs are changing at the end of 2020, with a new program framework taking effect in January 2021. Programs for low-income customers including social housing providers will still be available but with some differences.

What’s Behind the Changes?

In response to a directive from the Province, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) established a new four-year electricity conservation and demand management framework for the delivery of the Save On Energy electricity incentive programs. The 2021-2024 programs will be delivered by the IESO and will target offerings to commercial, low-income, and income-eligible customers.

Many of the incoming programs will shift away from decreasing electricity consumption to focus on reducing “peak demand”. The goal here is to help ensure the electricity system is able to meet customer needs even when demand for electricity is at its highest peak on a given day and throughout the year. For social housing, this shift will mainly affect the Retrofit program, with some incentives no longer available and new ones added.

What Can You Expect in 2021?

Social housing providers have typically accessed either the Retrofit program for incentives on equipment and lighting upgrades in apartment buildings, or the Home Assistance Program (HAP) for free in-suite energy efficiency upgrades and installation. These programs will continue to be offered in 2021 but with some differences, as detailed in the table below.

RetrofitFixed Incentives:
• Specific list of eligible measures, including expanded non-lighting measures such as HVAC measures and other equipment upgrades

• The social housing adder, which provides an increased incentive amount, will continue to be available

Custom Track Incentives:
• These have typically been for more comprehensive projects and required post-project measurement and verification – they will no longer be offered, but some formerly Custom measures such as HVAC will be available under Fixed incentives
• Provide more options to customers, reduce time involved to complete and process applications and payments

• Simplify the application process and eliminate post-project measurement and verification requirements
Energy Affordability Program (EAP)• Replaces the Home Assistance Program and expands eligibility to moderate income customers

Tier 1 Support:
• Applies to Social Housing
• Full program offering of in-suite measures, such as insulation, lighting, smart thermostat, aerators, showerheads, EnergyStar® certified appliances, freezers, refrigerators, window a/c units, and dehumidifiers, including their installation and the removal/disposal of replaced equipment

Tier 2 Support:
• Energy savings kit of products to be installed by customer
• Help a broader range of income-eligible customers

• Provide continued support to low-income consumers, including social housing providers and their residents, previously served by HAP

• Provide support to moderate-income consumers previously served by Affordability Fund Trust

Have Feedback?

There will be an opportunity to provide feedback to the IESO on the new Retrofit program’s list of eligible measures in the first half of 2021. If there are measures you wish to see improved or added to the 2021 list, you can send your feedback directly to this IESO email address:

As always, you can also send any feedback you have on the incoming Retrofit and/or Energy Affordability Programs to HSC’s Energy Services team, and we will pass it along to the IESO as part of our ongoing discussions.

Expert Advice, Incentives and Free Upgrades to Save Energy and Money

The following guest article on 2021 natural gas incentive programs is sponsored content provided by Enbridge Gas, Inc.

At Enbridge Gas we work hard to help affordable housing providers save money with our energy-efficiency programs. Each program is thoughtfully designed with the intention of improving the quality of life of our customers. That’s always our ultimate goal.

The Home Winterproofing Program, for example, offers free residential improvements, including insulation and a smart or programmable thermostat, that will keep energy bills down and offer more comfort all year round. The Home Winterproofing Program has helped 10,000 Ontario households save money and energy. Indigenous Peoples are our valued partners as well. Developing and sustaining genuine Indigenous partnerships is part of the healing journey we’re taking together.

Our Affordable Housing Multi-Family Conservation Program offers financial incentives to help identify and implement energy efficiency initiatives and is designed to help participants save energy, cut operating costs and reduce carbon emissions. Again, we work closely with our customers to reach the right solutions for them. We’re happy when you’re happy.

Our Savings by Design Affordable Housing Program has the exciting goal of encouraging builders and developers of new affordable housing to integrate energy efficiency measures and practices into their building designs, as a means to maintain housing affordability. The program provides financial incentives and technical supports to assist affordable housing builders to design and construct buildings that are more energy efficient than required by the Ontario Building Code.

Enbridge Gas has helped hundreds of affordable housing providers, building managers and residents across Ontario find ways to become more energy-efficient, cost effective and comfortable.

We’ll work with you to:

  • Identify energy-saving opportunities.
  • Calculate potential savings.
  • Help you submit applications and receive incentives or free upgrades.

Let us guide you through the process and help get your savings underway. Take the first step and apply today!


