(OTTAWA) April 14, 2016 – Ontario’s second largest social housing provider, Ottawa Community Housing Corporation (OCH) received top marks today from the Canadian Housing Renewal Association (CHRA) for their highly successful plumbing retrofit across their portfolio of 15,000 homes. The Sustainability Award was presented to OCH at CHRA’s National Congress on Housing and Homelessness in Montreal, before scores of Canadian and international practitioners, policy makers, front line workers, government officials and key stakeholders from across the affordable housing and homelessness sector.
CHRA`s Sustainability Award recognizes an organization, business or partnership that has undertaken a program, a new build or retrofit project that advances sustainable development, resource conservation or community renewal. OCH`s submission showcased these criteria perfectly, setting a shining example that other housing providers are sure to follow. OCH’s In Suite Green Retrofit Project saw the replacement of 16,000 toilets, and the installation of low-flow shower heads and kitchen tap aerators in all 15,000 homes. In just three years, OCH has reduced water consumption by 40 percent, saving the municipally owned corporation $5,000,000 each year.
As OCH`s CEO, Stephane Giguere explains, “the benefits go well beyond the lower water bills OCH is paying.” He says, “Consuming less water means that tenants are using less natural gas for heating water for showers, laundry and dishwashing, reducing greenhouse gases and therefore our carbon footprint”. Of further note, none of the old fixtures went to landfill. The plastic and metal parts were recycled and the porcelain from the toilets was crushed for potential use in road construction and clean fill; therefore, not only reducing waste, but also reducing resource consumption related to the building of roads.
In line with their Green Plan, OCH leveraged partner programs to manage the overall costs of the project. A $450,000 grant from the City of Ottawa’s High Volume User Program was applied to help implement water efficiency improvements; as well, funding from Enbridge assisted with the replacement of showerheads.
Ottawa City Councillor and OCH Board Chair, Mathieu Fleury, says that projects like this are well aligned with the organization’s strategic goals and the City of Ottawa’s mandate for OCH. New fixtures in tenants’ homes have contributed to an improved quality of life for tenants and their families and reduced costs for maintenance calls. Councillor Fleury indicates, “Working together for our communities and the conservation program allowed OCH staff to have meaningful exchanges with tenants and partners about the important role they play in preserving natural resources. It has enabled tenants to positively affect the world they live in, and bring a great sense of pride of place, ownership and accountability.”
The In Suite Green Retrofit Project stands out in comparison to others by its sheer magnitude and by virtue of its collaboration and resourcefulness. Support from internal stakeholders such as the Board of Directors, from the Shareholder – the City of Ottawa – and the collaboration across OCH departmental staff were responsible for the success of the program. At the peak, over 80 toilets a day were being replaced per building. It took a great deal of ingenuity to identify and realize such a large scale program with thousands of small replacements.
The success and leadership of OCH was acknowledged by CHRA’s Executive Director, Jeff Morrison, who stated, “On behalf of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, I’d like to extend congratulations to Ottawa Community Housing for winning the 2016 CHRA Sustainability Award. The impact that OCH’s efforts has had in cost savings, in sustainable operation practices, and in creating awareness around conservation locally and nationally is most impressive. As OCH is a Canadian leader in sustainability, we hope that OCH’s innovations will inspire other social housing providers across the country to take similar measures in pursuit of a more sustainable sector.”