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Energy Matters: March 2024

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Energy Matters: March 2024

In this issue of Energy Matters, we connect you to examples of how Ontario social housing is leading the low-energy and net-zero transformation in the building sector, share a story about Ontario’s largest Passive House multi-residential building, and welcome a guest article from Enbridge Gas on incentive programs. Enjoy!

In this issue:


Win-Win-Win: Improving Energy Efficiency, Affordability, and Quality of Life

Peel Housing’s planned Chelsea Gardens Passive
House addition. Source: MongomerySisam

Passive House, net-zero, low-energy, LEED – whatever the goal, Ontario social housing providers are leading the charge to build and retrofit energy efficient buildings. Already, several Ontario providers have broken barriers in the international and Canadian construction world with ground-breaking work across multiple building types, from single family homes to townhomes, and low-rise to skyscrapers.

Ontario social housing projects aren’t just driving energy savings. They’re also ensuring greater affordability for tenants and, in many cases, providing healthier living spaces. Benefits such as lower utility bills, improved air quality, improved security, better lighting and acoustic performance, and increased comfort go hand-in-hand with the net-zero and low-energy projects we’re seeing in our sector. Even small energy-efficiency and water-saving improvements can have positive impacts in these areas.

As one example, Ottawa Community Housing has coupled energy efficiency with criteria that focus on health and wellness, such as the WELL Building Standard, in a holistic approach to their building performance and tenant experience.

In Ottawa and beyond, Ontario social housing is making a name for itself as a trail blazer in energy efficient affordable housing. Check out these stories showcasing recently completed and planned projects and leading-edge social housing organizations:

YWCA Kitchener-Waterloo’s Block Line Road. Source: Melloul-Blamey
Indwell Streetsville Redevelopment. Source: Invizij

With so many great examples of ultra low-energy, affordable, and healthy building projects around our sector, you don’t need to look further than Ontario’s social housing providers for inspiration. Contact HSC if you’re an Ontario social housing provider interested in being connected to the people behind the energy efficiency projects or if you would like to share your own energy efficiency project in Energy Matters.


Windsor’s Meadowbrook Place Marks an Ontario
Energy-Efficiency First

When Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation’s Meadowbrook Place opened this past fall, it achieved the distinction of being Ontario’s largest Passive House multi-residential building. This ConstructConnect’s Daily Commercial News article outlines some of the key Passive House and water saving features that make this 145-unit, 10-storey new mixed residential building stand out as a model for low-energy social housing.

Reprinted with permission. Thank you Ron Stang/ConstructConnect

Ontario’s largest Passive House a social housing first

The 10-storey, 145-unit Meadowbrook Place is the largest Passive House project in Ontario and is located in Windsor. Source: WECHC

It’s being called Ontario’s largest Passive House. The $39-million, 10-storey, 145-unit mixed-residential Meadowbrook Place on the city’s east side, nearing completion, will be Windsor’s first new public housing complex in 30 years.

Besides having a highly energy efficient envelope, it will also pilot an innovative rooftop rainwater collection system. And it effectively opens southwestern Ontario trades to Passive House systems training.

It was Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation (WECHC) staff themselves who were “really involved” in coming up with a different type of housing design, said Jay Shanmugam, the agency’s chief development and regeneration officer. “What are the benefits that it can bring to community housing?”

Besides concerns about climate and sustainability, and easier corporate maintenance, officials wanted a building that was healthy and economical for tenants. “Fresher ventilation on a 24-hour basis, having an extremely thick insulated building and eliminating those thermal highways which really end up impacting the heat loss, in turn saves the tenants a lot of utility costs,” Shanmugam said. Meadowbrook Place is expected to be 40 per cent more energy efficient “and we’re confident that that projection is going to be beaten significantly.”

Rendering of a typical Meadowbrook Place suite. Source: WECHC

WECHC CEO Cynthia Summers said physically and esthetically the building is a major step forward for social housing, from indoor unit design to outside amenities. “With the Passive House model, you just don’t get the energy efficiency, you’re actually providing better social housing,” she said. The building was designed by Toronto’s Kearns Mancini Architects and the contractor was Windsor-based Amico Design Build. Construction costs are about an eight per cent premium. But Shanmugam said that’s probably “only because these types of buildings are relatively new to the industry, there’s not a lot of trades that are trained.” Eventually, it “shouldn’t cost anything more.”

The cast-in-place concrete building has a cladding system comprised of an EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System) with an exterior wall thermal value of about R-40. In addition to the thick envelope insulation, the building has a triple-paned high performance window system that is thermally broken, “providing superior occupant comfort and energy efficiency,” Shanmugam said.

Other Passive House features include an extremely airtight envelope, virtually eliminating any leakage of air in or out of the building. “This is achieved with careful detailing at the design stage and meticulous oversight in construction stage,” he said. For example, every penetration and opening to the outside, even screw heads on the exterior sheathing, was sealed using specified air barrier products, a combination of trowel applied liquid membrane and specialized peel and stick tape.