Under a directive from the Ontario Energy Board, Enbridge Gas is currently preparing a new Demand Side Management (DSM) plan for programs and incentives to be offered post-2021. HSC is collecting feedback from our sector to share with Enbridge to inform this process. Please send your comments on the programs and incentives you would like to see added or continued for 2022 and onward to HSC Energy Services, by January 31, 2021.


What to Consider for Energy Efficient Modular Housing

This September, the Government of Canada announced the new Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) to help address urgent housing needs of vulnerable Canadians by rapidly creating new affordable housing. Delivered by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), this $1 billion initiative is expected to create up to 3,000 new permanent affordable units across the country using modular housing.

Modular housing is pre-fabricated in a factory and transported to the site for assembly, making it a useful quick-build option in the right context. The RHI funding covers the construction of modular housing, as well as the acquisition of land, and the conversion/rehabilitation of existing buildings to affordable housing.

The $1 billion RHI funding is being delivered in two streams: one for pre-determined municipalities and one for open applications, the deadline for which is December 31, 2020.

Modular housing is not new to our sector. British Columbia, for instance, is home to several social and affordable modular housing examples, including:

  • 220 Terminal Avenue, a 40-unit social housing building constructed in three months as Vancouver’s first temporary modular housing project.
  • Naomi Place, a 58-unit 3-storey building for single adults.
  • Margaret Mitchell Place, a 52-unit supportive housing building with embedded services.
  • Reiderman Residence, a 78-unit supportive housing building with a community kitchen.

Recently, some Ontario municipalities and providers have embraced the modular concept. The City of Toronto began construction on its 150 Harrison Street building as part of its Modular Housing Initiative; check out this construction video from earlier this December. Taking a different angle, Ottawa Community Housing is adapting the prefabricated concepts familiar to modular housing to complete a deep energy retrofit on four existing townhomes. As these examples suggest, partial or full applications of the modular approach are possible.

Naomi Place. Source: City of Vancouver

Reiderman Residence. Source: City of Vancouver

While modular’s main focus is on quick construction, it is important to remember that these structures can be energy efficient with proper planning and design. Here are some tips to integrate energy efficiency into a modular housing plan:

  • Integrate energy targets and standards such as Passive House or Net Zero Energy at the design stage. Efficiency considerations such as shading and solar control, air tightness and quality, and water resistance should be done upfront as part of the design and prior to manufacturing. Concerns such accessibility, tenant type, replicability, and shipping should also be considered at this time.
  • Focus on air tightness by designing in a super-insulated building envelope and by paying close attention to the on-site sealing of module-to-module joints and attachments. The increased quality control possible in a factory environment can potentially result in overall improvements to the building’s air tightness. This is because components are built indoors away from wind and rain and under close supervision, compared to on-site construction.
  • Consider factory-installed solar panels or solar thermal systems, which may be less costly than on-site installations. Adding renewable energy technologies can help offset the energy demands of tenants and energy consuming equipment in the building.
  • Go for easy wins with technologies such as energy recovery ventilators, LED lighting, and energy management controls. Some providers have achieved good results by opting for module-scale heat pumps for heating, cooling, and hot water.
  • Orient the building to take best advantage of passive heating, cooling, ventilation and natural day lighting. Be aware of potential overheating, especially for units on the south facing side of the building, and address this in your design.
  • Check out BC Housing’s modular housing guide and RDH’s Technical Bulletin for more ideas on energy efficient, affordable modular construction.

The Rapid Housing Initiative will help providers get housing built, but it does not provide funding for their ongoing operating costs. By taking the time up-front to integrate energy efficiency into your modular design, you will ultimately save over the long-term through lower operating costs and improved affordability for your tenants.

Review Your Utility Use to Keep It on Track – Log-in to UMP

Sample UMP Chart

Keeping track of your utility use is especially important during the heating season when your energy use is at its highest and you need to ensure your equipment is operating efficiently. A helpful way to control your building’s utility use is to monitor it in HSC’s Utility Management Program (UMP). UMP accounts for differences in weather each year so you can view an apples-to-apples comparison of your building utility performance over time and from one year to the next.

Log in to UMP to view your latest UMP dashboards and Gas, Electricity, and Water reports. If you’re not sure how to interpret your data, contact us.

Other Topics? If you’d like to suggest a topic or want a one-on-one review with HSC staff, please contact us!

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