Leading the social housing sector towards sustainability
In a challenging economy, Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) has successfully matched a desire to make the world a better place with the need for more financially sustainable operations. The outcome is a more comfortable living environment for tenants, significant savings to the bottom line and a remarkable reduction in our carbon footprint. Pioneering environmental initiatives has placed OCH on the national stage to share our successes to benefit the social housing sector as a whole.
Taking a holistic approach to greening OCH has meant focusing sustainability efforts on three pillars:
- Our buildings
- Our people
- Our culture
To date, integrating green practices has generated many benefits such as cutting utility costs, reducing and diverting waste, enhancing the aesthetics and performance of the portfolio, improving health, conserving energy and of course, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
From solar generation, retrofits, and more!
78,110 propane tanks
Powering 578 Ontario homes in one year
The amount of water needed to fill the Rideau Canal and Dow′s Lake, 4 times each year
OCH′s Journey Towards Sustainability
Greening OCH began in earnest in 2010 with the hiring of a dedicated resource. The development of the first OCH Green Plan a year later helped channel the organization’s efforts to achieve many successes to date. OCH’s newly updated plan, the OCH ECO² Plan aims at enhancing and building on an already strong foundation of sustainable practices.
Ongoing ECO² Initiatives
LED Lighting Retrofit
Ongoing since 2014
With over 20,000 fluorescent lamps powered on 24/7, OCH has teamed up with EnergyOttawa to replace with reliable LEDs, reducing our lighting operating costs by 1/3.
Maintenance Vehicle Fleet
Introduction of Smart cars in the fleet are helping to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
OCH Build Environment
Ongoing since 2014
Green building technologies and approaches in all new construction are building higher performance homes.
Examples of new builds include:
Use of heated floor systems, regionally sourced building materials selection, LED lighting, EnergyStar appliances, waste diversion systems, all promoting sustainable and resilient buildings, equal lower costs on maintenance and utilities in the long term.
Waste Diversion Pilot Program
Launched in the fall of 2016 in partnership with the City of Ottawa, 11 OCH communities are piloting the green bin program to educate and facilitate waste diversion by tenants. Close to three quarters of the households in these communities are participating in the program which includes:
- Educating residents
- Monitoring usage
- Helping determine the possibility of expanding the program across the portfolio, in order to increase recycling and composting, and ultimately reducing waste diverted to landfill sites
Between the solar panels, home weatherization program, water, windows and door retrofits, OCH is projecting approximately
$57M IN SAVINGS over a 10-year period.
Results of Completed ECO² Initatives: Case Studies
- Heating Energy Management System Pilot
- Plumbing Retrofit
- Solar Wall
- Weatherization and Air Sealing
- Windows and Balcony Door Replacement
Designed to reduce energy waste, the system was installed in two high-rise buildings. After one year, there was a 31% reduction in the energy consumption while maintaining tenant comfort. This system was deployed in an additional eight buildings and will likely be rolled out to all electricity-heated buildings.
This system is capable of regulating the heating energy allocated to each apartment unit based on several criteria including local outdoor temperature, floor level and orientation.
Award-winning retrofit of 15,000 homes with new high efficiency toilets, showerheads, and basin aerators has reduced water consumption by 1.6M cubic meters of water annually. Old fixtures were crushed and distributed for road aggregate; metal and plastic parts were completely recycled.
Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) saw an opportunity to save water and money by retrofitting plumbing fixtures throughout its portfolio. Early analysis suggested that new water-efficient fixtures would use less water, reduce undiagnosed leaks and offer significant cost savings. OCH was also motivated to lower its water consumption to reduce its impact on the environment.
Over 1,500 solar photovoltaic panels have been installed in 32 OCH communities. These installations represent over $250,000 of clean electricity or energy conservation annually.
The replacement of 8,500 sq. ft. of brick cladding on the exterior wall at one 17-storey apartment, with a solar wall that preheats air supplied to the building’s corridor ventilation, has netted a 21% reduction in natural consumption annually at that property.
The brick cladding at Clementine Towers (1455 Clementine Ave) required replacement to address deficiencies and deterioration. This offered an opportunity for Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) to install an innovative “solar wall” to preheat air supplied to the building’s corridor ventilation system. The project reduced energy consumption and operating costs while showcasing green building practices.
Ongoing since 2012
Participating in Enbridge’s ‘Home Winterproofing Program’, OCH has worked with the EnviroCentre to retrofit uninsulated basements of hundreds of townhomes. In the four largest communities where insulation and sealing was completed in 611 homes, collectively tenants are seeing an estimated annual natural gas savings of $91,000.
Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) had an opportunity to save energy, improve the building conditions and enhance tenant comfort in its townhouse communities by retrofitting uninsulated and poorly sealed basement walls.
A federal grant enabled OCH to replace windows and doors in nearly 1,300 aging apartments that were in poor condition and experiencing air leakage and water penetration into tenant’s homes. This capital repair resulted not only in annual energy savings of up to 14%, it also improved the durability of other building components and, most importantly, it vastly improved resident’s comfort by eliminating drafts and water leaks.
Building components are generally expected to perform over a certain service life. As windows and doors age, they become vulnerable to air and water leakage and can pose a deterioration risk for building envelopes and interior finishes. In 2008, a Federal Government grant for social housing energy retrofits provided Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) with the necessary capital to proceed with window and door replacement projects at select buildings.
OCH’s success has been largely due to its partnerships with many important contributors and sustainability-focused organizations such as:
- Hydro Ottawa
- City of Ottawa, through its Climate Action Plan
- Federal and provincial programs
The original Green Plan enabled OCH to begin its sustainable transformation through various pilot projects, but also to achieve a state of readiness in order to access generous incentives to make pilot projects even more feasible for social housing providers like us.
In April 2016, OCH was awarded $12.2M in SHARP funding from Ontario’s Green Investment Fund to refurbish aging buildings in the portfolio with retrofits such as energy-efficient boilers, insulation and windows. This will enable OCH, as an operator of large social housing buildings constructed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, to better meet the challenges of climate change.
2016 CLEAN50 Emerging Green Leader Award
2016 Canadian Housing Renewal Association (CHRA) National Sustainability Award