Energy recovery ventilators also allow the introduction of fresh air while recovering more than 90 per cent of energy from the stale air. “So, you’re really not losing very much energy to the outside environment even with expelling that stale air,” he said. Meanwhile “you’re providing a very healthy indoor air quality, unmatched by minimum code design.”

The WECHC is also installing a pilot rainwater collection and reuse system. Water is collected from the roof and stored in the basement in dedicated storage tanks then used for flushing toilets on a few floors, which will also help tenants reduce utility costs.

Shanmugam said this was contractor Amico’s first Passive House. “We’re happy to bring this forward to the community, and at the same time, train the local trades and contractors in this type of build,” he said.

Summers said the complex will feature a park-like ground environment with communal vegetable gardens and EV charging stations, creating a sustainable model going forward. Also, the building is mixed residential, with 67 market rentals and some social housing units rented by specific community organizations like Hiatus House, a shelter for women and children. “This is really unique, even in Ontario, for social housing. It’s very unique to have mixed income housing,” she said.


Incentive Programs Help You and Your Tenants – Find Out How

Enbridge Gas Inc logo with tagline "Life takes Energy"

The following guest article is sponsored content provided by Enbridge Gas, Inc.

Register now for Enbridge’s April 9th webinar on
Energy Efficiency Incentive Programs for affordable housing

While Enbridge has a variety of programs to support housing providers in completing energy efficiency improvements on various types of buildings, in this article, we will take a look at Enbridge’s Home Winterproofing Program. This program is specifically targeted to eligible single-family buildings of various sizes.

Senior woman sitting in a brown chair looking at camera. Text overlay says: "Give your tenants and members the comfort the deserve."
Source: Enbridge Gas

If your single-family home portfolio is heated with natural gas, your organization may automatically qualify for insulation free of charge through the Enbridge Gas Home Winterproofing Program. Social housing providers can receive free energy-efficient upgrades, including wall, basement and attic insulation, draft proofing, and a smart thermostat, in their eligible single-family homes, which include detached, semi-detached, row or townhouses, duplexes, and triplexes.

Sound too good to be true?
More than 47,000 Ontario homes have already received these free upgrades.

Why participate in the program?
Not only will you be able to upgrade your residents’ spaces with insulation free of charge through this program, but you and your residents will receive associated benefits, such as lower energy bills, ability to better regulate the temperature in the home through a smart thermostat, and increased resident comfort.  

black letters with yellow quotation marks: "My bills are much better. I noticed a big difference in the comfort."
Senior woman standing in a small room pointing up at the lights.
Source: Enbridge Gas

The Home Winterproofing Program’s FREE home upgrades can help you save energy year-round for a happier home for your tenants!

  • Upgraded insulation: Insulation acts as a barrier to trap heat in tiny air pockets. Over time, it settles and becomes less effective. Therefore, we recommend new wall, basement, or attic Insulation as a solution.
  • Draft proofing: Ensures cold air and moisture stays out of your home by sealing up leaks to help prevent heat loss through cracks.
  • Smart thermostat and other direct install measures: Includes high-efficiency showerheads, bathroom and kitchen aerators, pipe wraps, carbon monoxide detectors and heat reflector panels to optimize energy use and lower potential energy costs.
  • Barrier elimination: We care about health and safety and can help address minor issues that could pose risks to the health of residents that may otherwise prohibit participation in the offering. Projects for consideration will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Reliable partnership: In 2022, Enbridge Gas established a strategic partnership with the Independent Electricity System Operator to enhance the delivery of the Home Winterproofing Program and the Energy Affordability Program. Our commitment to foster equitable energy solutions for low-income customers, reflects the guiding principle set forth by the Ontario Energy Board. These two programs are now delivered together to streamline the process and save you time.
  • Positive impact: By helping Ontarians reduce energy consumption, we do our part to lower emissions and foster an energy future that is clean and robust.

If you’re an Ontario affordable housing provider, here are your next steps:

  • Contact one of our authorized program delivery agents at 1-844-770-3148.
  • Answer a few short questions about your building portfolio.
  • The delivery agent will visit the homes to check whether they’re properly insulated, or if air is escaping through windows and doors. This home energy assessment usually takes about two hours. All in-home visits will be coordinated with property managers and staff to provide enough notice to your tenants or members.
  • If the home is eligible for free upgrades, professional contractors will install them at your convenience. It’s quick and clean, and there’s no cost.
  • Finally, a delivery agent will make a follow-up visit to make sure everything’s working properly and to answer any questions.

To learn more about the program and see if your building portfolio qualifies, call 1-844-770-3148.

Did you know that Enbridge Gas also has other programs for affordable housing providers that will save you money?

To learn more about these programs, go to enbridgegas.com/affordable or visit enbridgegas.com/savingsbydesign

Don’t forget to register for the April 9 webinar to learn more about all Enbridge’s programs.


Track Your Utilities with UMP

How do you know if your utility use is increasing or decreasing when weather changes year to year? How can you tell if any energy and water saving projects are having an impact? HSC’s Utility Management Program (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.

Use UMP to monitor your utility consumption so you know if your building is performing better or worse season-to-season and year-to-year. Log in to UMP to view your latest UMP dashboards and gas, electricity, and water reports. If you have questions about your UMP results, 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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