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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.

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.

Tenant Awareness

OCH has developed tailored communications plans developed for each green initiative to inform and educate tenants on the benefits and behaviours that support more sustainable communities.

E.g. Green Corner in ‘The Quarterly’ OCH Tenant Newsletter.

Corporate Initiatives

OCH introduced paperless practices in 2014, including:

  • Double-sided printing to reduce paper consumption
  • Deployment of tablets and hand-held devices to replace paper and support operational requirements
  • Procurement of environmentally-friendly cleaning products for common areas and offices
  • Waste diversion and recycling in staff lunchrooms and washrooms

Ongoing ECO² Initiatives


Construction on the retrofit began in the spring of 2020.

PEER uses 24, nine-foot by 20-foot panels to create new outer walls for the four townhomes. The homes will also receive a new roof, new windows and a bank of 34-kilowatt solar panels that will produce more energy than the homes use each year. The project will reduce the Presland Avenue townhomes’ energy consumption for heating by 90%. The project is a partnership with Natural Resources Canada, read more here.

Maintenance Vehicle Fleet


Introduction of smart cars in the fleet is 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 Program

Launched in the fall of 2016 in partnership with the City of Ottawa

OCH is encouraging tenants to participate in the green bin program throughout the communities in order to reduce waste to landfill sites.  We are setting up infrastructure in communities to provide ease of access to facilitate waste diversion.

If you are interested in bringing the Waste Diversion Program in your community, contact us at info@och.ca

Results of Completed ECO² Initatives: Case Studies




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.

Click here to read the full case study.



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.

Read the full Plumbing Retrofit Case Study.



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.

Read the full Solar Wall Case Study.


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.

Read the full Weatherization and Air Sealing Case Study.



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.

Read the full Windows and Balcony Door Replacement Case Study.


OCH’s success has been largely due to its partnerships with many important contributors and sustainability-focused organizations such as:

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.



  • Association of Energy Engineers Young Energy Professional of the Year for Dan Dicaire 
  • Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association Innovation Award – Green Building of the Year for 1290 Coldrey 


  • CLEAN50 Emerging Green Leader Award
  • Canadian Housing Renewal Association (CHRA) National Sustainability Award

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